View Full Version : Shellac, wet edges, and corners

George Pell
02-01-2005, 3:50 PM
I know that shellac related topics have been covered at length, but Iíve not seen these questions addressed on the message boards. These questions apply to applying shellac on small to medium sized jewelry boxes.

Is it recommended to do the finishing prior to assembly? I worry that the finish would get damaged during assembly. But I can imagine itís nearly impossible to apply shellac to the inside on an assembled box.

What about the outside corners; does shellac tend to build-up on outside edges like with other finishes?

How do you apply shellac to a lid that has routed edges. For example, say I round-over the edge of the lid, how would I apply shellac to the rounded edge, without the areas above and below drying out and leaving a ridge? Would thinning the shellac to slow down the drying time work?

Thanks in advance for all your suggestions and advice. You guys have been a huge help in answering all my questions, and I greatly appreciate it.


Dennis Peacock
02-01-2005, 5:37 PM

For one, use Bekhol for your shellac "thinner". It dries slower and provides a smoother lay of the shellac than standard denatured alcohol. Apply the shellac in a 1 pound to a 1.5 pound cut of shellac and "pad" the shellac on the surfaces. The Bekhol still dries quick but doesn't effect it when padding or french polishing with shellac. For inside surfaces, use a smaller pad and use lite strokes. If the pad starts to "stick"....back off and let it dry for about 30 minutes, then start padding again. When padding shellac, you don't use mineral oil as that is only used during french polishing. Once you get about 3 very light coats of shellac applied to a surface, move to another surface and start the process again. Apply the finish to the edges "last". In otherwords, apply to the top of the lid, then the edges, then the bottom side of the lid.

Above all, take your time and do not use too heavy a cut of shellac to try and hurry the process. Shellac gets it's best finish by applying several thin coats over a period of time. Once finished....you'll need to let the finish "out gas" for about a week before you can close any surface upon another shellac'd surface to prevent finish burns caused from outgassing. DAMHIKT!!!!

If this is clear as "mud"....holler at me and I'll do my best to help out even more.

Jim Jones
01-04-2008, 7:04 PM

Basically, it is easier to apply finish before assembly, then fix any scuffs after it is assembled.

I've never built a jewelry box, but based on the furniture pieces I have done, I find it is easier to mask off surfaces that will be glued, then stain and apply a couple of light coats of shellac. Then assemble after it has cured for some length of time (I don't usually need to wait but a day or two for a table for example), then go ahead and assemble. You can then apply several coats of shellac to finish it as you desire. This will fix any scuffs.

Dennis has it right about the thin coats. I once made the mistake of using 2# cut right out of the can and it created outside corner problems. I now dilute it to between 1 and 1.5 lb cut. It dries so fast you can create a pretty nice finish in one day. Also, it wasn't too hard to fix the built-up corners.

I use denatured alcohol but may give the Bekhol a try sometime.


Ken Fitzgerald
01-04-2008, 7:13 PM
While my experience wasn't with shellac...it was with poly but it holds true with shellac......thinner coats go on easier......I use a lot of shellac on my turnings.....I've used poly on my furniture. My first experiences with poly weren't good.....then I thinned some poly to make my own wipe-on poly....wonderful stuff....worked great..

I do the same with shellac....great stuff...thinner coats work well.

Steven Wilson
01-04-2008, 7:15 PM
You can lay down shellac in corners if you use the right brush. I use a Windsor & Newton 580 for that. It flows shellac on nicely but doesn't have a huge reservoir. Padding shellac is a great way of keeping edge buildup and the advice you've gotten so far is good. Once you gain experience and confidence you can change your approach in order to save time. I like to use a brush and 3lb cut shellac for initial coats. I will apply until I'm a couple of coats from being finished. Then I level the finish (using a card scraper mostly) and slice off any drips. For my final coats I change to a 1-1.5lb cut and pad on until done.

Jim Becker
01-04-2008, 9:12 PM
Be sure to "break" any outside corners before you start finishing with anything, including shellac. Too sharp a corner will cause finish to pile up due to surface tension. It's easier to deal with when using Shellac, but if you can avoid it, avoid it!

glenn bradley
01-04-2008, 9:18 PM
Be sure to "break" any outside corners before you start finishing with anything, including shellac. Too sharp a corner will cause finish to pile up due to surface tension. It's easier to deal with when using Shellac, but if you can avoid it, avoid it!

Now Jim has the answer I favor. Break your edges unless the piece requires very sharp edges for a reason. A break can be just a touch along the edge with some very fine sandpaper. This will solve your edge build-up problem.

I also favor the 1.5lb cut and on small pieces it is easy to really pad around to assure good coverage before the shellac starts to stiffen up. Also as noted, shellac repair easily if you pick up a scuff during assembly. Of course you want to tape off any surface that is to be glued later.