View Full Version : shellac question

scott pollack
10-25-2003, 9:12 PM
hi guys! im in the process of building a colonial linen closet to use as our kitchen pantry. its being made out of red oak even though pine would be the traditional wood. i had initially thought i was going to use just tung oil and that was fine. but now im considering shellac. now , i know shellac can scratch easily , can tung oil be used on top of the shellac to "protect" it or will it have a problem adhering to it? and if it makes a difference , we are leaning towards using a blonde shellac right now.
thanks guys! scotty

Dave Anderson NH
10-25-2003, 9:34 PM
Shellac will adhere well over any finish. If you intend to put a finish over shellac you must use a dewaxed shellac or the wax will cause adhesion problems. Blonde or Super blonde shellac is usually a dewaxed product whether in flake form or bought premixed. Another option is Zinnser Sealcoat which is sold as a sanding sealer, but is in reality a dewaxed super blonde shellac with a 3 year shelf life. For years I have mixed my own super blonde from flakes when I wanted an extremely clear shellac, but in the last year or so I have been using the Sealcoat. It works just as well and is much more convenient and has that long shelf life as a bonus. When mixing from flakes you can only get from 6 month to year before you have curing problems. In the long run the Sealcoat is cheaper and you know for sure that you are starting with a 2 pound cut. That is to say that I am sometimes less than accurate in how carefully I measure out the flakes and the alcohol when I mix my own. The advantage of having a known cut is that you can dilute it easily and accurately when necessary.

One other note is that shellac is much more durable than folks often think, and if you do damage it, there is no other finish quite so easy to repair.

Jim Becker
10-25-2003, 9:37 PM
Shellac can be used as an "all in one" finish or as a seal or color coat under other finishes. (You must use de-waxed shellac under polyurethane varnish and most, if not all, water-based finishes) It's also one of the best moisture barriers going. That being said, I don't think that shellac under tung oil (if it's real tung oil) is going to be pleasing to you as the oil will not be able to penetrate the wood.

Do use the shellac (or a water-based finsh) on the inside of the cabinet, however. You don't want to use oil-based finishes inside of furniture or cabinets as they will off-gas for what will seem like "forever".

scott pollack
10-26-2003, 7:43 AM
thank you dave and jim. i do plan on using a dewaxed shellac as i dont want an aged look to it and i will be mixing my own( atleast for this project). i wasnt sure how the tung oil would look over shellac but now after your advice , itll just be shellac. ill try to post a pic when im done. thank you again!

Steven Wilson
10-27-2003, 12:57 AM
Tung oil over shellac????? Shellac will seal the surface so where is the Tung oil going to go? (answer, sticky mess on top).

So apply the Tung oil first (or better yet a mixture of BLO:Tung:Turpentine in the ratio of 1:1:2 to 1:1:9 if you have cherry plywood involved) and let dry for a day or so and then apply the shellac. Freshly made shellac is a fairly durable finish and very easy to repair. The oil will help pop the grain a bit.

scott pollack
10-27-2003, 7:36 PM
[QUOTE=Steven Wilson]
So apply the Tung oil first (or better yet a mixture of BLO:Tung:Turpentine in the ratio of 1:1:2 to 1:1:9 if you have cherry plywood involved) and let dry for a day or so and then apply the shellac.

ok , so how does the tung oil first affect the look of the shellac? i know it wont add color , will it give the wood a deeper look?

Scott Quesnelle
10-28-2003, 4:26 PM

Oil on wood generally just helps pop the grain.

BLO cut 1:1 with Mineral spirits is my favourite. It gives cherry that nice warm reddish brown tone, Can be used as a pore filler on open pore woods like Oak.

I will try to post some pics in the next week or so of a red oak bookcase that I am building that was done with BLO then left for a week then a couple coats of orange shellac on it. Garnet is even nicer.

Shellac doesn't scratch that easy, but it is very easy to refinish. So even if it gets a big worn after a few years. Wipe it down with Mineral spirits (gets the old wax off). Give it a quick wipe with shellac on a cloth or rubber(tampon). A day or two later rub some wax on the surface with a bit of steel wool. Polish and as good as new.

To Make a rubber. Take a piece of old T-shirt and and old cotton sheet. Cut a square of the sheet out. Cut a small chunk of tshirt. Put the tshirt on sheet in a small ball (folded or crumpled. Now wrap the sheet up around the ball like you are making one of those goofy christmas present wrappings. I then put a rubber band on the top of the thing to keep it closed. Use it for rubbing on shellac. The tshirt holds the shellac and the old sheet makes a nice lint free covering. When done, put it in a jar with a bit of alcohol in the bottom and close the lid, its all good until the next time you need to finish something.

scott pollack
10-29-2003, 6:44 PM
thank you scott. and yes, please post some pics. id like to see them very much.


Howard Acheson
10-30-2003, 3:11 PM
Just a final caution. Never use an oil based finish inside an enclosure where cloth or clothing will be stored. Oil based finishes off gas almost forever and the odor will permeate the cloth. Use only waterborne finishes or shellac.