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Thread: Shellac is stupid

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    Shellac is stupid

    First try with shellac
    Zinser clear, and I'm cutting with dna.
    Tried a taklon brush and padding. I cannot lay down a consistent coat. Nothing but streaks or inconsistencies. I thought this was supposed to be easy, but it looks like a$$. Unacceptable.

    HALP! Or I start over with GF HP satin.

  2. #2
    I spray it on. Otherwise, I wipe it on with a rag but you only get one pass. If you go back over you'll mess it up (in general).

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
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    Hand applying requires a very different motion and feel than other finishes like varnish, etc. Mike is correct that you put it on, one quick swipe and move on to the next area. You also want the thinnest coating possible with shellac...do not "build" it up like varnish. Applying shellac by hand is an "art form". And if you want to go to the extreme...learn how to French Polish.

    I do brush shellac on small projects sometimes, but prefer to spray it, either from a can for utility on small things or via HVLP for larger things where I'm using it as a barrier coat.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
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    Thanks, fellas.
    Seems there's a pretty decent learning curve with applying by hand. Honestly, I haven't been this frustrated in a while.

    I think the start over with GF is the best approach. I can practice on scrap and not ruin this particular project.

  5. #5
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    I agree with Jim and Mike. I would like to point out the stuff in a can doesnít behave like fresh flakes mixed up the same day or night before. It does have its place for blocking odors in blind areas. You can slop it on it will do its thing and none would be the wiser.
    But for fine work it doesnít dry as hard and cannot be polished the same way as good old flakes.
    Are there any youtubers mixing flakes or buttons. Seems like a lot Woodworkers trying out the can stuff. Only to be dissatisfied.
    Nothing great comes in a can. Not shellac not cheese nothing!
    Aj

  6. #6
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    I appreciate you guys.
    I am far from an expert, but I've used other finishes that have turned out fine and this is just awful.
    I get that it's my method and I haven't dialed it in, but good grief.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Hughes View Post
    I agree with Jim and Mike. I would like to point out the stuff in a can doesnít behave like fresh flakes mixed up the same day or night before. It does have its place for blocking odors in blind areas. You can slop it on it will do its thing and none would be the wiser.
    But for fine work it doesnít dry as hard and cannot be polished the same way as good old flakes.
    Are there any youtubers mixing flakes or buttons. Seems like a lot Woodworkers trying out the can stuff. Only to be dissatisfied.
    Nothing great comes in a can. Not shellac not cheese nothing!



    Guinness in those cans with the nitrogen cartridge comes pretty close to great. And Sealcoat shellac is a great product IMO, and it, too, comes in a can. I wipe it on, spray it on, and for small projects can even put it on with a brush.

    John

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    [/COLOR] Guinness in those cans with the nitrogen cartridge comes pretty close to great. And Sealcoat shellac is a great product IMO, and it, too, comes in a can. I wipe it on, spray it on, and for small projects can even put it on with a brush.

    John
    Ok, so what am I doing wrong?
    It has to be something. I can put an oil-based poly on and its fine.
    This shellac looks like hell. What's the trick?

  9. #9
    Shellac is a wonderful finish. Once you get the hang of it, you may prefer it; I know I do.

    However, if you are used to solvent varnishes and wiping oils, it can be frustrating at first. For varnish, you have a few minutes to brush it out, for shellac, you have seconds. The alcohol flashes off very quickly. You can't go over something you brushed or wiped 20 seconds ago; the alcohol is already half gone and the finish part dry. For true french polishing, the rag is actually oiled to keep it from sticking to the partially dry shellac.

    I usually brush or wipe it on, although I need to learn to spray it one of these days. It sands out very nicely, so a super even coat isn't always necessary. The secret is to work very quickly, and not to go over things that are already part dry except where you have to (like joining in your current brushload with something you did earlier in that coat). It can be challenging at first to to a large area, like a table top. Also, it won't level out like a oil poly, so you just try to put it on evenly and clean it up with abrasive if necessary.

    Also, while SealCoat can often be used directly from the can as it is a 2 pound cut, the regular blonde and orange are 3 pound cuts, and really too thick to be used straight from the can. Mixing them with about an equal part of alcohol will make them much friendlier.

    Fresh shellac from a can is just fine. It does degrade over time though. Supposedly it is good for 2 years, but I avoid using anything older than 1 year, unless I am putting a slop coat on shop furniture or fixtures. If I am doing "fine" work, I typically pick up a new can of SealCoat for that project, unless I have new stuff on had. Somewhere on Zissner's site is the secret decoder key to their date codes.
    Last edited by Andrew Seemann; 09-07-2020 at 9:44 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    Shellac is a wonderful finish. Once you get the hang of it, you may prefer it; I know I do.

    However, if you are used to solvent varnishes and wiping oils, it can be frustrating at first. For varnish, you have a few minutes to brush it out, for shellac, you have seconds. The alcohol flashes off very quickly. You can't go over something you brushed or wiped 20 seconds ago; the alcohol is already half gone and the finish part dry. For true french polishing, the rag is actually oiled to keep it from sticking to the partially dry shellac.

    I usually brush or wipe it on, although I need to learn to spray it one of these days. It sands out very nicely, so a super even coat isn't always necessary. The secret is to work very quickly, and not to go over things that are already part dry except where you have to (like joining in your current brushload with something you did earlier in that coat). It can be challenging at first to to a large area, like a table top. Also, it won't level out like a oil poly, so you just try to put it on evenly and clean it up with abrasive if necessary.

    Also, while SealCoat can often be used directly from the can as it is a 2 pound cut, the regular blonde and orange are 3 pound cuts, and really too thick to be used straight from the can. Mixing them with about an equal part of alcohol will make them much friendlier.

    Fresh shellac from a can is just fine. It does degrade over time though. Supposedly it is good for 2 years, but I avoid using anything older than 1 year, unless I am putting a slop coat on shop furniture or fixtures. If I am doing "fine" work, I typically pick up a new can of SealCoat for that project, unless I have new stuff on had. Somewhere on Zissner's site is the secret decoder key to their date codes.
    So, I get that it'll be hard to diagnose through words, but....what am I doing wrong?
    Zinser clear....I cut it with dna in a Mason jar. Either taklon brush or with a wiping pad, I couldn't get even coverage apparently. After numerous coats I still had an unacceptable finish that never seemed to blend together.
    I would wipe on a pass and then back, then overlapping strokes. Small shelf is all I was doing.... 20" long by 5 1/2" wide. Edges seemed okay, faces were a disaster.

  11. #11
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    I’ve just recently started using spray shellac. I have to sand lightly with 400 between coats or with 600 if it just has some small grit. I had a run on a table leg that took 150 to remove and just sprayed more on after going through 220 and 320 then touched up with 400.
    On one top I got it on too thick and rubbed harder with 400 then steel wool. Always use compressed air then a tack cloth after steel wool. This was all on pieces with a 60/40 mix of pure tung oil and Dna. I like the Tung on mahogany but don’t like the seemingly everlasting smell so the shellac hides the smell really good but all surfaces have to be sealed. I don’t like the French polish look on furniture so this method works for me.

    When spraying, start the spray away from the piece and move quickly about 11 to 12 inches away. Don’t touch up until it dries for a few hours.
    Last edited by Bruce King; 09-07-2020 at 10:42 PM.

  12. #12
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    I always thin shellac out of the can with denatured alcohol with about 75% shellac and 25% alcohol. Previous poster is right that you must brush one time, and not go back over a prior stroke.
    I usually use shellac as a sealer coat which gets sanded prior to top coats with poly.

  13. #13
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    Thin coats thatís what works the best. Slowly build 15 or more coats is normal but you have to thin it. I donít measure I just use simple test a drop on my finger it should be dry before I touch it with another finger.
    But then again I mix my own flakes from the shellac shack. It dries fast and itís also sand able and wonít corn up paper like the can shellac.
    I make a folded pad and wipe it with the grain. But thereís other ways.
    Lots of guys use shellac under other finishes not me. But I have use to control blotchy fir panels that need to be stained.
    If you can get canned shellac to work your going to love mixing it fresh.
    Aj

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    [/COLOR] Guinness in those cans with the nitrogen cartridge comes pretty close to great. And Sealcoat shellac is a great product IMO, and it, too, comes in a can. I wipe it on, spray it on, and for small projects can even put it on with a brush.

    John
    Guinness in can is that the same thing as duck in a can. Because it sounds gross
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Aj

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Johnson View Post
    So, I get that it'll be hard to diagnose through words, but....what am I doing wrong?
    Zinser clear....I cut it with dna in a Mason jar. Either taklon brush or with a wiping pad, I couldn't get even coverage apparently. After numerous coats I still had an unacceptable finish that never seemed to blend together.
    I would wipe on a pass and then back, then overlapping strokes. Small shelf is all I was doing.... 20" long by 5 1/2" wide. Edges seemed okay, faces were a disaster.
    Did you do a light sanding after the first coat? Sometimes that first coat can dry a little on the rough side, especially if there was some sanding dust left on the piece (or in the pores) or if it raises the grain a little. If you are going for a real smooth finish (and the wood was prepared perfectly flat) you can use a sanding block, otherwise hand held sandpaper works. I usually wipe of the dust with at tack cloth before the next coat.

    You can also sand between coats after the first if desired, but but definitely sand after the first coat. It will make the biggest difference.

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