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Thread: Shellac on large surfaces

  1. #1

    Shellac on large surfaces

    how does one use shellac on a very large surface, such as a big dining table or a grand piano lid? i don't want to pad an area and then have an obvious line between it and the next section. what's the best method for maintaining a wet edge on such a large piece?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    A large pad and work quickly. Don't overwork it--pad it on and move on. You do have a LITTLE open time.
    Jason

    "Don't get stuck on stupid." --Lt. Gen. Russel Honore


  3. #3
    or spray it

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Steven--that would be MY first choice, but I recognize that many folks don't have sprayers of any sort.

    I should clarify what I meant by a "pad", too. I'm talking about those 3- 7" combo foam-and-mohair "paint/stain" pads. They work very well for shellac and waterborne coatings (on large, flat surfaces with little or no detail, I can probably pad faster than spray with an HVLP).
    Jason

    "Don't get stuck on stupid." --Lt. Gen. Russel Honore


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Livermore, CA
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    831
    To increase the drying time for shellac, consider cutting the shellac with isopropyl alcohol. Make a heavy cut of shellac in ethanol/denatured alcohol at 2-3 pounds and then dilute to 1-2 pound cut with isopropyl alcohol. Don't use rubbing alcohol as it is 30% water. You want 100% isopropyl.
    Tim


    on the neverending quest for wood.....

  6. #6
    I have shellacked jewelry boxes with no problems. I have had some trouble shellacking larger pieces. Especially with garnet shellac on a light wood such as maple, because I couldn't get an even distribution of shellac and there were dark/light spots. So I must be doing something wrong!

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    The problem often is trying to think of shellac as if it were varnish. It's easy to apply, but requires a different technique and mind set. With varnish you flow it on, and even it out--the process is one of smooth and easy.

    With shellac, unless you spray, you can't just put on an even spread, you have to make shellac's particular characteristics--quick drying and complete fusing between "coats", and fairly easy sanding work for you, not against.

    First don't try too heavy a coating with 1 1/2 to 2 lb. "cut" being the most user friendly. You can use a pad, which is made with a fine weave fabric such as white cotton percale sheeting, wrapped around a bundle of anything absorbant. The pad should be about egg size and have no wrinkles on the surface. (This is similar to French polishing pads, but no oil is needed, nor any particular skill.) You just apply shellac with the pad, working quickly and never going back over an area to fix a missed spot or overlap. You want to apply thin and fairly even coats, but don't obsess over it. Just fully damp, not flowing coats.

    You can build a finish a little faster with a brush. I strongly prefer watercolor wash brushes (about 1 1/2" wide is enough for anything). The best bristles are Golden Taklon which are very fine and leave zero brush strokes. The brush doesn't hold a lot, so you never get really heavy coats. Again, you work very quickly, ignoring misses or overlaps. Just try not to miss the same place or overlap in the same place on subsequent coats. These little misses and laps will even out in the end.

    You can apply a number of coats 3 or 4 for example, and then let it dry more thoroughly and lightly sand to level out the surface. Then apply a few more "coats" and level again with sand paper as you need to. (You do not need to sand between coats for adhesion, only to level out problems.)

    Never let either pad or brush drag. If you notice any dragginess STOP immediately and let the surface dry more thoroughly before proceeding with another coat. If you ignore this you risk getting a "rumpled" mess. (It will sand out after drying overnight, but it's not pleasant.)

    When you have built to the thickness you desire, you can level with a fairly fine grit 600 and then 1000 or 1200 and proceed to either pumice (for satin sheen) or to rottenstone (for gloss). Rubbing compounds also work well. You should give at least several days or a week before rubbing out--not nearly the month you should wait before rubbing out varnish.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Schoene View Post
    The problem often is trying to think of shellac as if it were varnish. It's easy to apply, but requires a different technique and mind set. With varnish you flow it on, and even it out--the process is one of smooth and easy.

    With shellac, unless you spray, you can't just put on an even spread, you have to make shellac's particular characteristics--quick drying and complete fusing between "coats", and fairly easy sanding work for you, not against.

    First don't try too heavy a coating with 1 1/2 to 2 lb. "cut" being the most user friendly. You can use a pad, which is made with a fine weave fabric such as white cotton percale sheeting, wrapped around a bundle of anything absorbant. The pad should be about egg size and have no wrinkles on the surface. (This is similar to French polishing pads, but no oil is needed, nor any particular skill.) You just apply shellac with the pad, working quickly and never going back over an area to fix a missed spot or overlap. You want to apply thin and fairly even coats, but don't obsess over it. Just fully damp, not flowing coats.

    You can build a finish a little faster with a brush. I strongly prefer watercolor wash brushes (about 1 1/2" wide is enough for anything). The best bristles are Golden Taklon which are very fine and leave zero brush strokes. The brush doesn't hold a lot, so you never get really heavy coats. Again, you work very quickly, ignoring misses or overlaps. Just try not to miss the same place or overlap in the same place on subsequent coats. These little misses and laps will even out in the end.

    You can apply a number of coats 3 or 4 for example, and then let it dry more thoroughly and lightly sand to level out the surface. Then apply a few more "coats" and level again with sand paper as you need to. (You do not need to sand between coats for adhesion, only to level out problems.)

    Never let either pad or brush drag. If you notice any dragginess STOP immediately and let the surface dry more thoroughly before proceeding with another coat. If you ignore this you risk getting a "rumpled" mess. (It will sand out after drying overnight, but it's not pleasant.)

    When you have built to the thickness you desire, you can level with a fairly fine grit 600 and then 1000 or 1200 and proceed to either pumice (for satin sheen) or to rottenstone (for gloss). Rubbing compounds also work well. You should give at least several days or a week before rubbing out--not nearly the month you should wait before rubbing out varnish.
    Great info Steve - thank you very much.
    -joe
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