Finish and application: Bleached shellac and alcohol solution (polish)

Skill Level: Medium

Finish Products: Liberon Super Blonde Shellac [flakes], denatured alcohol

Project Type: Display Cabinet on a Stand

Maker: Jim Budlong

Materials: Cherry

A very thin bleached shellac and alcohol solution (polish) provides for a very thin close to the wood look without significantly changing the tones of the woods used.


1.  Mixing Polish
A basic low-tech way to make polish is to crush up and pour in about 3/4 in. of flakes into a clean glass or plastic bottle. Fill up the rest of the container about two thirds full with alcohol. Shake thoroughly and continue to do so periodically until the shellac has dissolved. If after experimenting with it you want a little heavier or lighter solution, add more flakes or alcohol accordingly. Basically, a thinner solution builds up slower and may take more coats, while a heavier solution builds faster, but might be trickier to control without experience.

2. Applying finish
Load some polish into a small cotton or linen rag formed into a pad (make a tampon as in French polishing) and apply full-length strokes slightly overlapping each other. Re-apply every 10 or 15 minutes for three or four coats, then allow to dry more thoroughly.

3.  Knock back the grain
The grain will raise up and feel rough with some woods. After allowing the first series of coats to dry, very lightly knock the roughness down with a worn out piece of 400 sandpaper, being very careful not to cut through the finish on or around the edges. Remember that the polish is very diluted and there isn't much thickness to it.

4. Subsequent coats
Keep applying shellac until the desired amount of build and sheen is achieved. The number of coats will depend upon the viscosity of your polish, type of wood (softer woods tend to really drink it up before it finally seals), and how much build and sheen is desired. It could take 10 or it could take 20, it's all about how you want it to look. In the end, the more you put on the shinier it gets.