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The Editors Mailbox

Shellac, the last "brittle" finish?

comments (8) November 17th, 2010 in blogs

woodheat Roland Johnson, contributor
thumbs up 6 users recommend


It's starting to be more apparent every year that we will slowly see our beloved solvent-based finishes disappear in favor of water-based finishes.

I understand the VOC concerns but I still like my Alkyd Varnish and my Acrylic Nitrocellulose Lacquer, but I can see a time in the future when I won't be able to buy my favorites. 

Shellac may be the final frontier for non-water based finishes. Dissolved in alcohol, shellac may be the last survivor of the "brittle" finishes. What do you think?? 

I'll be in Denver this weekend (19-21) defending my viewpoint and I can show you three excellent ways to apply shellac. Stop by and say hi. Denver Merchandise Mart, 451 East 58th Ave.



posted in: blogs


Comments (8)

longjohns longjohns writes: System Three's WR-LPU is a pretty heavy-duty water based topcoat. It comes with an optional cross link additive.

I have tried it on my stairs and on my basement floor. It does show some scratches after a while.. But, come on! A floor! This is a tough product.

And to try to stay on topic... On my baswement floor it's sticking well to a gnarly solvent based sealer coat. With a shellac layer in between.
Posted: 11:35 pm on November 27th

GEide GEide writes: I’m no shellac expert, but just to stir things up a little bit, (hope you don’t mind Rollie, :) ) have you folks seen Vijay Velji’s shellac DVD? According to a reviewer, in his DVD, Velji says that shellac actually has good resistance to alcohol if the shellac flakes are fresh. In the video, he even spills some scotch on a finish. After leaving it sit, the scotch doesn’t leave any damage.

What do you folks think of this? Do you buy it? Anyone had similar experiences? Or experiences where a drink DID ruin a shellac finish?
Posted: 11:40 am on November 19th

woodheat woodheat writes: Biggest problem with shellac? No resistance to alcohol. Solution: a few coats of Carnauba wax. It won't completely stop that spilled wine from getting to the shellac, but it gives you a fighting chance to get the alcohol off the surface before it does damage the finish.
Posted: 7:43 pm on November 18th

CarverRich CarverRich writes: Buy Shellac Flakes, Ron Hock sells a very fine flake it lasts forever use a good alcohol for a solvent mix it to your specs and have fun.
Posted: 5:09 pm on November 18th

dboetb dboetb writes: I like shellac also but it's difficult to find a can on the shelf that is not out date. Luckily I can still buy the solvent base finishes in my area and will use those until I no longer can find them.
Posted: 3:41 pm on November 18th

MKenney MKenney writes: Rollie,

I was shocked (and I'm still annoyed) that I can't buy solvent-based varnish here in CT. I used to make my own wiping varnish for table tops other high use areas on furniture. However, there has been one good consequence stemming from the void:I know use shellac for my furniture. And I couldn't be happier.
Posted: 8:49 am on November 18th

jpierce jpierce writes: I don't know, I love Grafted Coatings KTM-9 waterborne finish. I use it on electric guitars. It polishes to a high gloss if need be, and looks like "real" lacquer. It changed my opinion of waterborne finishes.
Posted: 8:40 am on November 18th

Doug_Turner Doug_Turner writes: I personally love shellac. It sticks to anything, and anything sticks to it. It's a thin, delicate finish, and dries very quickly. It's not horrible for the environment, and far from the most toxic finish out there. I have never successfully brushed or padded it on - I spray it with my hvlp gun (thinned a bit). My favorite super easy finish recipe:
-pore filler if desired
-sand
-color if desired
-2 coats shellac, sprayed on
-light sanding
-glaze if desired
-1 coat of shellac
-light sanding
-2-3 coats minwax wipe on poly (wiped on), sanding between coats
-Pumice and rotten stone buff if desired

The result is a thin but durable finish that looks like many coats of oil.

I can't say that I see the end of products like lacquer or conversion varnish however. Companies like ML Campbell would essentially have to go out of business (I kind of hope you are right, for environmental reasons). Most guys I know spray conversion varnish. I used to be one of them. I just can't stand lacquer thinner and the environmental effects of spraying poison into the air...Plus my shop stunk for a few days.

I have never liked water based finishes, for the standard reasons (plastic, purple appearance).

I will be 1500 miles from Denver this weekend, otherwise I'd stop by and learn about shellac.


Posted: 5:20 pm on November 17th

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