What finishes are safe for bookshelves?
I am installing some shelves on brackets to be bookshelves. I’ll probably use oak plywood and edge band the exposed edges. My question is, are some finishes not advisable for bookshelves? These shelves will have actual books on them, and I don’t want anything that will mar the books in anyway. I’m leaning towards shellac, but I’m not positive. I would like something I can spray (lots of shelves) but wipe on is ok too. Something that will take transtint colors would be good, if I decide I want to alter the color.
Technically, any finish that has completely cured is inert and therefore, safe. Shellac is an excellent choice as is lacquer. Both are very hard once fully dry and there should be no interaction between them and book covers. But give them at least 2 weeks after the final coat for all solvents to escape. Varnish is also ok, but may be a little softer (relatively speaking) and a book could, over a long period of time, press its way, slightly, into a varnish layer. I don't think any harm could come of that. I'd give varnish a month to cure (maybe longer) before using the finished piece.
Don't ever learn anything new. Rather than give you satisfaction that you know more than you did, it will only confirm you know less than you thought by opening horizons to things of which you had never dreamt and which you now must explore.
I can't think of a single finish that would be inappropriate for bookshelves. They would all be fine.That being said, if you are a DIY, I think I would apply a resin-tung oil, like Minwax Antique Oil. 3 Coats are great, and totally seals the shelves, no brush strokes and maintenance is a snap.Regards,
Boris"Sir, I may be drunk, but you're crazy, and I'll be sober tomorrow" -- WC Fields, "Its a Gift" 1934
What is the best way to spray shellac? What cut and how many coats should I figure?
There is nothing critical about spraying shellac. I don't really pay that much attention to the "cut," but my solutions are somewhere in the range of a 2# to 3# cut. It's the viscosity of the solution in the bottle that I've grown to recognize as correct. Mix up a 3# cut, get to recognize how it swirls in the jar, thin it down to about a 2# cut, obrserve its viscosity, then just shoot for that kind of solution in the future.
I don't use a sanding sealer and I always use dewaxed. I spray the first 2 coats thinner than succeeding coats (probably a 2# or slightly thinner mix). Don't dawdle with the gun. It's really important to move quickly. Wet the surface completely, and evenly, but lightly. 30 minutes later put down the second coat. Wait at least 24 hours, 48 is better. The surface will be rough due to raised wood grain, but it should not be gritty, from an angle it should already have some gloss between the "fur" of the raised wood.
Level the surface by sanding very lightly, but evenly and completely with 320. Just take off the nibs and the high points of the finish. Dewaxed does not sand as easily as waxed, but it is still a pleasure to sand.
The next coat, I shoot 3# and let it harden for 48 hours. I level it with 320 which still may take down some raised grain, but there should be very little. Then 2 more coats, leveling between. The last coat, before rubbing should have a continuous, hard shine with almost no orange peel. I finish with 400 grit wet-or-dry, lubricated with water and dishwaser detergent (a drop to a quart), then either steel wool lubricated or 600 wet-or-dry, lubricated, then auto rubbing compound (red). My goal is a very thin, hard, tight-looking finish with a soft glow to the surface.
Edited 2/4/2005 9:28 pm ET by Rich14
OK, I'm biased, I admit it. But, attempting to be fair about it all, I'd stay away from shellac if you live in a humid area. (Personally, I stay away from shellac period, but that's just my bias.)
We have bookshelves finished with varnish and with gloss-finish, oil-base paint. No problem with either.
I'm quite a fan of shellac. There just is no validity to warnings about shellac's problems, vis a vis a "humid environment." It's no less useful in a humid place than in a very dry region. It's one of the most durable finishes around. Atmospheric moisture is just not a factor.
Admittedly, it's not as moisture-resistant as lacquer or varnish, but tales of its suceptability to water are mostly "urban legends." A wet rag or glass left on a shellac finish as long as 24 hours often will leave no mark at all. Sometimes a white mark remains that buffs out readily, or is repaired so easily compared to the effort needed to repair other finishes, that it's not worth fussing about.
Some of the myths about shellac's problems with water in the air may have come about due to the tendancy of alcohol to absorb water. Once a shellac solution (alcohol/shellac) becomes contaminated with water, it's ruined. The shellac won't dry hard. If a shellac solution is left open for a very long time in very humid weather this can happen. Or if shellac is mixed with alcohol that already has water in it, it can happen.
But once shellac has properly dried, it is much, much more water resistant than it is generally given credit to be.
Edited 2/3/2005 9:50 pm ET by Rich14
LOL, like I said, I am biased. Truth be told, third-generation biased. We have a set of hand-me-down kitchen chairs (not from my side, LOL) that are finished with shellac, and not worth the effor to refinish. All summer long, one sticks to them every time. We have two chairs made by my grandfather (I'm supposed to have a whole set, but that's another story), and they don't suffer from that same sticktion problem.
In other words, there is some basis for my bias. ;-)
The problem you are having with the chair is not the fault of the shellac, except that it was too old when it was applied and therefore wouldn't harden properly. You could apply a fresh coat of shellac over the existing finish and that would probably solve the problem.
Ewwwwwww. You are trying to overturn three generations. ;-)
I've heard evil mutterings about latex paint.
About the only problem finish would be a latex paint. Latex frequently tends to "block" or cause things sitting for a long time to stick.
Almost any clear finish would be fine. Let oil based products cure until they stop emitting an odor before putting books on them.
There've been a lot of responses already and I'll just add the only little pieces of wisdom I can add here. What ever finish you use, make sure that it cures hard before putting books (or anything else) on it. That means that it has to be fresh, not old (as several folks pointed out) and that the conditions have to be right to apply it. That can be a problem in the winter when it's cold.
Also, let it dry much longer than you think before putting books on it and wax it before using. The wax will help a little with a soft sticky finish, but you don't want one in the first place.
And to add just one more piece . . .Before rubbing out the final coat, you need to wait an absolute minimum of 48 hours under good drying conditions (warm and dry). The longer you wait the better. If I have the "luxury," I won't touch a final-sprayed piece for 2 weeks.And, yes to the suggestion of a final coat of wax, although this is purely a personal thing. I don't use it much, but freshly buffed, it looks like a million bucks. Always use PASTE wax. NEVER, let products that come in a spray can (Pledge, Old English, lemon oil, orange oil - ugh!) or as a thin liquid near your work. NEVER.I have only used Johnson's paste wax. It's been the same for 40 years. Since I don't have experience with others, I have no right to comment on their quality or usefulness. On the other hand, since Johnson's does everything a paste wax can possibly do, and since it's inexpensive, I have to conclude that nothing else is better. Equal? Probably. Don't know.Paste wax is a finish that cannot be completed by hand. It MUST be power buffed to achieve its real beauty. You apply by hand as a thin film, rub it in some, remove most of the visible excess and let dry to a haze. Then you buff it with a lambs wool pad in a bench power buffer or chucked in an electric drill. As you buff, the pad removes the last bit of excess wax. One of the beauties of a wax finish is that only the amount that will adhere to the wood will remain there, all the excess comes off in the buffing, after which the surface is hard and dry and will not shed a bit of wax.The buffing must be at high speed - high enough to momentarily melt the wax to a glass-like liquid immediately under the spining pad. As the pad moves on, in an instant, the wax solidifies, maintaining the glassy sheen. Hand rubbing can't get the wax that hot.If wax isn't subject to abrasive handling, it will maintain its shine for a very long time. It's really much harder than generally appreciated. Gentle dusting (dry or damp cloth) is all that's really needed to maintain its look (but that is just as true of the shellac surface itself). Once it's dulled by handling and other abuse, it can often be brought back to its original shine by buffing again without any additional wax (make sure any potentially abrasive dust is gone first). If necessary, new wax can be applied for buffing, or the wax, if dirty or damaged, can be stripped with mineral spirits before a fresh coat is applied.Rich
Edited 2/5/2005 3:15 am ET by Rich14
I have used MinWax polyshades on an oak book shelf and the results were fantastic. I also used MinWax stain and polyurathane on two sets of pine and had no problems. No sticking, staining, or chipping on any bookshelf and they are all over fours years in age.
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