Learning about Finishes

danmart77

Dan
Corporate Member
So I have never applied any finishes other than paint and have been trying to learn about stains and such for my shelving. I read several blog posts, including the one here: "Wood Finishes Explained" along with watching lots of videos. I read about using 1# cut shellac as a base coat on pine to prevent blotchiness. I researched gel stains, oil stains, etc.

Having done all that, I decided to start experimenting - below are my results on some scrap pieces of 2x4's that I sanded down with 80, then 120 grit. The wood was not very smooth to start with, even after sanding they were a bit rough. These pieces were some poor quality to start with and I think that may have played into the less than stellar results.


Zinsser Seal Coat (100% wax-free shellac)
The left side of the board is just bare wood; while the right side has 2 coats
I did hit the 2nd coat with some 0000 steel wool - most of that section was incredibly smooth.
I liked the "color" of this clear coat, but don't think it fits what I am planning.

View attachment 200061
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Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
I applied 1 coat of this stain over the wax free shellac because of what I read about blotchy wood
The bad results may be due to my poor application technique.
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Here is the same section with a second coat of stain
This was ok, but still looked blotchy, even though I had put down the shellac.
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Minwax's Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the same stain after 1 coat on bare wood.
As expected much better color than the piece with the seal coat
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After a second coat of the Espresso stain
I did not like this one, looked very dark and very blotchy.
I believe with this dark of a stain, I should have stopped with 1 coat.
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Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over 1# Cut Shellac
This was after the first coat.
I think the piece got some decent color.
View attachment 200067

Here is the piece after the second gel coat
This has a decent color to me, a bit richer than after the first coat.
It seems to have a bit of a semi-gloss finish.
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Minwax's Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood
Here is the Gel Stain on the bare pine after 1 coat
This picked up a good bit of color and had a matte finish
View attachment 200069

Here is the same piece after the second coat.
The light areas picked up a lot more color with this coat.
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My least favorite finish is the 2 coats of Minwax Espresso Oil Stain over Bare Wood. It was very dark and looked smeared. I think if I used a lighter stain and stopped at 1 coat, it would have been better.

My favorite look is the 2 coats of Minwax Walnut Oil based Gel Stain over Bare Wood. It looked very even and "natural" and seems to have a matte finish. I am going to apply this on one of my vertical pieces to see how it looks on a larger piece. My next favorite look was the 2# cut of shellac on the bare wood. I think that finish would be great in another application and on a better species of wood.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised at how much waste there was with the gel; although, I guess I could have applied it wrong.
Let me help a little. Get rid of the premixed shellac and order some fresh shellac flakes. The photo of the desk was done with a brush.


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zapdafish

Steve
Senior User
I took this 1 day class and really learned alot. He has a 5 day class as well but I wasn't that interested, lol.

 

danmart77

Dan
Corporate Member
[Here is a small table and a large desk finished in garnettlac. The garnett is darker than the orange shellac. This is what is possible with a little practice with thin shellac. No not the stuff from a can that can be old and impossible to work.

It the guy above does one on one in his shop, it would not be tough to do one here in NC. I have given a coloring and finish class in the past at Phil Soper's shop and most of the students in the class were members of NCWW
 

Attachments

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
[Here is a small table and a large desk finished in garnettlac. The garnett is darker than the orange shellac. This is what is possible with a little practice with thin shellac. No not the stuff from a can that can be old and impossible to work.

It the guy above does one on one in his shop, it would not be tough to do one here in NC. I have given a coloring and finish class in the past at Phil Soper's shop and most of the students in the class were members of NCWW
Dan,
We the shellac brushed on, or "padded" or ???
 

ralitaco

Jim
Senior User
[Here is a small table and a large desk finished in garnettlac. The garnett is darker than the orange shellac. This is what is possible with a little practice with thin shellac. No not the stuff from a can that can be old and impossible to work.

It the guy above does one on one in his shop, it would not be tough to do one here in NC. I have given a coloring and finish class in the past at Phil Soper's shop and most of the students in the class were members of NCWW
WOW DAN!!!! Those are fantastic. Mine look horrible in comparison. I have tons of drips and runs, etc. Fortunately, I am just building shelves. I figured out I was putting too much shellac on the wood thereby causing the runs. You can see I tried sanding the excess shellac off, but it was taking off the finish.

2021-03-29 - Shellac Runs (2).jpg 2021-03-29 - Shellac Runs (1).jpg

I am thinking I need to take one of those classes.
 

danmart77

Dan
Corporate Member
I only use finishes which allow maximum durability, excellent clarity and drying times fast enough to complete the entire job in two hours, including workable curing times.

Apologies if this comes over the wrong way, but anyone who still plays with shellac simply has not been introduced to the latest industrial finishes, almost none which are available at the hardware store.
For me it is about the time, the durability, the compatibility and the amount of work which has to go into it. Shellac rates way down on my list, below products available thirty years ago.

I use oil based stains, dyes, pigmented coloring and tints. It all depends on what the customer wants and there is a place for each and every one. The new trend in houses being built is all solid colors, but transparent colors showing the grain are coming back. Then there is farm style, with blotching, wood defects, knots, for which an oil based stain is very popular. comment by willem above

Well you don't get it my friend. For a finish to be around for hundreds of years has to say something about the end result and not needing a ton of spray gear, a spray booth and a good way to get a nice finish.
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
I only use finishes which allow maximum durability, excellent clarity and drying times fast enough to complete the entire job in two hours, including workable curing times.

Apologies if this comes over the wrong way, but anyone who still plays with shellac simply has not been introduced to the latest industrial finishes, almost none which are available at the hardware store.
For me it is about the time, the durability, the compatibility and the amount of work which has to go into it. Shellac rates way down on my list, below products available thirty years ago.

I use oil based stains, dyes, pigmented coloring and tints. It all depends on what the customer wants and there is a place for each and every one. The new trend in houses being built is all solid colors, but transparent colors showing the grain are coming back. Then there is farm style, with blotching, wood defects, knots, for which an oil based stain is very popular. comment by willem above

Well you don't get it my friend. For a finish to be around for hundreds of years has to say something about the end result and not needing a ton of spray gear, a spray booth and a good way to get a nice finish.
Sadly I do not have an option to use your hundred year old finish. It fails ANSI/KCMA A161.1 which is a standard my work has to conform to.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
Sadly I do not have an option to use your hundred year old finish. It fails ANSI/KCMA A161.1 which is a standard my work has to conform to.
Whos imposing that on you? Its a pretty vague "standard" as far as standards go. Also, there is no reason a person cant use Shellac as a sealer and EASILY pass that "standard", you just cant use it as a topcoat. It appears to me its one of those "feel good, marketing, look good" standards anyhow. Not really backed by any testing organization.
 
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Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
Whos imposing that on you? Its a pretty vague "standard" as far as standards go. Also, there is no reason a person cant use Shellac as a sealer and EASILY pass that "standard", you just cant use it as a topcoat. It appears to me its one of those "feel good, marketing, look good" standards anyhow. Not really backed by any testing organization.
We are in a competitive market, so I guess I can say I have to add that to our standard purchase agreement. We are not a hobby shop, some of our orders are 60k plus.

The finish standard testing is pretty precise it is not vague.

The customer comeback when they left a wet container on a wooden counter top for a few days is pretty painful. That is where a Shellack seal coat is the worst thing you can possibly do. Top coats are not seal coats, they protect the seal coat. The idea that a shellac seal coat is compatible with everything else is a myth. Even with the industry standard vinyl seal coats which are 100% superior to shellac, one has to be careful with compatibility.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
We are in a competitive market, so I guess I can say I have to add that to our standard purchase agreement. We are not a hobby shop, some of our orders are 60k plus.

The finish standard testing is pretty precise it is not vague.

The customer comeback when they left a wet container on a wooden counter top for a few days is pretty painful. That is where a Shellack seal coat is the worst thing you can possibly do. Top coats are not seal coats, they protect the seal coat. The idea that a shellac seal coat is compatible with everything else is a myth. Even with the industry standard vinyl seal coats which are 100% superior to shellac, one has to be careful with compatibility.
The standard only applies only to cabinets, not countertops, at least the one I found. I have successfully used GF Hi-performance waterborne poly over dewaxed shellac on MANY applications for wooden Island tops and had zero callbacks. I have never heard of anyone having adhesion issues to DEWAXED shellac with topcoats.
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
The standard only applies only to cabinets, not countertops, at least the one I found. I have successfully used GF Hi-performance waterborne poly over dewaxed shellac on MANY applications for wooden Island tops and had zero callbacks. I have never heard of anyone having adhesion issues to DEWAXED shellac with topcoats.
How many customers do you have and how many counter tops have you installed?

if we are talking “plastic” look, that sure is poly.

I am trying to understand you logic though? Why use two different SKU’s if you can use one product only for seal and top coat, the product being more durable than both you have used, much easier to apply and in much less time. And it looks far superior to any poly.

I have tried Zin Shellac and Minwax wb poly from Lowe’s several times, every time cussing that I purchased it, always throwing the rest away. Probably not because it is so bad, probably more to it being very sub- standard to anything available from industrial suppliers.

At the end of the day, no matter how perfect a piece of woodwork turns out, the finish can either enhance it, or totally spoil it.
 
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chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
The idea with Shellac is to bring out the depth in the wood. You can also add dyes in layers using it, to remove sap word for instance. You may want to look at GF performance topcoat (satin) if you think it looks like plastic. Not even close, it mirrors a hand rubbed finish, or if you want a true hand rubbed look, use their Arm R Seal. It is oil based however. I have installed about 25 islands so far. Minwax poly is total crap. And if you bought Zin shellac from lowes it had wax in it. You need to use Zin sealcoat (dewaxed) shellac, not avail at lowes.
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
The idea with Shellac is to bring out the depth in the wood. You can also add dyes in layers using it, to remove sap word for instance. You may want to look at GF performance topcoat (satin) if you think it looks like plastic. Not even close, it mirrors a hand rubbed finish, or if you want a true hand rubbed look, use their Arm R Seal. It is oil based however. I have installed about 25 islands so far. Minwax poly is total crap. And if you bought Zin shellac from lowes it had wax in it. You need to use Zin sealcoat (dewaxed) shellac, not avail at lowes.
Chris I have been around the block several times with Zin seal coat and shellac. Find it impossible to spray the shellac as a top coat without having to rub out. A bit more success with spraying my own mix from flakes, but that is a lot of unnecessary work.

I exprienced issues with the seal coat under nitro lacquer, more than once.

The Chemists at Sherwin Williams and Lenmar will tell you that Zin sealer is an absolute no, under any catalized finish. You have to use a catalized sealer under a catalized finish. That is also stated in their paint docs.

Nitro lacquer overtook shellack in 1930, produces the same depth. Pick up any Gibson Guitar and look at the figure as well as depth. Catalized finishes produces the same depth, the only disadvantage being they cannot fill pores, as the film thickness is limited to around 4mil wet. One either has to switch to a grain filler and then coat, or use a nitro lacquer which is not catalized. Generally, a good catalized finish only needs one seal coat and one top coat, the whole process in 40 minutes.

You are correct about Minwax wb poly being crap. I can’t even figure out how they sell that stuff. It actually fails with the evaporative components not being able to escape through the film, both in spraying and brushing.

Thanks for the GF tip, perhaps we have the opportunity to test it some time if we have another spray class.

Most of us work through the maze and after years of experimenting find one particular finish which does everything extremely well in as little time needed as possible. Then we stick with what we know works every time.

Solid colors takes one into a totally different world. White or black allows they eye to catch the tiniest defect, be it exposed wood grain, sanding marks etc. There are special products available to do that fast with two coats, all of which are catalized.

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