Shellac Mixing: What do I use to dissolve flakes and cut premixed shellac?

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Jeff

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Jeff
So my question; Will isopropyl alcohol work as well as DNA when working with shellac (Flakes or out of the can...)?

Or do we need to wait for Bill's testing???
Don't know how isopropanol will work, but I suspect that it should be fine & he'll tell us his results. Ethanol and methanol (or mixtures thereof without water) have been used and recommended for eons and I think that's just part of the history and the way that shellac use evolved over 200 years.

Try your own tests in your shop and tell us your results for comparison.
 

bluedawg76

New User
Sam
Dan, I used Bekhol but I also used a small nut grinder to grind up the flakes beforehand. Works great for me. I've also bought the Zinser clear coat from Amazon with no shipping costs. Also, you can ship to HD for free and pick it up. I didn't find the flakes to be a cheaper alternative.
i've come to really like the zinnser stuff. I do a fair amount of shellac only finishes and will use either the seal coat (dewaxed) or regular (waxed) stuff. Has some retarder in it that makes it a bit more forgiving than just ethanol. I tend to like the waxed stuff better. I think it's easier to apply and finish. I'm not really sure why there's such a push for dewaxed unless it's as a seal coat only.
 

Jeff

New User
Jeff
I'm not really sure why there's such a push for dewaxed unless it's as a seal coat only.
Good point, Sam. Here's my understanding of dewaxed/waxed.

1. Waxed is fine if that's the only finish that you'll be using. Historically, shellac with wax is softer, less durable, and more prone to "water rings" but your experiences may show otherwise. A table top may not be ideal for waxed shellac, but a desk, bookcase, etc may be just fine without much abuse.

2. Dewaxed shellac will take a different type of top coat without adhesion problems so +1 there.

3. Dewaxed shellac as a total finish is harder and more durable. No wax = "no water rings" so it may work fine for some table tops. :icon_scra
 

willarda

New User
Bill Anderson
I have transitioned to garnet shellac recently. I am using the dewaxed version from Brooklyn Tool Co. That is not a recommendation from me, just my first "reach out and grab" choice. I bought a small coffee grinder from Target ($14) which could hold about a half cup of flakes. I started out with a 2 lb cut (12 grams in 50 mL). However, the finish tended to pile up along the edges of the work regardless of the lightness of my brush strokes. If the solution is thick enough, it can pool up along edges and attempt to create as small a volume as possible (theoretically a sphere) before it dries. So I was always having to clean up edges before the next coat. Plus I got evidence of brush strokes which I was unhappy with. I changed the cut by a factor of 4 to a 0.5 lb cut (those same 12 grams in 200 mL of ethanol). This improved my results dramatically. The finish dried in minutes, no pooling up, no brush strokes, etc. The downside (if you are impatient) is that you need more coats to get a decent build-up. However I can recoat 3 times per day with this cut.

Read Stephen A. Shepherd's book: "Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint" which came out in 2011 (Full Chisel Press). There is a wealth of detail in there about really basic stuff, plus some amazing appendices and glossaries for anyone reading old texts.
 

Tarhead

Mark
Corporate Member
Dewaxed shellac as a total finish is harder and more durable. No wax = "no water rings" so it may work fine for some table tops. :icon_scra
I'm not sure de-waxed is more durable than regular (not fully dewaxed) shellac. Shellac was used for many years as a finish for household hardwood floors, dance floors, basketball courts, etc and it wasn't fully de-waxed. Its wax would amalgamate with the solvents and waxes in whatever paste wax used on it and filled scratches, scuffs, etc. Once buffed you would have a smooth "new" surface. It was durable enough for the job needed and future problem areas could be touched up with new shellac, waxed and blend in with the surrounding without having to refinish the whole room. It's hard to do that with poly or varnish. It's one of the properties appreciated in french polished guitars and furniture also. Another great property of waxed shellac is the tooth it has for gym shoes. Polyurethane finished floors are slick in comparison.
 
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