Thursday, September 4, 2008

About Shellac

Many of my projects use shellac in at least some part of the finish. It was the first finish I was able to apply well, it's a natural and renewable product (at least, when mixed yourself... Off the shelf stuff may not be fully natural), and it looks great.

The only downsides are low abrasion resistance and low liquid resistance. That's it. Not so good for table tops, great for pens!

The pencil shown in the photo at right is made from kingwood finished with several coats of 1# shellac. This was my first penturning attempt and I still use it every day. The finish is still great. has some good info on shellac. Their "Why Shellac" article is good:

Shellac is a good choice for
furniture, smal craft, and wood instruments because it is ..

  • Beautiful, Lustrous
  • Easy to apply
  • Dries within minutes
  • Sticks to almost anything!
  • Seals in minutes
  • Can be recoated within 15-20 minutes if wiped
  • Can be recoated within 2 hours if brushed
  • Infinitely easier to rub out
  • Easily repaired
  • Has good clarity
  • Completely reversible
  • Feels well in the hand
  • Offers a wide range of colors without sacrificing clarity
  • Environmentally safe
  • Healthier
  • Compatible with most other finishes
  • Once you shellac, ain't no going back!
And they missed one of the most important reasons: It's a renewable resource and fully natural!

Shellac is made from secretions of the Lac bug. It is sold either prepared or in flake form that you mix yourself with denatured alcohol. Shellac is used for more than just wood finishes. It can be found in medicines as a pill coating and packaged foods to add a shine to glazes or candies. It's completely edible when cured and safe around children.

If you haven't tried shellac yet, get a small can of prepared shellac and play with it. If you like it, buy some flakes and alcohol and start mixin' yer own.

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