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Thread: Dresser and Shellac

  1. #1
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    Dresser and Shellac

    I am trying to finish up a dresser right now and figure out my finishing scheme. The last dresser that I built I used 2 coats of spray shellac on all parts as a first coat and then I put on 3-4 coats of waterlox. I really liked the way the finish came out.

    The previous project I used cherry and now i am working with Hickory. I was thinking that maybe I could just use shellac as my finish and build up 4-5 spray coats and not use waterlox at all. I really don't want to wait for the waterlox to off gas at all. are there any issues with 4-5 spray coats of shellac? due to ease of use etc. I am just buying the cans of zinnser de-waxed shellac. I know it is a bit more expensive but it is a lot easier to spray and not worry about other 'equipment' etc.

    Greg

  2. #2
    Shellac is a fine topcoat for a dresser. If you put a lot of things on top of the dresser, then the finish may dull, scratch, or leave water rings. However, a) it is easily repaired, and b) you can always put waterlox on it after a few years if you find you are frustrated.

    I have a shellacked side table that sees a lot of wet glasses, and I've been very pleased at how easily repaired it is. Even some of my varnished tops occasionally need a polishing or re-waxing. Compared to that, a reapplication of shellac is about as easy.

  3. #3
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    I don't know what the limit is but shellac is one finish you don't want to build up. As it cures it will "alligator" and crack if is too thick.

  4. #4
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    Prashun thanks for the thoughts and Jim that is exactly what i am concerned about. How many coats should I use?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Cuetara View Post
    I am trying to finish up a dresser right now and figure out my finishing scheme. The last dresser that I built I used 2 coats of spray shellac on all parts as a first coat and then I put on 3-4 coats of waterlox. I really liked the way the finish came out.

    The previous project I used cherry and now i am working with Hickory. I was thinking that maybe I could just use shellac as my finish and build up 4-5 spray coats and not use waterlox at all. I really don't want to wait for the waterlox to off gas at all. are there any issues with 4-5 spray coats of shellac? due to ease of use etc. I am just buying the cans of zinnser de-waxed shellac. I know it is a bit more expensive but it is a lot easier to spray and not worry about other 'equipment' etc.

    Greg
    Hi Greg,

    A few cautions, first, any shellac that has been solved in ethyl alcohol, be it SDA#1 or denatured, etc., immediately starts going through a phase know as esterification. Which means a continuing action on the lac that makes it become softer, Les water resistant and alcohol resistant and in the end will not even harden nor dry and has to be discarded. With canned shellac, even if only a few months old or even a few weeks for that matter, it's debilitating affects can be seen or tested for this and found wanting as compared to freshly cut lac flakes etc.. Most people that use lac regularly always make their own form scratch as needed to avoid this as much as possible.

    Secondly, it's use as a stand alone coating would be ok as long as it was on something that would neither receive alcoholic beverages etc., or be cleaned with ammoniated cleaners which can actually mar, remove, or strip the shellac. If applying to a surface where heat would reach temps above it's melting point, it would be damaged also, so counter tops in kitchens/ dining room tables etc., would be off limits also unless proper heat dispersing pads or other are used to prevent this.

    Thirdly, it does not have the best resistance as to household or normal food items such as vinegar/mustard/ or other acidic substances, so that should be taken into account also.

    As to how many coats to apply, i would recommend if you still want to use it and knowing where not to use it, no more than 3-4 coats sanding before the last coat for levelness and flatness.

    If other Q's just post.
    Sincerely,

    S.Q.P - SAM - CHEMMY.......... Almost 50 years in this art and trade and counting...

  6. #6
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    Sheldon it is going to be a dresser with the top used as a changing table for the next year and then there shouldn't be any hard use on it after that.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Cuetara View Post
    Sheldon it is going to be a dresser with the top used as a changing table for the next year and then there shouldn't be any hard use on it after that.
    With this further info then i would still suggest using a protective and waterproof pad to use on the top till such time as no longer needed, at least while in use.

    Good luck with your project and post some pics when done ok?
    Sincerely,

    S.Q.P - SAM - CHEMMY.......... Almost 50 years in this art and trade and counting...

  8. #8
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    This is for family so I will definately suggest to use something to cover the top while in heavy use right now.

    And yes I will be posting pictures. I have some along the process and will get some while finished. This has been a project 6+ months in the making right now.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Greg

  9. #9
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    your welcome.
    Sincerely,

    S.Q.P - SAM - CHEMMY.......... Almost 50 years in this art and trade and counting...

  10. #10
    Greg-
    I think it would be a good experiment for you to *NOT* put a pad on the top and see just how durable a shellac finish can be. It's easily repaired (even by the ham handed like myself). I'm sure Sheldon has more experience than I but I find shellac to be plenty durable for just about anything other than a table or surface that'll get a LOT of moisture.

    I concur that shellac can go bad, but it doesn't happen immediately, and like any glue or finish, as long as yr using product manufactured relatively recently (< 3-6 months) it's just not been a practical issue for me.

    As to your question of how many coats, the goal (to paraphrase Scott T) is to get a thin, even film. The easiest way to achieve it is to pad on the Sealcoat. When sealing, I use Sealcoat out of the can. But after about 2 coats, it starts to leave streaks; I find it too thick for final padding. So, with each coat, I add a little more ethanol to the sealcoat. The 3rd-4th (and maybe 5th) coats become more about moving the existing shellac around to be even rather than putting on a whole bunch more...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    Greg-
    I think it would be a good experiment for you to *NOT* put a pad on the top and see just how durable a shellac finish can be. It's easily repaired (even by the ham handed like myself). I'm sure Sheldon has more experience than I but I find shellac to be plenty durable for just about anything other than a table or surface that'll get a LOT of moisture.

    I concur that shellac can go bad, but it doesn't happen immediately, and like any glue or finish, as long as yr using product manufactured relatively recently (< 3-6 months) it's just not been a practical issue for me.

    As to your question of how many coats, the goal (to paraphrase Scott T) is to get a thin, even film. The easiest way to achieve it is to pad on the Sealcoat. When sealing, I use Sealcoat out of the can. But after about 2 coats, it starts to leave streaks; I find it too thick for final padding. So, with each coat, I add a little more ethanol to the sealcoat. The 3rd-4th (and maybe 5th) coats become more about moving the existing shellac around to be even rather than putting on a whole bunch more...
    Hi Prashun,

    you'll have to forgive me on my statements to Greg, I concur with what you’re saying as to the good properties of shellac and that it does not "go bad" immediately. I'm probably one of the most loyal advocates and defenders of shellac use you will ever encounter.
    It's properties of excellent adhesion, gloss, water permeability, hardness, Barrier and isolation properties, as well as ease of repair, and others has made it one of my 3 most used coatings for 4 1/2 decades. I also don't truly even object to its use on table tops or bathrooms or even bar tops, if proper precautions are in place and used to avoid unnecessary and preventable damages and fresh lac is used.

    My caution are always meant to be in the form of knowing what can and does take place when using either pre-solved lac’s from the manufacturer or even those who buy flake or other, and dissolve it themselves and keep it for any length of time. Though 1 month or 3 month or 6 month old shellac is still very usable, as is even a year or two in many cases, Esterification continues to take its toll upon the lac whether we like it or not.

    Since it seems you have used shellac to a good extent in your own home, A good example and test for you or others of this would be to purchase the freshest dry de waxed lac flakes possible and solve your own in preferred alcohol. Build your coat[s] as normal let cure for 30 days and then use that to perform this test:

    Build a circular dam about 1/2 inch high on the new lac finish with plumbers putty. Press down on the putty at first to insure good adhesion and then form the wall. Into this mote pour about an 1/4" inch or so of common tap water, and allow to set for 2-3 hours. daub up the water with a paper towel and remove the putty and wipe dry. What you will find is that no water marks or damage have occurred. You can also leave it on longer in further testing, to see just when such does occur, in both ways you can then measure your finding against what you have used in the past for testing against this standard. The more whitish look that is visible as to the surfaces tested, the more esterified your previous products were/are. Again this only proves the condition of the shellac used as to its original state of esterification, but hopefully it will lead you or others who would like to have the best characteristics of lac in use for their projects at optimum performance and advantage when so desired. For me...... that is always.




    Last edited by sheldon pettit; 05-02-2012 at 12:14 AM.
    Sincerely,

    S.Q.P - SAM - CHEMMY.......... Almost 50 years in this art and trade and counting...

  12. #12
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    Sheldon,

    Please explain this comment.. "Build your coat[s] as normal let cure for 30 days and then use that to perform this test:..."

    My understanding is that shellac does not cure as do reactive finishes. Shellac is an evaporative finish (ditto for nitro lacquer) once the solvent is gone, shellac is all that's left... Curing would imply a chemical reaction; I am not aware of any reaction taking place after the shellac dries.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Holmes View Post
    Sheldon,

    Please explain this comment.. "Build your coat[s] as normal let cure for 30 days and then use that to perform this test:..."

    My understanding is that shellac does not cure as do reactive finishes. Shellac is an evaporative finish (ditto for nitro lacquer) once the solvent is gone, shellac is all that's left... Curing would imply a chemical reaction; I am not aware of any reaction taking place after the shellac dries.

    LOL, sorry Scott, i apologize, i should have used the term harden as in rock hardness or bone dry - meaning any residual solvent that may be contained is most definitely not present at that point. When testing i usually wait a month for most all coatings that i use or am investigating to do so, necessary or not. Unless it's a mandrel test for flexibility or such. Hope this helps for better understanding ok? And thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    Last edited by sheldon pettit; 05-02-2012 at 1:57 AM.
    Sincerely,

    S.Q.P - SAM - CHEMMY.......... Almost 50 years in this art and trade and counting...

  14. #14
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    To quote Sheldon above:

    "cleaned with ammoniated cleaners which can actually mar, remove, or strip the shellac"... I think baby pee would have the same exact effect as an ammoniated cleaner.

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