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I've been using Shellac lately and really like it. Easy to apply, super fast drying, different colours and reasonably tough and easily repairable.

In comparison to other finishes like OSMO, Finishing Oil, Danish oil, and other "wipe on" finishes, how tough is it? I know it's weak point is alcohol, but I am not too bothered about that. I am thinking more water spillage, finger marks and general handling. In terms of product, I want to use it on small boxes that will be used daily to store jewelry etc .. and possibly also on things I turn on the lathe too.

The ones I picked up were Fiddes Brushing Polish Golden and Fiddes Shellac Sanding Sealer from AG Woodcare. I actually ordered them in 2017, but never got around to trying them out until now. And going from what I have read, they're probably about 2 years out of date by now .... although they do seem to still try very quick? so possibly still ok?

In future I will buy the flakes so I can only mix up what I need.
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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A brushing polish will not be pure shellac, it will have additives to allow it to be brushed on and can also contain melamine. I seem to remember using Fiddes one many years ago and did not like it, I do use Mylands one from time to time which dries quickly and with a wire wool and wax gives a good finish. Sanding sealer is not a finish but a primer to help fill the grain and as a base for other finishes. There is a lot of stuff written about shellac going off whether in liquid or flake form but my experience is that it has many years shelf life if stored in a dark cool place.
As for hardness, when shellac is fully cured it is a good hard wearing surface that will stand up to many years if not centuries of handling. It is however vulnerable to alcohol, heat damp and sharp objects. Modern finishes are also vulnerable to these things except alcohol (sort of) However in my experience modern finishes are only good for a maximum of fifty years and when they go wrong they need to be stripped off and re applied but shellac is reversible and repairable. Shellac wins.
 

bourbon

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I've just started using shellac sanding sealer, thanks to recommendations on here. my finishing was letting me down. Now I brush on sealer, sand to 400 grit and apply wax. The results were amazing to me.
 

Beanwood

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If I just want a good hard surface on a doorstep would Shelllac be appropriate? If so, which one please?
 

profchris

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I use shellac on my ukuleles and guitars. These get lots and lots of handling, and shellac holds up very well (but don't handle it much for the first week or two, to let it harden fully).
 
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I use shellac on my ukuleles and guitars. These get lots and lots of handling, and shellac holds up very well (but don't handle it much for the first week or two, to let it harden fully).
Can you run through what you use and how you apply it please?
 

profchris

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Can you run through what you use and how you apply it please?
Of course! Bear in mind that I want a very thin finish on my instruments (a thick coat kills the sound), and to achieve that I use many very thin coats with lots of sanding back in between. But I've finished a couple of jewellery boxes using shellac, so this is what I describe here. Let me know if you want the full instrument finish schedule.

I use shellac flakes, purchased via eBay. 200 grams or so might finish two guitars, so you don't need lots. I make it up with methylated spirits - the purple colouring doesn't affect the colour of the finish. I don't measure too exactly, but I want a dilution which will wipe on without leaving obvious tracks. So I put half an inch of flakes in a jam jar, cover with meths, leave 24 hours shaking the jar occasionally. If it's too thick, add meths, too thin add a few more flakes.

1. Wipe on a thin coat with a piece of folded kitchen roll, making sure to to go back on what I've already coated. Thin shellac solutions dry in seconds, so overcoating can lead to sticking the paper to it! After two or three hours I gently sand with 220 grit or so to remove any nibs/raised grain. I usually apply a second coat and repeat here.

2. Pore fill as desired.

3. Another wiped on coat, very gently sanded back once dry (really just wiping the sandpaper once across the surface until I can't feel any roughness, no pressure on the sandpaper.

4. Now I can switch to a brush and apply thin coats, never overcoating. Thin enough so it drips off the brush almost like water, a thick mix is a problem. I apply from the middle to the edge to avoid drips at the edge, gliding the brush on and off. Leave each coat to dry, probably 5 or 6 hours. Every couple of coats I gently sand as above. For a box, I might apply 4 coats over two days. I use a cheap artist's soft brush which fans to about 1/2 inch, but for bigger items you'd want a bigger brush of course.

5. Once you have a decent amount of finish on, you could stop here if you like the effect. But I'm going for a mirror finish, or very close, so I leave to harden for a week and then ...

6. Wet sand starting with P400 wet and dry and moving up to P1000, or well above if I really want a mirror finish. I use white spirit as the lubricant. Sand very gently using a cork block or equivalent. With the lowest grits I stop when most of the surface looks white, not shiny, and switch to a higher grit - at this stage, week-old shellac is not that hard, it wet sands fast. I stop when with my highest grit I can't see any shiny spots left. For a box, 5-10 mins sanding for the P400, 2 mins or so for the higher grits.

7. Now I wait a couple of days more and then polish up with T-Cut (or automotive compound of choice). Again, very light pressure, and it doesn't take long. A jewellery box might take 10-15 mins to polish up. Final rub up with a yellow duster and I'm probably done.

8. Another yellow duster rub the following day and a check for any spots which aren't shiny enough - I can work on those with the T-Cut again.

This takes several days, but each step only takes a couple of minutes (except pore filling and wet sanding). So on a box, I'd spend no more than 2 hours total, probably less.

Points to note:
A thick coat of shellac might not dry properly, or start to distort the previous coats. Keep coats thin.​
The finish is quite fragile at first, but hardens nicely over the next fortnight - minimal handling until then.​
Fumes are minimal, no PPE required and I don't bother with gloves. A paper towel damped with meths removes shellac from hands.​
You can eat the shellac, but don't drink the meths!​
 

sometimewoodworker

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Of course! Bear in mind that I want a very thin finish on my instruments (a thick coat kills the sound), and to achieve that I use many very thin coats with lots of sanding back in between. But I've finished a couple of jewellery boxes using shellac, so this is what I describe here. Let me know if you want the full instrument finish schedule.

I use shellac flakes, purchased via eBay. 200 grams or so might finish two guitars, so you don't need lots. I make it up with methylated spirits - the purple colouring doesn't affect the colour of the finish. I don't measure too exactly, but I want a dilution which will wipe on without leaving obvious tracks. So I put half an inch of flakes in a jam jar, cover with meths, leave 24 hours shaking the jar occasionally. If it's too thick, add meths, too thin add a few more flakes.

1. Wipe on a thin coat with a piece of folded kitchen roll, making sure to to go back on what I've already coated. Thin shellac solutions dry in seconds, so overcoating can lead to sticking the paper to it! After two or three hours I gently sand with 220 grit or so to remove any nibs/raised grain. I usually apply a second coat and repeat here.

2. Pore fill as desired.

3. Another wiped on coat, very gently sanded back once dry (really just wiping the sandpaper once across the surface until I can't feel any roughness, no pressure on the sandpaper.

4. Now I can switch to a brush and apply thin coats, never overcoating. Thin enough so it drips off the brush almost like water, a thick mix is a problem. I apply from the middle to the edge to avoid drips at the edge, gliding the brush on and off. Leave each coat to dry, probably 5 or 6 hours. Every couple of coats I gently sand as above. For a box, I might apply 4 coats over two days. I use a cheap artist's soft brush which fans to about 1/2 inch, but for bigger items you'd want a bigger brush of course.

5. Once you have a decent amount of finish on, you could stop here if you like the effect. But I'm going for a mirror finish, or very close, so I leave to harden for a week and then ...

6. Wet sand starting with P400 wet and dry and moving up to P1000, or well above if I really want a mirror finish. I use white spirit as the lubricant. Sand very gently using a cork block or equivalent. With the lowest grits I stop when most of the surface looks white, not shiny, and switch to a higher grit - at this stage, week-old shellac is not that hard, it wet sands fast. I stop when with my highest grit I can't see any shiny spots left. For a box, 5-10 mins sanding for the P400, 2 mins or so for the higher grits.

7. Now I wait a couple of days more and then polish up with T-Cut (or automotive compound of choice). Again, very light pressure, and it doesn't take long. A jewellery box might take 10-15 mins to polish up. Final rub up with a yellow duster and I'm probably done.

8. Another yellow duster rub the following day and a check for any spots which aren't shiny enough - I can work on those with the T-Cut again.

This takes several days, but each step only takes a couple of minutes (except pore filling and wet sanding). So on a box, I'd spend no more than 2 hours total, probably less.

Points to note:
A thick coat of shellac might not dry properly, or start to distort the previous coats. Keep coats thin.​
The finish is quite fragile at first, but hardens nicely over the next fortnight - minimal handling until then.​
Fumes are minimal, no PPE required and I don't bother with gloves. A paper towel damped with meths removes shellac from hands.​
You can eat the shellac, but don't drink the meths!​
That is a painfully long process and involves far more sanding than is needed, in fact there is very little sanding used if you do a little study on the procedure for french polishing.

It’s not easy on internal surfaces but reasonably easy on external ones. My first attempt over 50 years ago went very well and is still in use today
 

profchris

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That is a painfully long process and involves far more sanding than is needed, in fact there is very little sanding used if you do a little study on the procedure for french polishing.

It’s not easy on internal surfaces but reasonably easy on external ones. My first attempt over 50 years ago went very well and is still in use today
Ah, maybe I should have said that this is an incompetent man's approach to the kind of finish you can get via French Polishing (though less good, I admit). I've tried, and I really can't get the hang of it!

It's actually not at all time consuming compared to French Polishing, just spread out over several days. And a near-i d i o t* can make it work, as I've proved :)

(*autodonk substitutes "silly person", I guess in case I was abusing someone. Seems a bit OTT, but not my playground)
 

Cabinetman

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There is another post on here now titled French polishing technique, it’s a relatively short video of an Australian guy doing some French polishing the traditional way and I must admit he is a lot better at it than I am!
Very good indeed.
 

sometimewoodworker

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Ah, maybe I should have said that this is an incompetent man's approach to the kind of finish you can get via French Polishing (though less good, I admit). I've tried, and I really can't get the hang of it!

It's actually not at all time consuming compared to French Polishing, just spread out over several days. And a near-i d i o t* can make it work, as I've proved :)

(*autodonk substitutes "silly person", I guess in case I was abusing someone. Seems a bit OTT, but not my playground)
The french polished finish I put on my drill box probably had about 10 to 20 coats of polish and as I remember took an hour or so used no sanding though I may have used something like rottenstone once.
there was no waiting between coats, just enough to make a cup of instant coffee.
I don’t claim that the finish was a high gloss, sales ready result but with a little more time and a lot more practice it certainly would have been.

If your work sells then you’ve proven that you are far from the id*** you have claimed.

today I use shellac as a colour coat and first stage in a spray finish so eliminate the time of a pure shellac finish
 

pe2dave

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After watching Paul Sellers I now use Shellac (flakes, mixed as per the bag) anywhere I don't want a tough finish.
Brushed on, it seems to dry in minutes (as @profchris says - don't dawdle brushing it on) and is ready for another.
I guess I must use it thinner, looks almost watery. Provides a semi-gloss (satin?) finish which is quite durable.
 
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