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Shellac Finishing Tips

Application by Cheesecloth

When working with shellac, we recommend pouring it into a small bowl or something you can easily dip your cheesecloth into. To initially prepare your cheesecloth, tuck the ends up inside itself until there's a smooth surface on the face of your cloth. Dip your cheesecloth into the bowl until it's wet all the way through, and then lightly squeeze out the excess. It's important to have the inside of your cloth wet so it doesn't run dry just as you're halfway across the surface you're finishing. Your cloth should be wet but not dripping.

As you apply the shellac to your piece, you'll begin to notice how wet your cloth needs to be to go from end to end in one wipe. Dip the face of your cloth in the bowl as more is needed. Wiping or dabbing your cloth on a piece of paper or scrap wood just before application is a good way to get a feel as to how wet your cloth really is.

Try to have your cloth in motion at all times when on the surface of your project. As your cloth first comes in contact with the surface, you should already be in motion, as though your coming in for a landing. Leaving the surface would be in a take off motion. This constant motion of your cloth on the surface will help to avoid stop and go imprints and an uneven application.

Apply shellac until the pores of the wood are close to full, or until desired sheen is achieved. Several thin coats will give you more control. Trying to apply 2 or 3 heavy coats can lead to drip marks, messy edges, and an uneven coating of the surface. Thinner coats will dry quicker allowing for more applications in a day. Lightly rub (sanding with 320 or 240 silicone carbide free cut paper) in between every 3-5 coats.

For inside corners try shaping the top of your cloth to fit into the corner. Run your cloth along the inside corner and then lightly feather out any cross grain lines. A small brush can also be used.

Shellac Issues:

Everyone talks about how to apply shellac. Rarely do I see info on troubleshooting. What Do I do regarding overlap or drips? When I sand between coats I sometimes get a gummy residue. Am I sanding too hard? 220 grit by hand.

Thanks, Raymond

This is my first visit to your site. I seems great, I have bookmarked it. I found it by searching for info on shellac on yahoo.

RE: Shellac Issues

First of all you should be using no more than a 3lb cut. I find the best cut is a 2 or 2 1/2lb cut. The cut is the number of pounds of shellac added to a gallon of denatured alcohol. If your cut is too thick it won't dry properly and will remain soft for a longer period of time, making it difficult to sand in between coats. I always use the grey silicone carbide sandpaper to do finish rubing. I usually dont worry too much about overlap. I don't sand between every coat, only after every 3 or 4 coats depending on the job. Then I can use a felt block to flatten out the overlap. Drips should be avoided! However if there are any, sometimes they're best cut with a razor blade to even them out. My final papering is with 320 silicone carbide paper (the greyish white paper) and then #0000 steel wool to eliminate all shine and then wax and buff.


Floyd J. Rosini


Kingdom Restorations Ltd.
323 Trevathan Street
Rocky Mount, NC 27804

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