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Thread: Shellac & Fingerprints

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Jay, Maine

    Shellac & Fingerprints

    This is my first time using shellac as an actual finish not just as a seal coat. I have made a small box (ash with purpleheart lid) and used Seal Coat as a finish on the purpleheart so as not to darken it too much. I have read that using an oil base finish (Danish Oil, Poly, Arm-R-Seal, etc.) will really darken the purple color. The Seal Coat darkened it a bit but still left it a nice shade of purple.

    The problem, even after several days of drying - when I touch the shellaced top, it leaves fingerprints that don't rub off with a rag or a white synthetic pad. I can do a light sanding and add another couple of coats to fix the problem but am hesitant to leave it as is because as soon as my granddaughter touches the top, her fingerprints will be there to stay.

    Any suggestions? Perhaps a coat of wax? Or just Arm-R-Seal it after all?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Shellac & Fingerprints


    I'm not a finishing expert, but do these fingerprints look like they are pushing the shellac away? or are the prints in the shellac finish?

    If they appear like the first example, you may have left oil from your fingers on the wood prior to applying the shellac. You wouldn't be able to see them until the finish is on, and sometimes not until it dries. The shellac IS drying, isn't it?

    My advice, you should re-sand the surface and wipe it down with alcohol before applying the shellac this time. Make sure you don't have oily or sweaty fingers when you do the finishing.

    Sure hope this helps.

    Aloha, Tony
    "You got to learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself". (Author unknown)

    "Time flies like..... an arrow,,,Fruit flies like..... a banana." Groucho Marx

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    Registered voting member

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    The nice thing about shellac is if you don't like it, soak a pad with DNA (I use paper towels and change often) and rub it off. Test some of your shellac on a piece of scrap. It should dry to touch in 15 to 20 minutes. I sand mine at 30 minutes, no problem. If yours is not dry enough to sand in an hour, buy new.

    Check the date on your can. Seal Coat should have a 2 year-plus shelf life BUT, shellac will age differently based on how it is stored. High temperature in particular, shortens life per the manufacturer. I keep mine in my office in the house (I figure if I'm happy, its happy) and have never had a problem.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  4. #4
    I agree,sounds like a problem with the age or condition of the shellac. I mix it fresh,mostly for the colors. The less refined-the more natural color. If shellac were discovered today it would be called a wonder finish. I also believe shellac would stick to peanut butter.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Outside the beltway
    !st thing when applying shellac it's best to apply a 50/50 mixture thinned down wait 24 hours between coats. Shellac dose bring out the beautiful grain of the wood but it's a terrible finish unless you French polish the finial few coats and then wax over.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    falcon heights, minnesota
    i beg to differ dave, all of my furniture i've made over the last 5 years have gotten 3 coats of amber shellac, no french polishing, and they look just fine.
    benedictione omnes bene

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Outside the beltway
    Dan I don't disagree with you its comes down to the type of finishs you want. If your looking for a old world finish with is considered by most these days a "Gallery Finish" then you french polish and wax. Shellac has never been a staying finish, water marks , alcohol will damage the finish fast. But it is a very easy finish to fix, just sand and re-apply.
    A friend who is a finisher in Philly will spray on shellac in what we call piss coats, very sear coats which will not give the look of spray, but I differ with him on that. The reason I apply oil coats is for stability and hardness to with stand water and alcohol. For straight shellac finial should be steel wooled and then waxed for some protection.

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