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Thread: Mixing a wipe on Shellac finish

  1. #1
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    Mixing a wipe on Shellac finish

    Hi gang,
    I guess I should preface this with the fact that I have tended to use premixed shellac finishes and found them to be pretty nice. However, I got sick and tired of wasting half a quart when it gets all dry and hard from not using it. I was under the impression that buying shellac flakes and mixing it would allow me to make different cuts as well as only mix as much as I needed. I also wanted to try to make a wipe on version of this since I seem to have better luck with these kinds of finishes.

    Now I went and bought the blond shellac flakes, denatured alcohol and have all the other stuff needed to mix it up. HOWEVER, as I stated in the beginning of the thread, I wanted to make a wipe on version. I have the article from FWW that tells of the proportions (cuts) to use. But I'm still a bit vague on the right cut to use. This is for a shop tool. I also want to use it to refinish some totes and knobs for hand planes.

    I really only want to make approx 1 quart of shellac. So from the FWW article it says this:

    "A 2-lb. cut of shellac is 2 lb. of shellac resin dissolved in a gallon of alcohol. A 5-lb. cut would be 5 lb. of resin dissolved in a gallon, etc. When mixing shellac from flakes or buttons, you can scale down the ratio of cut to make a suitable amount. For example, adding 2 oz. of flakes to 8 oz. of alcohol produces a half-pint of 2-lb.-cut shellac."

    I'd like to make about 4 times that (4 half pints being equal to a quart) so does 8 oz of shellac flakes added to 24 oz of alcohol sound right?

    And from what I've read, you mix the solution and then stir it after 30 minutes. After that you strain and you should be able to use. RIGHT?

    I have also been informed that I could add more denatured alcohol to mixed shellac and make it a pad finish. Is there some kind of ratio for this?

    As you can see, I've gots lots of questions because Ive never done this before!
    See ya around,
    Dominic

  2. #2
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    One thing that is not notedis that you need to use felt to strain the mixed shellac through once the flacks are desolved. Also the finish will be very different from pre mix shellacs.

  3. #3
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    I use premixed shellac quite a bit and you may be making it too tough on yourself. Zinsser's Seal Coat (the trade name of their dewaxed clear shellac) is premixed as a 2lb cut. It has a shelf life of three years from the date stamped on the top of the can. You say you are having half of a quart can go bad on you so, if you are beginning with a quality product, you have some sort of problem with storage.

    I try to buy cans that are no more than a few months old to start. I never seem to need to stock up right after the stuff hits the shelves ;-) Shellac is an organic product and wants to be stored at a comfy temperature. Rule of thumb; if you're happy, its happy. If you're too hot or cold, its too hot or cold. I shortened the life of a few cans before I figured this out. I store mine in my indoor office on a shelf and haven't had any go bad since.

    As to thinning, shellac is very cooperative in this area. I keep three squeeze bottles about the size of picnic ketchup bottles. One has the straight 2lb cut in it. One is 2 parts Seal Coat to 1 part DNA and the last one is 50:50 Seal coat and DNA. I scientifically mark the 2:1 mix with a roman numeral 2. The 50:50 and the straight are different enough in color to just tell by looking.

    I use the real thin stuff as sanding sealer or to prep surfaces that tend to blotch like cherry, maple and ash. I use the 2:1 as a slow film building padding shellac and I use the straight stuff for heavy padding on horizontal surfaces or for brush work. If my material is ever drying too quickly or seems too thick, I just adjust it on the fly. Unlike colored finishes, shellac is very forgiving.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 10-21-2009 at 03:22 AM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
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  4. #4
    Wipe-on version needs to dry slower, Might want to use Isopropyl alcohol in lieu of DNA as it evaporates slower. Not rubbing alcohol but the pure strength stuff you have to get from the druggist.

    My $0.02

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dominic Greco View Post
    ...so does 8 oz of shellac flakes added to 24 oz of alcohol sound right?
    NO! 8 ounces of flakes to thirty-two (32) ounces of alcohol makes for a 2 pound cut.

    Or, you could just use SealcoatŪ right out of the can.

    BTW, Zinnzer says SealcoatŪ is good for something like three years from the date of manufacture - which is printed right on the can.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  6. #6
    You need to multiply both sides of your equation by 4: in other words, 8 oz of flakes to 32 oz of alcohol. You'll probably also find that it takes as much as 24 hours to get the flakes to fully dissolve. Grinding them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder will speed things up.

    As Glen pointed out, you may also want your shellac thinner than a 2 lb cut for wiping purposes. You might start with 6 oz of flakes in a quart of alcohol and see how you like that. You can always add more shellac if necessary.
    Last edited by Brian Hinther; 10-21-2009 at 02:52 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hawksford View Post
    One thing that is not notedis that you need to use felt to strain the mixed shellac through once the flacks are desolved. Also the finish will be very different from pre mix shellacs.
    ok dave i think i might have asked this before but dont remeber your answer...what and where does this felt come from...i have used a paint strainer ofr it so far and got away with it.. but maybe i was lucky..and i agree domnic that your raw flakes take longer than 30 mins to disolve..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
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  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone!

    Thanks for all the input! I'll get back to you with the results.
    See ya around,
    Dominic

  9. #9
    Dominic,
    Here is a link for a shellac lb. cut chart.
    http://www.shellac.net/PoundCutChart.html
    I would suggest a 2 lb. cut for most applications. You can wipe almost any cut, but you must work quickly because it dries quickly.
    Here is another link for FAQ about shellac use.
    http://www.shellac.net/faq.html
    Nothing magical about shellac use. Smash up the flakes, add it to the alcohol, shake or stir the mixture every so often and strain it when it has disolved. Brush it, wipe it, pad it or spray it. No worries. Make a great sealer and sands great. If you bought dewaxed, use it for anything. If you bought waxed, use it for everything except as a sealer under waterborne topcoats and some solvent finishes.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conrad Fiore View Post
    ...You can wipe almost any cut, but you must work quickly because it dries quickly...
    I think Jeff Jewitt (Homestead Finishing) sells a retarder for shellac that allows a bit more time for wiping it on.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

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