Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Definite Learning Curve

      In the photo at the right you can see both ends of the crib as you're looking across one of the gates.  At this point you should be able to notice the chatoyance I keep talking about in the middle panel on the ends.  The top caps of these is even more spectacular.
      Although I'm admittedly "computer resistant"  I do find that doing this blog is making me less so.  Another wonderful thing the computer has allowed is access to an unlimited amount of information.  This is the first project that I've attempted shellac on other than the insides of drawers and cabinets.  In that application I'd just buy Zinser Bullseye, thin it somewhat with denatured alcohol and use a pad to apply several coats.  Easy enough and it accomplished what I wanted -- no odors and a degree of protection and finish.  Well, I must say that doing a project like this is completely different.  Not sure if an important project like this was a wise choice to learn on but I'm inspired and don't give up on much of anything!
     After reading in a couple of books and getting advice from Ron at Shellac.net I was ready.  The process is to brush a light coat on, flow is the word most often used, and not back brush.  The denatured alcohol evaporates quickly so if your timing is off and you brush back, the shellac will pull up and leave a mess.  I thought I'd done alright until I turned the gates over and had all of these little runs on most of the 56 slats.
No other choice at that point but to sand and scrape to remove all of the blemishes.  I called Ron and asked for a little more advice and basically he told me you can't treat shellac like you would treat paint.  It simply cannot be brushed out and if needed I could reduce to a 1 pound cut.  It's like painting with water.  I took that into consideration and did a couple of more searches.  Some things stood out more than others but the one that really hit home was this quote: "until you rub it out, a shellac finish will look like crap!".  Who ever wrote that must of been in the shop, looking over my shoulder.  Armed with that information and resolve I've since applied three coats and it's looking much better.  The best method seems to be to have an almost dry brush, the beauty of the shellac is that the new coat will redissolve the prior coat.  Ways to rub it out range from a 400 grit sandpaper, 4/0 steel wool, or the traditional way of rottenstone and mineral oil.  Looking at all of the slats and nooks and crannies I'm going for the steel wool with Liberon wax for the final finish.  The plan is to apply at least 4 more coats before the rub out.
      This way of finishing is going to add to my list of stuff I can do.  The majority of my furniture work is with Watco Danish Oil and a three part top coat that is hand sanded and rubbed into the piece.  Shellac is quite a change from that and after 30 years or so of doing what I've been doing; this "old dog" is going to learn a new trick!


  1. Wow, Dad! What amazing work! It is so awesome that you went to all the trouble to thoroughly research the shellac finish. I can tell you must be enjoying the learing process. You always said, if you are going to do something, make sure you do it right. And your woodworking is sure a testament to doing it 110%. We are so honored and excited with your work!

  2. Glad to hear that, thanks for the compliments!

  3. Hey John, Thanks for sending me the link to your Blog. I really miss living next door and getting the opportunity to come by and see all the great projects. Thanks for always being a great neighbor and hope someday we have the opportunity to live in the same town again. Everytime I light my firepit I will think of you!!! Give our best to the Mrs. Jim and Ashley