Cart 0

Expert's Corner — shellac

The Exotic Vocabulary of French Polishing

alcohol charging pad rubber sandpaper shellac spirit off the finishing store wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

One of the difficulties with learning to do French polishing is overcoming the exotic vocabulary that continues to be used by some: “charge the rubber,” “fad in,” “spirit off,” etc. This vocabulary was created by English craftsmen 200 years ago, brought to the United States, and used in most instructions since. I’ve always thought it pretentious to use this vocabulary when there are perfectly good words everyone understands that can be substituted. Here’s the translation. “Rubber” was the name given to what we commonly call a pad, made by tightly wrapping a smooth, finely woven outer cloth such as a...

Read more →


TIP: Penetrating Finish

fast-drying finish finishes finshes moisture oil penetration shellac the finishing store varnish water-based wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

The term “penetrating finish” is one of the most misleading in the vocabulary of finishing because all finishes penetrate. The term is generally used to describe just oil finishes, which dry slowly so they may penetrate a little deeper than faster-drying finishes. But depth of penetration doesn’t have anything to do with protection for the wood, and it’s here that the term becomes misleading because many people think it does, and some manufacturers claim it does. The common descriptive phrase is that the finish “protects the wood from the inside.” But the quality of a finish that creates better protection...

Read more →


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Testing for Shellac

alcohol dissolve paint shellac sticky stripper surface the finishing store wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Testing for Shellac

Almost all furniture and woodwork finished between the 1820s and 1920s was finished with shellac. But if you want to test to be sure, here’s the way to do it. Put a little denatured alcohol on your finger and dab it onto an inconspicuous area of the finish, as shown in the accompanying picture. If the surface gets sticky or if the finish comes off on your finger, the finish is shellac. Shellac dissolves in alcohol, so you could use the alcohol to strip the finish if that is your intention, instead of using paint stripper.

Read more →


Ghosting

catalyzed coat dssolving finishes ghosting shellac solution the finishing store wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

Ghosting

Ghosting occurs when you sand or rub through one layer of finish into the one below,  as shown in the accompanying picture. You can recognize ghosting when the problem area you’re trying to remove keeps getting bigger rather than smaller—like sanding through veneer. The term ghosting is the traditional name for this phenomenon. As it starts to appear, you see the “ghost” of the finish layer underneath. It is also called “layering,” which describes the phenomenon well, and “witness lines,” a relatively new term, which doesn’t. Nevertheless, it seems that witness lines has become the favored term in many recent...

Read more →


Why Shellac Is My Go To Finish for Fine Furniture

coat compatibility furniture resin rubbed sap scratched shellac the finishing store tree wax wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking zinsser

"I prefer to spray my shellac. Spraying shellac results in an even smoother finish which greatly reduces the amount of sanding during finish work." Rodney Dangerfield’s famous comedic catchphrase was, “I don’t get no respect.” In the world of furniture finishes, shellac gets no respect. That lack of respect is unwarranted. In fact, shellac is my “go to” finish on fine furniture. It should be yours as well. The lack of respect for shellac may be due to the fact that it, a natural resin, is made from a bug’s secretions – not bug droppings, as some think. A lac...

Read more →

-->