This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Posts tagged ‘shellac’
Posted: November 30th, 2010

I’ve ordered a lot of shellac flakes, buttons, seedlac in the past but the place I used to get it from went out of business a while back and now there are new people running it.  The prices aren’t low like they used to be so I didn’t buy from them.

I checked some of the woodworkers forums to see where they buy from.  After checking the different recommended websites I chose  Shellac Shack from the state of Oregon.  They had the cheapest I could find for 5 lbs of the dewaxed garnet shellac flakes. The problem is they can’t take bulk orders over the internet. I guess their website wasn’t set up for the discount on bulk.   I had to call them and make the order.  Pretty old fashioned, right?!!  I don’t feel comfortable giving information over the phone. On the internet you use those shopping carts that have security locks so you feel more confident (and I always check the shopping cart has the lock icon on the browser.)  But before I ordered I checked the reviews by doing searches and people had only good things to say so I hope everything turns out OK, if not I’ll surely let you know.  He seemed really nice and he said he hadn’t gone to the post office so he’d send it today. That’s service!  Until my shellac comes, I’m pretty much at a stand still for finishing the woodwork trim. That’s OK because I have plenty of laundry and cleaning to do.***UPDATE:  I ordered the shellac on Tuesday and got the shellac late this afternoon, Thursday!!  That’s fast from Oregon to Pennsylavania!  Good job United States Postal Service and Shellac Shack.  The shellac came in 1 lb packages which is good.  When I bought bulk elsewhere all 5 lbs came in one big bag.  It will stay fresher this way.  Also the shellac flakes are pretty fine textured.  Only one bag has a hard clump of shellac in it.  I always get some clumps no matter who I have bought from and a hammer will break it up easily.  I’m very happy. I want to also note that I sent a flat-rate Priority box from Erie, PA to my son in Washington state on Monday and he got it Wednesday morning.  Wow, the postal service seems on top of things this year.

Posted in: finishes
Posted: February 18th, 2010

So far I’m a bit disappointed. I mail ordered the Timbermate Wood Filler because it sure looked like it worked really well in the YouTube commercials. It’s water based and no waste as you can add water to the sanded off powder and reuse it.

I first tried it on about a 6 ft piece of 8-inch wide, old-growth white oak baseboard.

I diluted it down to the consistency of thick paint and smeared it on the board. I left it proud of the surface so I could sand it down flat and smooth. When it dried I started sanding it off with 120 sandpaper. The directions said not to use coarser than that. It sanded pretty easily and turned into a powder like corn starch. You can save the powder and add it back to the bucket and reuse it. It sanded off nice and smooth. Then I brushed on my first coat of garnet shellac. The white-oak colored Timbermate took on the color of the garnet shellac and looked good. But the grain and ridges still started to build like it does when I don’t use wood filler. You can really see it in the raking light.

Shellac has that tendency to “pucker” up along the ridge lines because of the surface tension of the quick evaporation of the alcohol in it. I ended up having to do just as much sanding and rubbing back as I normally do. Maybe I sanded it down too far.

In the next try I made the mixture a little thicker and this time I sanded it off using 320 sandpaper and didn’t sand down all the way down to the wood. I could see the grain but I didn’t feel the grain. It took a lot longer to sand with the 320 sandpaper. I thought that would work better than my first try. It did, but I still didn’t get that nice smooth surface you see on the commercials. I think perhaps it was because of the nature of shellac. I did get my final smooth surface with no grain showing with less rubbing out. I guess I was looking for miracles.

I have more baseboards to do. My next try will be to put Waterlox Original on top of the grain filler as a first coat and let it dry overnight. Maybe if I can keep the the shellac from soaking into the grain filler, it won’t pucker up on the ridges. I’ll let you know how that works.

Posted: September 3rd, 2009

It’s been 7 years since I stripped the beadboard on the front porch of its 8+ decades of built-up paint.  I finished it with dewaxed garnet shellac because, when stripping the paint, I found that a thick coat of shellac was the first coat on the beadboard and it kept a good bond all those years.  Shellac isn’t suppose to be good for areas around water.  Our covered, but not enclosed, porch does get water from rain and snow when the wind blows but the beadboard is vertical so it doesn’t cause a problem. Though my porch does get piled-up snow on it sometimes in the winter,  it is facing north so it doesn’t get the abuse a southern exposure would.    I’ve read that dewaxed shellac holds up a bit better than the natural shellac as far as protecting against water. Neither is recommended for use around water or outdoor use but that is what was used on it all those decades ago so I decided to use it back 7 years ago when I refinished the beadboard.

This summer I noticed areas that were starting to lighten near the bottom.  Well, 7 years was a respectable time for a finish to last outside, even the painted columns and top railings didn’t last that long without another coat.  About a week ago I went over the beadboard again in some lower spots with the dewaxed garnet shellac.  Yesterday I sat out on a footstool and took Waterlox and applied it over the shellac.   Waterlox is much better at protecting against water than shellac is.  It is used on kitchen counters and in bathrooms.  It is so easy to work with.  I applied it to the beadboard just as if I was rubbing a liquid wax on it.  It doesn’t dry nearly as quickly as shellac but that is a good thing, too.  It has time to level out.  Another reason I wanted to use Waterlox is I can apply repeated coats over the next several years and not have to sand in between.  It will melt into itself (much like shellac melts into itself) when applied over another coat of Waterlox.  I hate polyurethane because you have to scratch it up with sandpaper for the next layer to bond to it. Too much work.  On things I have had to use urethane (spar) on, I find I have to repair the finish just as often as I do with the shellac and Waterlox.

So why not use something that will give the look of fine furniture.  There is a beautiful depth to the wood when you use shellac or Waterlox.  I don’t care for the look of polyurethanes. They look plastic to me (and peel like it, too, when they fail.)  I can just wipe on Waterlox every so often (so easy to do) and keep the finish nice. Waterlox looks just as pretty as shellac to get that depth-look (I think,) though it has only a slight amber color to it.  You can add special dyes to it to color it. Waterlox is much easier to work with than shellac in my opinion.

In this photo below you will see the beadboard which is now 92 years old.  It is coated with 3 coats of dewaxed garnet shellac that was applied after I stripped it 7 years ago and the touch-up done last week and then one coat of Waterlox done yesterday. I may add additional coats before winter if the weather holds.  I have many other projects to do before winter.


Waterlox and shellac will not last long on wood that gets sunlight, though.  The UV rays break down the wood fibers through the finish and there goes the bond.  They do make Waterlox for outdoor purposes with a UV block in it.  It’s made for marine applications.  But in my case I’m using the same stuff that I’m going to use on my indoor wood floors when I finally get to refinishing them because the porch gets very little sunlight.

The cons of Waterlox would be the smell until it cures.  I had to mail order mine because I couldn’t find any locally.  Also, once the container is opened and oxygen gets to it, it will start to gel.  I have gone back to apply a second application of Waterlox on something a couple of weeks later only to find it had gelled up and was no longer any good.  It is maddening because it is expensive. They make a product of some kind of gas you squirt into the container to keep the oxygen out but I’ve read it still goes bad on you. I try to do several projects at once to use it up before it gels.

Always make sure with whatever finish you chose, that you dont’ let sun hit it until it is fully cured and that you let each coat cure fully dry before you add another because any solvent unevaporated in  a coat below will blister the finish especially when it warms up when hit by sunshine.