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Shellac

Posted on August 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Those who know me, and have woodworked with me at all will know that I love shellac. It’s my favourite finish. I love everything about, even its smell. I love amber shellac, blond shellac, and most of all, I love cutting the shellac myself. It gives me the feeling that I am that much more involved in the making of my project.

 

Cutting shellac involves taking a measure amount of flakes in weight and dissolving it into a measure amount of alcohol by volume. The standard is 3 pounds of flakes into 1 imperial gallon of solvent. That is what is called a 3lb cut. Of course most people are not going to make that much at once. It’s a good idea to reduce the amount to be only what you are going to use. Reducing the amount but keeping the same ratio. When spraying shellac yourself, it’s a good idea to have it cut to about a 1 to 1 1/2 pound cut. If you have ever used shellac and its different cuts then you will know that 1lb cut to 3 lb cut is very significant. One other thing to consider is the alcohol that the flakes are dissolved into evaporates VERY fast, so if you are brushing, you have to move quickly. Because of this, I prefer to brush with a thinner cut than 3lbs.

 

I was recently asked what cut I use, and the method that I use to do it. My response, I don’t know what my cut is. I don’t care. Its shellac, it does not matter. I have found that I like a certain texture, rather than a certain cut. And this is because I don't know what my cut is, so I don't know what cut I like. Basically, here is how I got to that. I wanted about a 1.5lb cut. So I used rough math to get there. I wanted about 500ml of finished shellac that I could use. So. 1 imperial gallon is about 4 metric litres. 500 ml is 1/8th of that. So to get the ratio right, I will need 1/8 of 1 1/2 lbs. This is about? oz? No clue. So I bought 1/4lb of flakes. Which is already 1/6th. But I need an 1/8 of 1 1/2, that’s too much flakes. So I put 3/4 of the 1/4 into a mason jar, and them filled it about 7/8 full with solvent. I let it sit for a day for all the flakes to dissolve, strained it and tested it, if it was too thin I added a few more flakes, if it was too thick I added more solvent. That is why I only filled the jar 7/8; it gave me 1/8 of wiggle room.

Everyone on the same page?  Great.

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