Shellac as a Wiping Finish?

Article - June 30, 2008

This week’s question comes from Austin who writes:

I have a couple questions on shellac. I want to use it as a wipe finish for the inside of drawers. How much should I dilute a 3lb cut? Or a 2lb cut? haha i’m a little confused how you get a 2lb or a 3lb cut. I also heard Charles Niel say that you need dewaxed shellac, How important is this? P.S. i really liked your finishing video, thanks!

And my response:

Hey Austin. Shellac is a good choice for the inside of a drawer. Dewaxed or waxy shellac will work just fine, if its the only finish you plan on applying. If you are going to coat the shellac with a polyurethane (which doesn’t make much sense for the inside of a drawer), you probably want to avoid waxy shellac because of adhesion issues. But most woodworkers just stock dewaxed shellac since it is the safest bet in all applications. As for the dilutions, that can get a little confusing. If you are mixing from flakes, you might want to invest in a cheap kitchen scale. Measuring by weight is definitely the most accurate way to go. But to tell you the truth, I just do approximations and I find it easier in many cases to start with Bullseye Sealcoat (2lb cut). That stuff is good to go right out of the can. But if you have trouble applying it (gets sticky too fast), just dilute it a bit with denatured alcohol until it stays wet longer. Now if you buy the Bullseye Shellac (not SealCoat), you are dealing with a 3lb cut WITH wax in it. So you probably want to dilute it down with alcohol so that its closer to a 2 lb cut. This is where things can be a little tricky. Because of the fact that the “pound cuts” actually represent a unit of weight/volume, it not a trivial affair if you want exact formulations. So if you want to be a little pickier than I tend to be, check out this article from Mixing Shellac

Also, check out this great video from our buddy Charles Neil.