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Using Shellac To Obtain A Fine Wood Finish

"Create A Classic Finish With Bulls Eye® Shellac

A Beautifully Natural Finish for Naturally Beautiful Wood

What is Bulls Eye® Shellac?

Bulls Eye® Shellac is an alcohol-based solution of pure lac, a natural resin secreted by tiny insects on certain trees, mainly in India. After it is harvested the dark, reddish-brown resin is crushed into granules, rinsed to remove the natural dye and then dried. It is then processed into flakes that are mixed with denatured alcohol to create Bulls Eye Amber Shellac, a deep amber color finish that gives woodwork and furniture a rich, antique appearance.

Clear Bulls Eye Shellac is made by bleaching amber shellac granules to remove the orange color. Clear Shellac is not water-clear – it has a faint, golden cast that is much lighter than oil-base finishes but lends a warm color to wood that water-base finishes cannot.

Both Clear and Amber Bulls Eye Shellac contain from 3% to 5% natural shellac wax, which gives them their somewhat milky appearance in the container but does not affect the clarity of the finish film.

For more information on shellac write to us or ask your ZINSSER dealer for a copy of The Story of Shellac.

Why Use Shellac?

Shellac beautifies wood surfaces in a way that no other finish can duplicate. It brings out the rich warmth of wood grain so that finished surfaces look soft and natural, not plastic-coated. It also has features and benefits not found in any other clear finish:

Tinting and Coloring Shellac

An infinite palette of shades and tones can be achieved by mixing Clear and Amber Shellac, by tinting Bulls Eye Shellac with alcohol-base stain, aniline dye, trans-tints or universal colorants or by mixing B-I-N© Primer-Sealer into tinted shellac.

Mixing Clear and Amber Shellac

Clear Shellac may be mixed with Amber Shellac to create any desired intermediate tone. Simply add small quantities of Amber to Clear or Clear to Amber. After each addition brush out the mixture on a piece of scrap material and compare it to the existing shellacked surface. Woodworkers and floor finishers often mix Clear and Amber when using new shellac to match older shellacked surfaces.

How to Apply Shellac

Shellac is a beautiful finish over every kind of wood imaginable, including oak, pine, cherry, mahogany, birch, chestnut, maple as well as exotic and tropical woods such as Ipe, Cocobolo, Australian Cypress and many others.

Shellac is easy to apply and with just a little practice you can get professional looking results quickly and easily. Both clear and amber shellac may be used at container consistency. For certain applications, however, best results can be obtained if the shellac is thinned with alcohol. Refer to the label for thinning directions.



Surface Preparation

Woodwork, trim, furniture, cabinets, etc.


Staining Wood Before Finishing

Note that fir, pine and other softwoods do not absorb stain evenly and often appear blotchy. For a more even stain appearance over these woods, dilute shellac with alcohol according to the label directions and brush it quickly and evenly over the surfaces to be stained. The wash coat seals the wood pores to give controlled penetration of the stain for a more uniform appearance. After 10 minutes rub the surface lightly with a fine ScotchBrite® pad or 220 grit sandpaper or steel wool and remove all dust before applying the stain according to the manufacturer's directions and let dry overnight.

Woodwork, Trim, Doors and Paneling

Furniture and Cabinets

Shellac is regarded by furniture craftsmen and finishers as the premier finish for fine wood furniture. But there is no law that says you have to be a craftsman to get professional-looking results.

New furniture and cabinets

Previously shellacked furniture and cabinets

NOTE: A shellac finish may not be suitable for kitchen cabinets, bar tops, kitchen floors and furniture or cabinets in high-humidity areas
such as bathrooms, which are subject to almost constant contact with water, alcohol or ammonia detergents.

Finishing Floors with Bulls Eye Shellac

Using Wax over a Shellac Finish

Many floor finishers believe that this is the most beautiful floor finish in the world.

Touching Up Shellacked Floors

Using Shellac Around the House

Shellac is a marvelous sealer and finish for crafts, hobby and other household items and surfaces. For objects or surfaces that are too small, intricate or delicate to brush use Bulls Eye Aerosol Shellac.

Small Objects & Intricate Surfaces -  Shellac is a fast and easy sealer/finish for picture frames, toys, models, etc. Spray shellac is commonly used to apply a fast, beautiful finish to louver doors, wicker, cane, bamboo and other hard-to-finish materials.

Arts & Crafts Projects - Shellac is ideal for string sculptures, wreathes, paper flowers, decoupage, table decorations, etc. as well as sealing plaster sculptures and similar figurines. For centuries shellac was used to protect oil paintings on canvas.

Tools and Metalwork - Shellac protects tools and similar items from dust, dirt and corrosion. It's an ideal protective sealer and finish for wrought iron copper, brass, bronze, etc.

Sealing Knots – Nothing seals off knots and sap in new wood like shellac. Depending on how new the wood is, one or two coats of 3-lb. amber shellac will seal them off so they can't bleed into the finish coat to ruin it. For especially tough knots use multiple coats of amber shellac.

Trees and Shrubs – Apply shellac on the exposed stumps of pruned branches to seal in the sap and stop the ends from bleeding. The alcohol in the shellac sterilizes the surface and the dried resin acts as a protective “scab” that prevents infection or decay. Eventually the shellac breaks down with exposure to the elements and washes away.

Sealing Damaged Asphalt – Prior to patching asphalt, apply three to four coats of 3-lb. shellac to seal off residual oil and gasoline to prevent it from dissolving the new surfacing material.

Clean Up

Caring for a Shellac Finish

© 2003 ZINSSER Co., Inc. No portion of this article may be reproduced or reprinted in any form for other than private use without the expressed consent of ZINSSER Co., Inc.

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