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Charge the brush ! by soaking it in denatured alcohol for a few minutes before use.This helps the shellac flow better from the brush.
So you're covered 011 the good looks front. As a rule of thumb, use light colored shellac on light woods and a dark colored shellac 011 darker woods.
Let's look at the protection issue. Many people refrain from using shellac because they've heard it offers little protection. But how much protection does the project really need, and from what? A kitchen table needs a whole lot more protection than a jewelry box or a grandfather clock. Shellac may not be the best choice for a kitchen table but for many other projects shellac offers plenty of protection. Besides beauty and protection, shellac has other distinct advantages: Unlike polyurethane, shellac is repairable and can be fixed without stripping off the old finish. Also, shellac's rapid cure leaves little time for dust to settle into the wet finish and you can recoat in less than an hour. Finally, shellac does not require sanding between coats saving you time and elbow grease.
A 1-1/2 or 2 in. square flat brush made with golden nylon, or "Taklon" bristles is a great starter brush for applying shellac. It's best on flat surfaces but it can handle a cabriole leg with a little practice and it won't break the bank.
Set up a light source at a low angle so it rakes the work area. A raking light will show defects like drips and "holidays" (places you missed) before it's too late to correct them.
In recent years, protecting the environment has become another criteria for choosing a finish. Shellac stands out as one of the greenest and least toxic coatings available. Shellac is a pure, natural finish that's often used to coat fruits, vegetables and candy. As always, good ventilation and an organic vapor mask are recommended.
#1 Thin your shellac to a water-like consistency (Photo 1). A 1 to 1-1/2 lb. cut is ideal for beginners. Pre-mixed shellac is usually a three-pound cut (the exception is Zinnser Bulls Eye Seal Coat, which is a 2 lb. cut). This means three pounds of shellac has been mixed into one gallon of alcohol.
#2 Use a high quality brush. A good brush will hold a lot of shellac and apply an even coat without leaving ridges or pronounced brush marks.
One good starter brush is the Winsor & Newton Regency Gold 580 series (Photo 2) made with Taklon synthetic nylon. Another one is the Loew Cornell 7550 (see Source, page 74).
There are two ways to brush shellac: Lay down a thick layer using a slow gravity-feed method or paint it on thin and work fast. I use both of these brushing techniques on a small tabletop: the gravity-feed method on a molded edge and the rapid-brushing method on a top. I prefer the gravity method on the edges because the brush can cover the whole edge and leave a relatively thick, even coat without worrying about ridges. I use the fast and thin method on the top of the table because it's less prone to leaving ridges and brush marks. For this table I will use a 1-1/2 lb. cut of shellac and a 2 in. Taklon bristle brush.
Set up a raking light so it washes across the area you are brushing (Photo 3). Shellac sets up fast and is pretty unforgiving if a brushing defect goes unde-
The light will illuminate any runs and "holidays" (missed spots) before the shellac has time to set. If you notice a brush mark or a holiday, and j Thin your shellac before use. Store bought shellac is typically a 3 lb. cut. Mix it 1-to-1 with denatured alcohol for a user-friendly 11/2 lb. cut.
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