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Jim Morgans Wood Profits

Wood Profits by Jim Morgan

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Apply Shellac Like a Pro

Shellac's Advantages

There are two reasons for using any finish: The first is to enhance or change the original appearance of the wood; the second is to protect it.

Shellac creates a warmth and depth that makes inexpensive woods look expensive and expensive woods look even more impressive.

If you aren't brushing shellac these days, it's either because you've never tried it or you've had a bad experience. Let's see if I can change that.

The number one reason people abandon shellac is they expect it to behave like polyurethane. But shellac and poly are different animals. For starters, shellac uses fast-drying 200-proof grain alcohol, or ethanol, as a solvent. The non-toxic ethanol is "poisoned" with small amounts of toxic solvent such as methanol or acetone in order to render it undrinkable and escape liquor taxes. Ethanol evaporates quickly and requires a different method of application and tools than slow-drying polyurethane varnishes.

A skilled professional can make brushing on any type of coating look easy. But, like any skill, applying shellac takes practice. Were your first hand-cut dovetails perfect?

Practice brushing on a two-foot square panel before you touch anything of value. It's easy to sand the panel back down to the wood and brush it again and again. After you get comfortable with brushing the panel, go to a garage sale and purchase a small table or chair. Lightly sand it with some 320 grit sandpaper and practice brushing on real furniture.

Woodworker's Showcase

Show Us Your Stuff!

Share your work with fellow woodworkers across the country and around the world.

As woodworkers, we love to build things, but we also love to share our work and the ideas behind them. American Woodworker Magazine has a new department called "Woodworker's Showcase." We're looking for projects that range from the practical to the fantastic.

Email your digital images along with a brief description of each piece to: [email protected] or mail a disc with images to American Woodworker Magazine, Woodworker's Showcase, 1285 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 180, Eagan, MN 5512. The description should include woods used, joinery, type of finish and any story behind the piece. Only high quality digital images will be selected for publication. Make sure you put some time and effort into your photography. For tips on taking better photos, check out our web page: (

We look forward to hearing from you!

Mountain Dulcimer: The Gryphon

Ronald Cook, Coog Instruments, Santa Cruz, CA

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