has been written to the use of shellac and how it is
applied, but very little mention has been made of advantages
of using this material. Let us, therefore, note some of the
qualities which make this finish material so important to
the wood finisher.
Lac encrusted twigs.
of the outstanding qualities of shellac is its durability
and strength. If properly applied and maintained, it will
last indefinitely on the surface. It is for this reason the
shellac is used as a floor finish, as a finish for bowling
alleys, and for other places where abuse and wear are
There is no fear of it cracking after many coats
have been applied because it is so elastic and flexible.
Thus accidental shock from spoons, keys, and other objects
being dropper on the shellacked surface will not crack or
mar the finish.
Rubbing with either steel wool or pumice stone leaves a fine
velvety smooth feel to the surface, with mellowness that
cannot be duplicated with other materials.
Shellac is fast-drying, and this fast-drying quality makes
it appropriate material to use where time is important. No
special drying facilities are necessary, because it dries
dustproof in a matter of minutes. Several coats may be
applied within hours of each other.
Sieving and Winnowing of Seed Lac.
as a sealer, it cannot be surpassed. It spreads evenly over
the porous surface, leaving a film which prevents the
absorption of other materials. Any material applied to the
shellac sealer will adhere well, without any fear of
checking or blistering.
too, it is unsurpassed as a furniture polish when used as a
French polish. You will obtain a beautiful, lasting,
lustrous finish that requires no additional polishing or
rubbing. It is no wonder that French polishing has been
popular since the seventeenth century.
Finally, its use as a touch-up ingredient makes it almost
indispensable. No other material will combine with alcohol
anilines and then adhere to a surface with such rapidity as
shellac. It becomes a part of the finish and , when
properly applied, cannot be distinguished from the
should not be assumed that shellac is the all-perfect finish
material, which can be used under all conditions and for all
type of jobs. There are some drawbacks which should be
considered before the final selection of the finish material
is made. A few of these should be considered.
Shellac is not waterproof. It will not withstand moisture
without turning white. Therefore, it should never be
considered where outside finishing is to be done. Garden
furniture, for example, should not be finished with
shellac. Shellac is not recommended for finishing of coffee
tables, kitchen tables, and the like, which may be subjected
to water at some time or another.
Shellac is not heatproof. When it is subjected to heat, as
when a hot dish is placed on the table, it will soften up
and mark the surface, which is then beyond repair. When the
heat applied is extreme, the shellac will blister and
crack. Thus, a piece that will be subjected to heat should
be finished in materials other then shellac.
Naturally, because shellac is made with alcohol, it will
absorb any trace of alcohol placed on it. It is not
alcohol-proof and should not be applied to furniture like
cocktail tables or bars, where liquor is apt to be present.
The liquor accidentally spilled on shellacked surface will
act as a solvent and remove the finish to the bare wood.
There are other finishing materials, like varnish and
lacquer, which are alcohol-proof and can be substituted for
Liquid shellac is not very stable material. When stored in
metal containers for any length of time, it will
deteriorate, discolor, and lose its drying qualities. This
is especially true of white shellac.
The chemicals used in
bleaching orange shellac to white affect the drying
qualities after the shellac has aged for six to twelve
months. Shellac that old should be discarded and not
considered for any finishing purposes.
Shellac stored in a
metal container for a considerable length of time will
become discolored due to the chemical actions which take
place between the chemicals in the shellac and the metal.
Shellac should be purchased in glass containers when it is
not to be used immediately, for it will not discolor so
readily. Metal containers should be used only when the
shellac is to be used immediately.