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Why I Love Shellac

May 30th, 2014 · No Comments

Hi Peter
I apologize for any typos, I’m using my iPad as my computer crashed last night.
There is some good news with your compromised old finish. I’ve seen it dozens of times and usually it’s underneath either paint or poly-urethane.
It’s old shellac. Normally it’s on interior woodwork all the way up through the 1930’s and the “bungalow” era.
The cool thing about shellac finishes is that they never fully cure, hence the crazing and balling up you see sometimes. They can be rejuvenated by simply washing them down with denatured alcohol and scrubbing them with those red or green scrubby pads from the paint store or supermarket.
In your case the original coating is pretty compromised. What you should do is scrape the big stuff away with a hand scraper, it’ll come off pretty easy, and then just scrub the heck out of what’s left. You’ll notice that it will lighten up and even out afterwards.
Now in conservation, shellac is an isolation layer. All that means is that it is used between differing solvent based finishes to facilitate future removal of top coats. In the case of an exterior door you could just lightly sand and top coat with either poly-urethane or a good oil based exterior paint (I still think oil is the best for exterior work, boats love it!).
If its on an interior surface all you need to do is either apply a new coat of clear or amber 3lb shellac and follow up with butchers wax, applied and buffed for a satin smooth finish. You may not even need to reapply the shellac if the scrubbed surface is fairly even.
There’s my trade secret, elbow grease and compatible top coats.
Good luck and let me know how it works out.

Sent from Ron’s recycled old iPad

Tags: Value-Added Historic Preservation

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