Ever heard of powdered shellac? I hadn’t until Saturday when I presented a day long seminar on finishing for the Michigan Woodworkers’ Guild. As I talked about aniline dye, shellac and lacquer, there were a few questions asked and more than a few great ideas and techniques tossed about. With 90 woodworkers sitting in a group discussing finishes and finishing, you know there is going to be a lot of interesting information discussed.
I’m the guy they asked to speak and I hope attendees picked up something during the day that makes them better woodworkers and finishers. I seldom participate in an event such as this without gaining knowledge or a tip of some kind to make me better at what I do. This seminar was no different.
During our discussion about shellac, Ed Stuckey (see some of his work here), brought up powdered shellac. As he explained (and I intend to discover for myself), you add powdered shellac to your project so the powder settles into the grain. As you add another layer of liquid shellac, the powder is redissolved to help fill pores. This technique would certainly be faster in filling grain than multiple coatings of shellac where you sand the surface back to knock any shellac peaks into the shellac valleys. I am curious if it’s possible to use pulverized shellac flakes in the same way, or is there something altogether different about powdered shellac. I think this is worth a closer look. Thanks, Ed. To see a listing that I found on Ebay, click here.
Before leaving for Michigan, I wrapped up an article for The Finishing Store which is the online store for Apollo Sprayers International Inc. The Finishing Store publishes a monthly newsletter. My piece for this next issue discusses how to finish projects without muting, masking or otherwise destroying inlay. My last article was on glaze. Here is a link to that issue (click here). Be sure to check out other newsletters – finish guru, Bob Flexner, writes for each newsletter – as they are all available on the site.
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I was informed that Don Williams, senior furniture conservator at The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, uses and deals in powdered shellac. I contacted him about the shellac and was told that the main reason woodworkers use this product is the speed at which the powder translates to useable shellac. Here is Don’s reply, “What I have is more properly described as #1 Lemon shellac flour, exceedingly finely ground with an analytical mill. I use it much like standard shellac except that it goes into solution almost immediately.” He also added, “…it can be used as Roubo described by mixing it with beeswax and using it as a grain filler.”
I received a bag of shellac flour – the texture is very similar to baking flour – from Mr. Williams with which to experiment. As I become more enlightened, I will add more to this update. If you would like to pick up some of shellac flour to try in your shop, contact Don Williams at email@example.com.