A Week of Finish

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.

Build Something Great!



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 artisan_dcw@msn.com.



Filed under Finish Techniques

5 responses to “A Week of Finish

  1. My First thought… Do you just run it through a coffee grinder to get a fine powder first?

    My second thought was… Doesn’t all of the shellac solids get dissolved in the alcohol? If so, how could there be anything left over to fill pores?

    My third thought was… Do you brush-on the powder with a brush prior to spraying the regular shellac?

    I’m somewhat puzzled…

    Thank you.

    • Joe,
      Powdered shellac is applied to the project without being dissolved in alcohol – in a dry state. Due to the high concentration of solids in the wood pores, as the liquid shellac (that dissolved in alcohol) reaches the dry powder there is a small puddle captured in each pore. To be clear, Mr. Stuckey suggested that pores could be filled about 80%, so there would be additional shellac needed to obtain a smooth surface.

      The rest is yet to be discovered, but I’m working on it.


      • OK, my 3rd thought was closer!

        I would think one would have to be very careful in NOT having a hard spray… in order to not possibly blowing the powder out of the pores… unless the shellac was lightly wiped-on cross-grain to get all of the powder saturated with the wiped-on shellac.

        Will be interesting to see what you find out about it… the fine points.

        Thank you.

  2. Glen,

    I just got some shellac in the same powder form from Mr. Don Williams, in the Lemon #1 flavor. The color is amazing and it works great. I have done the whole coffee grinder and shellac method, but it doesn’t ever get as fine of a texture as the stuff I got from Don. All I know is that I bought of alot of it and I am using it all the time.

  3. Pingback: Self Promotion & Follow-up Information | Woodworker's Edge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s