Tag Archives: shellac

Egerton Clocks & Shellac

IMG_1651 2I’ve learned a great deal  as I progressed through the school of hard knocks to become a professional woodworker. What keeps me involved in writing this blog, magazine articles and teaching, and why you should take advantage of my experience, is the fact that as a professional woodworker, I can help you more easily learn woodworking so you don’t have to pay all of your dues. You get to walk through a few doors instead of having to break them down.

Some of the things I learned are general knowledge, such as a highboy base is not the same as a lowboy even though they appear to be the same – I remember how struck I was when I first discovered that. And some things can be applied to every project; or not. As I began to apply shellac to the tall clock, I was again smacked with the idea that all the parts for your project should come from the same tree, if possible. While that’s not always possible, it is a great concept and should be in your mind as you set about a new build. Why? Mostly due to aesthetics.

TonerOn these two clocks, the mahogany was from many sources, especially the veneered base and door fronts. I found that I needed to adjust the tones and colors. As a result, finishing without using dyes or stains becomes a bit more important. TranstintIn an earlier post about the walnut secretary, I wrote about adjusting the finish using toners. Toners, in aerosol cans, are tinted lacquer. In use the lacquer becomes layered between coats of shellac forming distinct divisions in the finish. This time, I stuck with shellac, but added drops of Transtint dye to introduce color. Shellac melts into shellac, so the finish developed is one harmonious layer. Is this better than toners? On that I’m still trying to decide, but it’s nice to have choices.

SAMSUNGAfter I had adjusted the colors to where I think the tones were even, I applied a layer of amber shellac. Of course, I didn’t have any in the shop, so I shuffled off to the local hardware store to pick up a quart. Surprise. The store had six quarts on the shelf, but of the six quarts, not one was usable. Not only were the quarts outdated, most were from 2007. (sorry for the blurry photo, but I had to show the grouping.) If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my thoughts on shellac, and you by now know how to make sure shellac is worthy of a purchase. (If you’re not sure, search this blog for information.)

SAMSUNGThe shocking revelation was that these cans were so old they were marked using the older Zinnser system of dates instead of a code. And the dates was printed on the bottom of the can, which if I remember correctly, was a full generation earlier (prior to the code, dates were marked on the lid.) A word of caution: Check the shellac cans and dates prior to any purchase and choose shellac that is less than three years old.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Visit from the Highland Woodworker

C_BrockMost everyone looks forward to Friday, but this past Friday was especially fun. The Wednesday before was not so much fun – it was filled with wood dust, wood chips and  lumber stacking, but not in a good way. Wednesday evening I spent cleaning my shop and rearranging the tools for a visit from Charles Brock, the Highland Woodworker.

Chuck and his business partner Steve began their Friday at the American Woodworker and Popular Woodworking Magazine shop in Blue Ash, Ohio, filming clips for upcoming episodes of The Highland Woodworker, which is Web TV for Woodworkers. (If you aren’t familiar with Chuck’s online show, you should sit a spell and take in a few episodes when you have some free time.)

Screen CaptureLater in the afternoon, we drove to my shop where we filmed a short interview section in which I discuss some of my early woodworking adventures, talked about what I find relevant in woodworking and I even shared a couple of stories about my (and my Dad’s) early days with Popwood. From there we talked about jointers and jointer setup, and we spent a few minutes discussing aniline dyes in finishing – you have to make the tiger-maple curls “pop.”

All this film work will end up on The Highland Woodworker later in the year. And when I get an exact date, I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, below is the current episode for you to watch. If you slide about 15 minutes into the episode, you’ll find a guy who looks a lot like me talking to Chuck about shellac, but do watch the rest of the show. There’s some great woodworking information to be found, and best of all, it’s entertaining, too.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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The Secret To Clean Can Rims

IMG_0555I hate build-up that gathers around lids of finish. Pick any finish. Whether it’s, paint, shellac, lacquer or something else, if you pour it from a can, sticky goo comes to visit.  As you pry open the often-stuck lid, crap gets on your screwdriver or on your hands or gloves. Goo is easily transferred to your project and that’s worse than glue spots – OK, nothing is worse than glue spots.

If you think all you have to do is use a brush to clean the rim as you put the can away,  you’re wrong. Junk, partially dried to become sticky, remains in the rim valley. If it would simply dry, it would be good. That’s not the case. For years I suffered with gooey can rims, but no more. I discovered a secret.

IMG_0556The secret is a #6 finish nail and a hammer. You could use a #8 finish nail, but there is no use dropping down to a #4 nail – a hole that small is not going to help.

Take a nail then puncture about four holes per quart can, or five holes per gallon can directly through the valley formed at the rim. It’s easy. A couple taps with a hammer and you’re through. (You can use a big-boy hammer if you do not have one from a kids tool set like I do – remember these?) After you have your holes made, any product left in that valley seeps back into the can. Now you know why a #4 nail hole doesn’t do the job.

It’s even better as you replace the lid. Any product left in the rim is then forced through your holes and not over the rim only to run down the can. You can only imagine the sounds made inside the can as you hammer the lid; a giant squishing noise as shellac spurts back into the can. With the lid in place, no air seeps into your can to ruin the product. It’s so clean.

IMG_0559

Build Something Great!
Glen

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Decode Your Shellac

I use shellac on nearly every project that passes through my shop doors. I think it is the best product for furniture because it is easy to use, can be brushed on or sprayed, and  dries quickly compared to urethane. I use shellac on top of aniline dye and even on top of a coat of boiled linseed oil if I aim to highlight figured grain. It is my “go to” finish before and after glaze. As you can tell, shellac is, in my opinion, the perfect topcoat. I’m good with shop-made shellac from flakes and I use store-bought shellac from Zinsser.

Until recently, my only problem with shellac – all shellac – is that I do not care for the high sheen that comes when shellac is built-up as a finish, but I have found a great work-around. I apply a coat of dull-rubbed effect lacquer, or I rub-out the surface using #0000 steel wool or an equivalent. Over the last year or so, I have developed a second problem with Zinsser shellac purchased from hardware stores or the large home-center stores.

As you undoubtedly know, shellac has a shelf-life. From the moment it is mixed into solution, it begins to degrade – degradation effects drying times. Eventually, as the degradation continues, you end up with a gummy mess with which to deal. Experience taught me this lesson, so I watch my dates closely.

A while back, Zinsser switched from using a date stamp on can lids to a lot number. With the date stamp, and the fact that the company-issued literature states its shellac was good for three years after the stamped date, you had a good idea as to when the shellac would reach it’s end. Even today I can go into a local home-center store and find shellac in gallon cans with a date stamp of 2008 – in 2012, that can is not one I’ll purchase.

With a lot number, there was no way to tell when the shellac was mixed. Or so I thought. I contacted the company, explained my dilemma and was pleasantly surprised when I received a reply that same afternoon. I now know how to read the lot number to tell when the shellac was mixed. Here is the information.

The first number after the letter is the year the shellac was made. If you look at the number in the photo, you see a zero. That shows the year at 2010. The number one would represent 2011 and a two is for 2012. Easy enough. That’s probably all the information you need, but the company goes further.

The first number after the year indicator stands for the month of mixture. In this case there is a seven, so this can of shellac was mixed in July. If the month would have been November you would see an “N”, December is a “D” and all other months are numbers.

The two numbers printed after the month identifier are the exact day of the month on which the shellac was mixed. In our example that day would be 20. This can of shellac was manufactured on the 20th of July, 2010.

With this information at hand, there is no reason to purchase shellac that is past or very close to the date of expiration put forth by the company. This also gives you the assurance that the shellac you buy is good to go. Below is another can lid for you to work out.

Build Something Great!
Glen

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Self Promotion & Follow-up Information

This week I am using my blog to promote an upcoming class at The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking (CVSW), and to provide additional information on past posts.

Beginning July 23, 2012, I am teaching a week long class at CVSW titled “Get it Done! Efficient Joinery Techniques with Glen Huey.” The project is a hanging wall cabinet that, by itself, is a great woodworking project. The case is a dovetailed box with an applied, beaded face frame. There is also a raised panel door and small drawer in the mix. That covers most woodworking techniques. If you conquer those techniques you could build almost anything.

But we are not just covering those techniques. During the class you’ll produce hand-cut dovetails and learn how to speed up the process without sacrificing appearance, discover secrets to better and more efficient face frame joinery including half-lap and mortise-and-tenon joints, uncover the tricks to perfect sliding dovetails and learn shortcuts to produce raised panel doors. In other words, we will “fast-track” your abilities in the shop and eliminate the need for allowing experience to be your teacher.

There are a few openings in the class, so contact Bob Van Dyke at the school and sign up.

Follow-up Information

In a May blog post, it was suggested that I setup a page on the site dedicated to woodworking questions. You may have noticed a new page as you landed on my homepage. I began the page with the blog entry from May 13. 2012 and have added a couple new questions and answers. It is worth stopping by this page every once in a while to check out what is new. And by the way, please continue to send me questions. As you do, the page fills and information is shared. Also, if you take issue with my answers, please leave a comment. I am always interested in different and new ideas, too.

Finally, I want to direct you to my May 21, 2012 post where powdered shellac is discussed. I have added new information at the end of that post that talks more about powdered shellac. Click here to jump to that post.

Build Something Great!
Glen

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Finish Adjustments

I often get asked how much lumber should be purchased for a project. My answer is to have enough on hand that you do not have to settle for what is a mismatched piece in your project. Even with that in mind, there are times when mismatches happen. My secretary doors are a perfect example. In the photo you can clearly see the differences between the door panel’s rich, dark walnut and the significantly lighter walnut used in the frame. At the time, I selected those materials to allow the grain of the book-matched panels to stand out. Big mistake.

For a better look at the toner I used, click the photo.

As I applied oil to the walnut, the differences proved to be too much. If I had determined the differences prior to oil application, I could have evened out the frame using aniline dye. With oil applied, the process is different. I decided to use a lacquer-based aerosol toner to correct my colors. I used a dye-based toner instead of a pigment-base toner to minimize the effect on transparency.

Before using any toner, I added a coat of shellac to my doors – shellac is the perfect finish to apply over an oiled surface (allow oil to dry 24 to 48 hours). I then added toner on top of the shellac. I masked-off the panel area to adjust only the frame, then lightly sprayed a few layers of toner onto my frame until my pieces better matched.

This toner has a higher sheen that the early coating of shellac, but that sheen is leveled when sealed under another coat of shellac.

When I was satisfied with the match, I sprayed another layer of shellac to seal in the adjustments. From there, I proceeded with normal finish processes.

Here is a look at a completed door front set beside an non-treated door back. You can see how my frame is a closer match to the panel, and just how much the change was in total. I would have preferred to select my materials for a closer match from the beginning, but it’s good to know there is a way to fix bad decisions.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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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!

Glen

UPDATE:

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.
Glen

 

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