Tips for Buffing Shellac – How to Buff a Shellac Polish

Finishing materials on furniture are very diverse. One of the classic finishing materials is buffing shellac. Not many people can use this technique if they don’t understand the theory.

Buffing can give any polish a shiny new look, but if you immediately try it, the results on the wood will not be smooth.

The application process often occurs on mahogany, walnut, and veneer. People who successfully use this technique can get furniture with an aesthetic appearance.

The shellac polishing process has another name French Polish. This coating process can take more than one layer. Repeatedly giving the coating can make the shellac dry faster.

However, it should be realized that this coating is not resistant to many solvents and water. If accidentally exposed to water can cause marks in the form of white like dew.

It is not surprising that woodworkers often use shellac as a finishing material rather than the material used to protect outdoor furniture.

Can shellac be buffed?

Yes, shellac can be buffed to a high sheen. Buffing is often done on furniture. This process involves polishing the shellac to make it as smooth as possible.

French polishing gives shellac a shiny, mirror-like finish. Buffing can remove most scratches from the surface and make it shine. It takes time, patience, and practice.

The best way to achieve a shiny look is to polish your wood with a clean, soft cloth and a little shellac.

Suppose you want a less polished, satin finish; buff the last coat with 0000 steel wool and paste wax that doesn’t have silicone. Move the wax over the finish gently until it is completely covered.

Preparing the Ingredients for the Buffing Shellac

Those interested in using shellac as a wood coating must prepare some equipment and solvents. Some equipment is masks, gloves, shellac, and furniture coated with sandpaper and microfiber cloth. Masks and gloves need to be used during the coating process. Shellac contains ingredients that are harmful to health if it is inhaled or enters the body. You can buy all of this equipment through the building shop.

Buy shellac in sufficient quantity because it doesn’t last long. Buying too much will only waste money. You have prepared all the equipment, and you also need to prepare the alcohol.

Alcohol is useful as a solvent that dissolves shellac. If you use 4-pound shellac, then buy 2-pound alcohol. Always buy a certain amount of solvent using this ratio.

Dissolving Shellac

You need to know the right way to dissolve shellac. If you do not know how to dissolve shellac, you may be causing damage to your furniture. You may be applying the wrong amount of shellac flakes, and you may be ruining your furniture.

Dry shellac flakes can be dissolved in denatured ethanol, methanol, butyl, and isopropyl alcohol. The alcohols that evaporate the fastest are methanol, ethanol, butyl, and isopropyl.

Mineral spirits won’t break down wood finishes like polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, or shellac that have hardened or dried. It can be used to clean things made of wood without hurting the finish.

We will talk about how to dissolve shellac. The method is very easy but a little tricky. So, follow the below steps:

1. Soak the shellac flakes in about 1/2 of the total alcohol to be used for 24 hours or longer.

2. Mixing the shellac flakes is simply a matter of dissolving them; Depending on the temperature, this can take up to 24 hours.

3. Stir occasionally and when dissolved, add the balance of the alcohol.

4. You need to mix the shellac particles with alcohol. However, some carpenters use solvents such as linseed oil. However, the most widely used solvent is alcohol. During this dissolving process, you must avoid various ignition sources.

5. Alcohol itself has very flammable properties. After you dissolve the shellac, store it in a closed bottle. Later you can open the bottle cap whenever you want to use it as a layer of the furniture. When you’re done, close the bottle again. Remember that this liquid cannot be stored for long because shellac is very easily damaged.

6. Denatured alcohol or methylated spirits is the best solvent for shellac. Buy a good Shellac Solvent for making your shellac finish. as a Shellac Flake Solvent. Do not use gasoline, kerosene, or petroleum-based products as a solvent. Pure ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is used only to thin, clean shellac brushes or put on a French polish.

What removes shellac from wood?

Denatured alcohol can be used to get rid of shellac. Denatured alcohol is a clear liquid that can be bought from most stores and used to clean and remove shellac from wooden items.

Try lacquer thinner if alcohol doesn’t work.

If your piece was made by a suitable furniture maker after 1930 and had a shellac or lacquer finish, the best place to start is with a product that thins.

Making Applications Using Microfiber Cloths

The next step is to make a tool for applying liquid shellac to furniture. The application process cannot be done using a spray gun or brush.

The French Polis technique must be done carefully so that the results are good by using a microfiber cloth.

The microfiber cloth used for lining must be clean and dry. The nature of the fabric must also be able to absorb shellac liquid Cloth.

Gather a palm-sized microfiber cloth. Continue by making a circle using the microfiber cloth. Tie at the top so that the parts of the fabric piled up in the main material are not easily exposed to apply shellac.

After making the microfiber cloth application tool, you can immediately move on to the next step.

Shellac Application Process to Furniture

Each application process must be carried out using the microfiber earlier. Dip a small amount of the rounded end into the shellac solution. If it has been made, you can flatten it to the surface of the wood in the same direction.

Do not immerse the cloth pad in the solution too long to prevent too much of the solution from being absorbed into the pad. You can also make a spiral-like motion when scrubbing the wood surface.

When applying shellac liquid, you need to use a little pressure. The less pressure makes the shellac liquid less able to penetrate the wood pores.

If the pressure you give is too intense, it might damage the wood fibers or cause defects in other furniture. The result of providing the correct coating will be glossy.

Wait Until the First Layer Is Drying

Those who have finished applying the first coat must wait a while for the coating to dry. Of course, this process requires extra patience. Someone who forces to add layers when the first layer is not dry will cause particles to appear, which makes the furniture look less smooth.

While waiting for the first layer to dry, it doesn’t hurt you to do other work. If it is scorched, then you can do the recoating technique.

The drying process of the first layer does not need to be carried out in the sun. Dry the furniture in an open space.

When the spirit evaporates, the first layer of shellac will stick firmly to the wood surface. Wait again after 4 hours to start the next step.

How many coats of shellac should I apply?

The standard way to get a good finish is to put on three coats of shellac. Shellac is a clear coating that you can put on your furniture to protect it.

The first coat seals the wood, and the second gives it enough body to be sanded, leveled, and repainted without cutting through these base coats. You can use a rag or a brush to apply the first coat, depending on how big an area you want to cover.

Be sure to apply the second coat evenly, as uneven coverage leaves a noticeable gap between the top layer of shellac and the bottom layer of the wood. A final coat is necessary to seal the surface and protect it from scratches and stains.

Sand and Prepare the New Pad

You can next sand the furniture’s surface when the first layer of shellac is dry. Use sandpaper of relatively fine size.

The sanding process must also be done slowly to smooth the furniture’s surface. When you have finished sanding the entire surface, clean it from dust particles.

The cleaning process from dust can be done by using a dry cloth. If you have cleaned the surface of the furniture from dust, then you can prepare a new pad.

The use of a new pad can prevent the appearance of particles from the dried shellac. These particles can make the surface appearance of the furniture no longer smooth.

Can you sand shellac smooth?

Between coats of shellac, you should sand so that the second coat sticks better. Use a fine-grit sanding pad when you sand, so you don’t damage the piece.

Between coats, let the shellac dry all the way. Once the paint is dry, sand it lightly between coats with a 320-400-grit sanding block until the surface is smooth.

This helps the next coat stick better and eliminates any flaws that might have been made when the first coat was put on. This keeps minor flaws from getting worse over time.

When can I sand shellac?

Avoid over-applying or over-brushing. Let dry for an hour before sanding or screening with 220 grit paper or finer.

Apply the second coat and wait for 2 to 3 hours for it to dry. Remember that shellac is not as scratch-resistant or long-lasting as polyurethane or other finishes made for floors.


The final step of shellac buffing is recoating. Recoating, you must do the same when making the first layer. Dip the new pad in enough shellac liquid.

Then apply slowly and use proper pressure. Keep repeating this step until a second layer is formed over the furniture. This layer will dry after 30 minutes. But you can only coat for the third time after 4 hours.

Completing shellac buffing does take all day. But those of you who have a lot of work to coat furniture with shellac liquid can move on to the next coating job while waiting for the first piece of furniture to dry.

How long should shellac dry between coats?

Shellac dries fast, but it needs time to harden. A shellac finish usually takes about an hour to dry. Let the shellac dry for at least 2 hours after applying it for the best results. The thickness of the coat will determine how long it takes to dry.

Each coat blends into the one before it, making a single, thicker coat. Because of this, you don’t need to sand between coats to improve bonding, as you would with varnish or urethane finishes.

Can you use an oil finish over shellac?

Yes. Shellac can be made to look beautiful and shiny by painting it with a varnish made from oil. Shellac dries quickly; if you want a more matte finish, you can sand it down again.
It doesn’t matter whether the shellac has wax in it or not.

With a coat of shellac and a few coats of oil-based varnish, you can make a natural finish that looks nice and lasts a long time.
However, it would be best if you were careful not to use too much oil, as this can damage the finish.

Do you sand the shellac after the last coat?

Even though you might not have to sand your final coat of shellac, it can make your piece look and feel better if you do.

Shellac is a clear finish that makes something look like it has a thin layer of glass on it. But if you don’t sand between coats of shellac, the final coating will look lumpy and uneven.

To avoid this, ensure your workpiece is clean before applying the next coat. It’s also critical to ensure that the next coat of shellac is smooth and even so that any flaws aren’t hidden.

Do you need to seal shellac?

Shellac is a beautiful finish that can last longer and have a high gloss.

It’s one of the oldest finishes known to man and has been used for centuries to create beautiful, protective surfaces.

However, there are some downsides to using shellac, including the fact that it’s not water-resistant.

It’s also not suitable for areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. That’s why a transparent sealant must be put on top to produce a lasting shellac finish.

To ensure your shellac is water resistant, apply two coats of sealant to the surface.

Which is better, polyurethane or shellac?

Both shellac and polyurethane have their strengths, and polyurethane is considered the superior finish due to its durability. It offers a hard finish that resists wear and tear and is generally more durable than shellac.

Additionally, it applies transparently, preserving the wood’s natural color, which is ideal if you like the color of the wood.

Polyurethane is usually better than shellac for outdoor use because it doesn’t yellow or cracks as quickly. Shellac is better for indoor use.

Shellac is a traditional finish that gives a rich, high-gloss finish that is beautiful in light-colored woods. It can also be applied over dark stains and colors.

However, shellac is a little more difficult to apply than polyurethane and is also more expensive.

How to Fix a Shellac Finish

If you apply shellac or lacquer to wood surfaces, you’ll notice the finish will change color. Moisture causes the finish to turn milky. Shellac can be damaged by heat, humidity, and excessive cleaning.

When shellac is scratched or marred, it dulls the wood and makes it appear dirty. A thorough cleaning restores the wood’s original appearance, and applying a new coat of shellac covers the problem areas and hides the damage.

You can fix this by spraying the finish with a solvent and letting it soak in. Let the finish harden overnight when the solvent is soaked in, then buff the repair with paste wax. The solvent will help loosen the finish from the wood.

If you use shellac correctly, it’s a beautiful finishing product. However, if you don’t use shellac properly, you can create an unwanted appearance.

The best way to maintain a clean and clear finish is to apply shellac in dry conditions. Never use shellac in humid conditions.

What is the difference between shellac and lacquer?

If you want to buff your furniture, you can use either shellac or lacquer. They both do a similar job. However, they have different uses and properties. Knowing what each one is used for is crucial.
Lacquer is a clear finish. This is why you see it used on wood surfaces, and it’s usually applied in thin layers that dry quickly. The best thing about lacquer is that you don’t need to sand the surface before applying the finish.

However, if you want a shiny finish with a glossy appearance, you’ll need to apply shellac. Shellacs are thicker than lacquers. This is because they contain more resin. If you use too much shellac, you will get a dull finish.

So, when picking a finish for your furniture, you should think about how you want it to look in the end. It would be best to choose between a matte or a gloss finish.

Lacquer is made of clear nitrocellulose that has been dissolved in a solvent. This creates a hard, clear finish that can be sprayed on for a smooth surface.

Shellac finish is almost all natural and gives things a shiny, golden sheen with a mid-gloss finish.

What distinguishes polyurethane from shellac?

Shellac is a natural resin that dries quickly and gives the wood a warm color. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is made from chemicals. (Shellac dries in 30 minutes).

Polyurethane is a manufactured resin that comes in both oil-based and water-based forms. (It takes 2–6 hours for polyurethane to dry).

These materials are used for lacquering, but polyurethane is far better at resisting scratches.

How are shellac and varnish different from each other?

Shellac is just a kind of resin that the lac bug makes. It can be made into flakes and sold as such. Then, it can be used as a paint-on color and often as a wood finish.

Shellacs are made from things that come from nature. So, they are better for the environment than varnishes. You must put a small amount on with a cloth or a brush to use them. This can be done by hand.

Varnish, on the other hand, is a very hard protective film or finish used to finish wood.
Varnishes are used to paint things like woodwork and furniture. There are also different colors of them. Most of the time, these are put on wood.

Before you do anything, you should always read the instructions. You don’t want to damage your furniture.

What types of shellac are there?

Shellac is available in a vast array of warm hues, ranging from very light blonde to very dark brown, with various brown, yellow, orange, and red tones.

The tree’s sap where the lac insect lives and the harvest time affect the color.

Shellac is a natural resin generated from the female lac insect’s shell.
There are three major shellac forms: pure, solvent-free, and solvent-based.

Pure shellac is the most expensive of the three, while solvent-based shellac is the least costly and solvent-free shellac.