Shellac- A Traditional Finish Still Yields Superb Results

To the average person, shellac probably invokes many negative perceptions. Poor water and heat resistance, difficult to apply, poor drying and low durability are all criticisms that I hear when I mention shellac to my clients or other woodworkers. While some of these criticisms are valid, many are not grounded in fact and are easy to disprove.


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Padding Shellac

Prior to the introduction of shellac as a finishing material in the early 1800’s, the traditional means of finishing furniture to a high gloss was accomplished by applying beeswax in thin layers with a cloth and then polishing it up to the desired gloss. These wax finishes did not wear well and were easily damaged by water and abrasion.


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Early American Maple Finishes

Maple, if left unstained, takes on a yellow tone over time, gradually deepening to a darker yellow-reddish brown. This is the color that you see on maple pieces in museums and is the color most cherished by collectors. Figured maples are the most striking, since the figured areas deepen in color against the lighter wood surrounding it.


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