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Shellac isn't as durable as poly is, but that isn't to say it is a bad finish.  It really depends on how much abuse you expect the book cases to get.

 

One benefit of shellac is that if it does get damaged, it is often as easy as applying another coat to fix.

 

I personally prefer shellac over poly.

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Only if you put the books on the shelves, and then leave them there... No scuff protection at all.... Great way to seal the wood... Two coats of #1lb cut would be ideal, then apply some sort of wiping varnish as a topcoat...

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Some sort of Poly varnish is likely going to be your best choice. If you want a nearly fool proof option, it's hard to beat General Finish Arm-R-Seal. I suck at applying finish and it makes me look good..

What made you consider going with just shellac?

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Shellac, properly applied, is tougher than it gets credit for. Mix your own from flakes, or make sure the date is good on the canned stuff. I like to wipe on several coats, very diluted with denatured alcohol. Easy to do 5 or six coats on something like a coffee table in one afternoon, and use it the next day. Can't do that with poly.

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What are the bookcases made of? This would help decide viable options...

 

==>Actually the books won't be moved much!

Shellac is a possibility... But with caveots... see below...

 

==>and use it the next day

After a few hours, it's dry to handle, but it's not cured... I learned that the very hard way... Unless the shellac is fully cured (like 3 weeks), the moisture in the paper will ruin the finish…. Been there, done that and it was very very ugly…

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==>I first did some research on here about staining it and that sounds like it might not be the best option with blotching and all.

Smart call... Love someone who asks questions before finishing… :)

 

The typical posts are more along the lines of, “I just applied Antique Maple Minwax and…”…. BTW: you can successfully color maple, but you can also make a hash of it...

 

Your next smart move: testing the proposed finish on scraps.... .... and not small scraps, but something of size...

 

Spray gear available?

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==> inexpensive gravity feed hvlp from Grizzly.
2/3 Stage turbines can shoot shellac all day long – no problems… Same with solvent lacquer… It’s when you get to the thicker stuff, WB coatings, etc that 4/5 stage units come into their own…  You can mix your own, or buy de-waxed at the paint store -- I use Zinsser Bulls Eye... I keep forgetting, but I believe it's a #3ct, so thin it down to #1ct - #1.5ct for spraying...

 

 

But yea, practice, practice, practice… One nice thing about shellac, if you screw-the-pooch, you can fix it without too much hassle… Same with solvent lacquers… One thing about bookcases -- if you remove the back prior to spraying, you'll avoid issues with bounce-back... Just spray it separately....

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Shellac, properly applied, is tougher than it gets credit for. Mix your own from flakes, or make sure the date is good on the canned stuff. I like to wipe on several coats, very diluted with denatured alcohol. Easy to do 5 or six coats on something like a coffee table in one afternoon, and use it the next day. Can't do that with poly.

 

So true I used it on the cancer toy chest build back in what NOV? It's held up to the abuse of my 3 1\2 year old just fine, 4-5 coats of shellac. She stacks things on it she lays down on it (hahah her world, i just giggle) its always in use every day. Looks fine to me sides, if it does get scuffed... easy fix. The coats were diltued as well, so food for thought trz.

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