Chestnut

Poly vs shellac.

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Picture frame I'm working on is quarter sawn oak that has some good wavy figure in it. What is the better finish for enhancing that between oil based Poly and shellac?

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I've never used shellac by itself, so take my thought with a grain of salt but I'd say poly.  But if it were me, and since a picture frame isn't gonna take any abuse or anything, could use danish oil since it pops grain pretty good.  Or use danish oil first then put something over it once it cures.  Just my thought but I'm no expert that's for sure haha.

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You might want to try Arm-R-Seal. After listening to the suggestions of others on here, I tried it and it's now my go to finish.

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Of course, there is a wide range of tones available, if you use flake shellac. That might influence your decision. A picture frame isn't likely to get a lot of abuse, so any finish should offer enough protection.

In my opinion, a blonde shellac will give a golden overtone, but poly may increase the contrast between the early & late grain, more than shellac. My only experience using oil over white oak was BLO, which darkened the wood a LOT. I would expect a similar result from danish oil.

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I haven't tried Arm-R Seal and I'm not discounting it i just don't have a way to get it where I'm at. I can't justify double what i spend now for regular poly. I tried danish oil on the wood that i was working with and it just didn't make things pop as well  as i was hoping. Ended up doing a couple coats of shellac.

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Glass broke when i was trying to load up the frame. I lifted one corner of the glass and it's own weight was enough to break it's self. I guess i'll have to be more careful i thought glass was a bit tougher than that.

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Shellac on its own does not make figure pop.  You can add dye and sand back but that's something entirely different.  Also, ray fleck doesn't really "pop" the same way as other types of figure such as curl or quilt.

Shellac is used as a sealer to prevent blotching...and blotching is figure.  Oil-based finishes are going to enhance figure much better than straight shellac because they soak deeper into the grain and provide much greater chatoyance.

Finally, the traditional finish for QSWO is ammonia fuming, even though that process doesn't necessarily "pop" the ray fleck either.  Anything else is a distant second best.  That said, I like ARS on QSWO.  But I like ARS on just about anything.

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I was the photographer, standing on top of Nevada falls in Yosemite.

Well shoot i guess i could sand off the shellac and brush some poly on. The fact that everyone keeps raving about this arm-r seal means that i have to try it. Looks like $20 a pint is the cost with shipping unless any one has a good place to go through?

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11 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

I was the photographer, standing on top of Nevada falls in Yosemite.

Well shoot i guess i could sand off the shellac and brush some poly on. The fact that everyone keeps raving about this arm-r seal means that i have to try it. Looks like $20 a pint is the cost with shipping unless any one has a good place to go through?

Arm R Seal is not that different than regular poly.  

I think it looks great as is.  Most attempts to pop grain look cartoonish in my opinion   

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32 minutes ago, Mike. said:

Arm R Seal is not that different than regular poly.  

I don't mean to raise feathers but is this similar to the festool argument?

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Shellac will do just fine to highlight the grain and give depth. I've done several projects where I've used only shellac and they look great. 

If you want an ARS alternative get Minwax wipe-on poly from a big box. 

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23 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

I don't mean to raise feathers but is this similar to the festool argument?

Not at all like the festool argument.  Festool offers tangible benefits: better dust collection, quieter motors, accessories, etc.  

The benefits of ARS over any other wipe on poly are mostly intangible.   I use the stuff all the time, but can get it locally from my hardwood dealer.   I wouldnt go out of my way to get it.  

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I used ARS on my vanity and Minwax wipe on poly on my window sill on the same wood.  I cant tell a difference.  Minwax will be my wipe on poly go to from now on because I can get it locally.  Nothing wrong with ARS, I just cant go to town and buy it. 

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Curious... did you ever try the arm-r-seal since you began this post, and did if so, how does it differ in your opinion to shellac and danish oil?  

Couldn't see your photo that eveyone's raving about.  The link is inactive. :(  

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Shellac is more shiny and leaves a different tint in the grain than poly does. I've used ARS satin and minwax wipe on satin and they are very similar. Danish oil isn't that different and I've done the home brew as well as the store purchased and honestly i can't tell the difference between strait poly and danish oil.

I fixed the link above to the image. I think i relinked it to the same one. I wonder how many more of my links are now broken.

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10 hours ago, Chestnut said:

Danish oil isn't that different and I've done the home brew as well as the store purchased and honestly i can't tell the difference between strait poly and danish oil.

Say what? :huh:

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What i meant to say is I've tried the complicated finishes and they aren't worth it. They are a lot of work and a lot of mess for a look that isn't vastly different from something i could buy in the store. If we're talking colored finishes this doesn't apply but I'm sick of having to brew up stains to get some color in cheap wood that some one wants.

 

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Generally speaking there are four factors that contribute to the appearance of a finish: Clarity, color, film thickness (and absorption), and sheen.   Things like depth, grain popping and chatoyancy are really a function of those four factors.   Hold those four constant and 99% of woodworkers couldn't tell the difference between cured shellac, danish oil, and a wipe on poly.   Its like steamed vs unsteamed walnut heart   

Yes, shellac builds a film faster than wipe on poly, but you can get a danish oil like "in the wood" look with shellac (or poly).   Yes, shellac comes out gloss but it is super easy to rub down to a satin or even matte finish.  

Each finish does have its own inherent properties, but once you understand those you can adjust how you apply the finish to get a desired result.  For example, want to avoid blotch and use ARS? Sand to a higher grit. Want to highlight grain and use Shellac? Use an amber shellac, thin coats and add a tablespoon or two of turpentine, to allow more absorption.  

 

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