Protection for Shellac


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I’ve been French polishing nearly all of my projects recently. I know that shellac is vulnerable to breakdown if it is exposed to some chemicals (I.e. alcohol). Can a protective coating such as lacquer be applied over the shellac finish without losing the luster?

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AFAIK you can only use paste wax to buff your french polished piece and protect it a bit more. I don't think lacquer would stick properly since the shellac used for french polishing is not de-waxed. And even if it works, it doesn't make any sense to go through all the trouble of french polishing something just to apply lacquer on top.

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Shannon covered on wood talk recently that the whole shellac redissolving in alcohol is a lot more difficult that the internet leads us to believe. Unless you are spilling strait high proof alcohol like 100 proof or higher and letting it sit for a long period of time you should be fine. Spilling beer or wine and wiping up right away isn't goign to cause dramatic finish failure.

The project type is also an important distinction. If we're talking about a dining table a french polish may not be the best option but if we're talking about a side table for a formal parlor I'd be far less concerned. Is this a drink cabinet where you are mixing said high proof spirits?

If you don't believe me try it your self. Apply some shellac, let it cure for a month and then spill some alcohol on it and see what happens.

Harsher solvents like nail polish remove, or 91% rubbing alcohol are goign to be your worst offenders.

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If you are looking for a high gloss finish associated with French Polish but want a finish that is more durable than Shellac, you should use the lacquer and "rub the finish out". This is the process of adding multiple layers of lacquer and sanding the layers down until you get to a polish grit. Then polish the finish out. Mark talked about this process in the Humidor build if I can remember correctly. 

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