Shellac questions, now

ks_toolgirlJuly 3, 2011

This is regarding the floor in my previous post, called "Den" in inspection report - we usually call it the Middle Room, as PO's chopping up 1st floor basically turned it into a big hallway.

Since the finish on floor seems to be shellac, I'd like to apply another coat. Is there any reason why this wouldn't be a good idea? It's a very dark finish - almost a walnut shade where it's not worn off as much. If I match the dark shade, will I lose the foot traffic path completely? I like it to show - it's a reminder of all the things that make an old house feel good to be in, if that makes sense. If I don't match the old finish closely, will it look like a Calico? (Fine for a cat - half black, half orange.. Not a fir floor tho).

I was browsing the wood finish section at the store, drooling like a saint bernard browsing the meat counter - until I noticed the price of shellac! (I became more like a cocker spaniel I once knew with a nervous bladder!). I didn't leave a puddle on the floor, but I did leave that store to do a little more thinking. (About getting a part-time job @ Dairy Queen, & how many hours would I have to work to pay for enough shellac to do 2 rooms...).

So I'm curious, did price of shellac go up because it became less popular? Or did it become less popular because it was expensive & cheaper alternatives were available? Is there a beetle shortage?

Now, the shameful part... Before I knew better - still beating myself up over this - I completely stripped the built-in cabinet in this room. Something HAD to be done, 4 or 5 sloppy layers of paint, globs & drips - but the original finish was there. If I could go back... But you can't un-sand something. That was years ago, & it's still un-finished. Staring at me, accusingly, every day. Would the shellac I use on the floor be the best thing to use on this also? Would the built-in always match the floor finish? I don't think this did - it wasn't nearly as dark as the floor. The inside of doors have a reddish-orange finish - they weren't painted so I left them alone. The only intelligent decision I made at the time.

Sorry, as usual I've posted a novel, lol. I have so many questions, this isn't even all of them. (I have a ton of question about shellac flakes vs premixed cans, alone!). I'll stop for now, & ask other questions later.

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If you just add a coat of shellac, you won't darken the worn areas your shellac in flake form--it is probably cheaper that way online. I need to price some myself.

For the cabinet, it should match the woodwork...go by the inside of the doors and match that...with some stain, then shellac over it.

Here is a link I found...searching 'shellac flakes'.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 4:35AM
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Thanks, colombusguy! I had considered purchasing online, but hadn't looked for it yet. I checked the link, that's really cool.

I was concerned about buying online, only because it seems like color matching could be tricky - as viewed on one monitor, another, or phone. :-) I did finally realize that there are 2 applications on this floor. The VERY dark (& thick) layer of almost black shellac was applied over a lighter more-red tint. Both are worn away from the center, but 1 clue was the "pits & gouges" in even the worn areas are the dark color. Here's an example, see the rather large (& deep) dark pit?

Oh, yeah... What's that light spot? Proof that shellac takes more time to dry than I thought. I'd have sworn it WAS dry, there.. Supported my weight on my hand so I could reach just a bit more floor with cloth without crawling on my floor-abused knees again, and...

...I "veneered myself". Picture subtitle, "Um, can anyone identify this wood species?".

The worst part, seriously, is the quarter-size chunk of floor & finish gone. I was devastated. I crack jokes at gosh-all, but this raw spot still has me heart-sick. One thing to blend a worn finish over another, but this is different.
So, now I'm thinking about removing more of the dark layer & matching the inside of cupboard doors as best I can, (another clue) - & applying it to the floor as well. (Maybe "drag" some of the black into bald spot first.. I'm tempted to leave the dings & divet's dark anyway, for character & to not have it look

like I'm trying to make it look new & hide the symptoms of age.

It certainly seems flake is the way to go, or you have a choice of - what, 3 shades? More affordable, too, which is a factor. Right now, more than usual. Surprise fiasco's... watch out. They travel in packs - especially in an old house. (Getting excited about finally starting that project you've wanted to do for years? A sure sign that something is getting ready to gush or sneaky-leak water, explode, or crack, unexpectedly). Yet, we love them - in a way our "fancy new house" friends & family will never feel about their temporary buildings.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 10:49PM
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I'm going to check out shellac at my local Lowes, but I'm thinking flakes for my sills...which will probably mean the online site.

I have a can of shellac a few years old, unopened, but I read somewhere here that premixed is probably no good now due to limited shelf this true?

Ready for one thing, and another pops up--you bet! Discovered this week that the commode (original) in the basement has a slow drip where the water enters the tank--my water bill was a bit higher than usual--the REALLY good news: no shut-off valve between this line and the main house shut-off!

Unless there is some putty thing or that 'flex seal' I see on tv, I'm going to have to put in a shut-off valve. Anyone tried the two alternatives? Since I suck at soldering, would compression fittings work to install the new valve?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 2:20AM
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Fori is not pleased

I've been looking into shellac too for some doors and trim and it seems that it does have a limited shelf life if premixed. But I don't actually KNOW anything. :)

Lee Valley Tools has a lot of shellacking supplies. Maybe you have one local (I don't).

Now, I think that dark pit is just part of the character of the floor that makes it so cool. And that light handprint spot? That too. Why shouldn't YOU be allowed to add some character to the floor too? Don't beat yourself up about it. It's just extra charm. Seriously. :)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 12:41PM
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"I have a can of shellac a few years old, unopened, but I read somewhere here that premixed is probably no good now due to limited shelf this true? "

Iyt starts to polymerize once dissolved and will not longer harden correctly but remains thick and sticky.

Test pre-mixed shellac on a surface before using.

All you need is a single bad can to mess up a job.

The flakes last a lot longer, but still not indefinitely.

After dissolving make sure it wil harden correctly.

I usually paint it on a piece of glass and check hardening time.

It is eaily remove dwith some denatured alcohol or with a single edge razor blade so the glass can be used over and over.
My piece is about 9 x 11 inches and 1/2 inch thick.
I also use it with wet or dry paper as a sharpening stone.

Water is used to 'stick' the paper to the glass, and then more water on the front of the paper to touch up chisels.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 2:26PM
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Not sure if you are still working on this or not, but after reading your post, I thought I'd try shellac on my new box beams. I just picked up a can of Zinsser at the local big box, in case I didn't like it, I didn't want a bunch of flakes sitting around (shellac flakes, that is!).

I used it over my 'custom' old house stain and it looks amazing! I'm so impressed with how easy it was to use. I set up my saw horses outside in the sun and the stuff was immediately dry. I waited an hour and recoated. The beams look just like the original woodwork that still has a bit of a sheen to it, so now I feel comfortable using it on the existing woodwork. I was even able to stain over a damaged spot, and re-shellac, and the stain held on over the new shellac- can't tell the difference.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 10:12AM
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"I didn't want a bunch of flakes sitting around"

So throw them out after the job is finished.

You can also purchase smaller quantities to try and match you needs.

It is NOT hazardous waste or anything (there is even food grade shellac that is edible).

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Colombusguy, sorry to hear about your leak problem - did you get it resolved? I couldn't answer your question, sorry. My plumbing knowledge goes a bit beyond "jiggle the handle", but not much. :-)

Fori, thank you... My intent is to leave the dark in the depressed areas, and remove a little bit from edges & corners where it's so thick that the lighter layer doesn't show at all. Just a little bit, though.

Thanks, Brickeyee - I like the glass pane suggestion. Plenty of picture frames here that I haven't gotten around to using, I could use one for this, instead.
I've been derailed by weather - & kids, lol. Too hot to run the house fan, or even open windows, for ventilation. No kidding - it's 108.6 degrees, right now!!! Not going to be much - if any - better any time soon. We're in an "excessive heat warning" through next Friday. (And stupid city made us drain our inflatable 8' diameter kiddie pool? The boys won't be outside for a while!).
Oldhousegal, that's also why I couldn't shellac anything outside (not an issue regarding floor, tho, lol). Much hotter, &... Hmm.. Chemical combustion or heat stroke, which would happen first? ;-)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 6:28PM
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