Removing shellac from bamboo countertop?

carlab44August 14, 2011

We've found some bamboo countertops at a salvage yard that I'd love to use in our basement bar. We went to look at it today and it has 1/4" of shellac over the top of it which we really don't want. The people at the salvage yard said it could be removed, but it would be a very difficult process. They actually suggested we go to a hardwood place down the way and purchase some new bamboo plywood, but I'd rather use salvage material.

My husband thinks I'm crazy, but I'm not ready to give up on the idea just yet. I'm a beginner (but not novice) when it comes to refinishing and working with wood. Would you steer me away from trying to remove the shellac? The piece I'd be working with is about 28"x96".

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HandyMac

Shellac is dissolved with alcohol---any kind. Seriously, rubbing, denatured, or vodka.

However, I have never seen or heard of a shellac finish 1/4" thick. And dissolving that much would be prohibitively expensive using alcohol. In the many hundreds of dollars.

What might be doable is finding a cabinet/countertop fabrication shop with a wide belt sander and ask how much they would charge top sand off the finish.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 7:45PM
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brickeyee

"We went to look at it today and it has 1/4" of shellac over the top of it which we really don't want. "

It is NOT shellac if it is 1/4 inch thick.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 7:54PM
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carlab44

Do you know what it could be if not shellac? That's just what the guys at the salvage yard told me it was. We do have a furniture refinishing place nearby that I could call to see if they could take it off. But I"m sure they'll need to know what it is before being able to provide a quote.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:00PM
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bobismyuncle

The typical finish that thick is pour on epoxy. I've never tried to strip it, but I've heard the typical strippers won't work on it.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:47PM
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mike_kaiser_gw

I'd find it hard to believe that anyone would put a 1/4" of shellac on a countertop; actually I don't even know if you could. I'd be more inclined to think epoxy. But you can try a little alcohol and see what happens.

In either case and as previously suggested, a wide belt sander would be your best choice.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 4:59AM
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Jon1270

A lot of people who don't know about wood finishing misuse the terminology. They say "shellac" or "lacquer" or "varnish," when all then know is that there's some clear plasticy stuff on there.

As the last couple of comments have suggested, this is almost certainly an epoxy. Removing it without damaging the bamboo is going to be a big project. Do you love this counter enough to take on a large project in order to salvage it, or are you looking for easy? This won't be easy.

If you decide to attempt removal, you might be able to soften it with a heat gun and scrape most of it away. Do this outdoors, with a fan blowing fumes away from you.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 5:43AM
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brickeyee

MEK will dissolve cured epoxy, but it is relatively nasty stuff.

We used warmed MEK to remove epoxy potting from electronics.

If you waited to long it would dissolve the epoxy in the printed circuit boards.

It is unlikely to be cost effective or possible in a home environment.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 12:34PM
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carlab44

Thanks everyone for your responses. This sounds like a greater level of effort that what I am wanting. Guess I'll keep looking, but thank you again for all the great information.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 12:41PM
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bobismyuncle

Funny, most people try to impress me by saying "polyurethane."

> A lot of people who don't know about wood finishing misuse the terminology. They say "shellac" or "lacquer" or "varnish," when all then know is that there's some clear plasticy stuff on there.
' '
But they certainly aren't helped by all the misleading and fictitious labeling.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 7:53PM
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Jon1270

they certainly aren't helped by all the misleading and fictitious labeling.

Yeah, that too.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 6:06AM
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