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Trim refinishing confusion

Posted by skiman29 (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 25, 13 at 18:10

Hi Everyone,

Long-time user of info here, first-time poster.

I live in a 1913 bungalow that has Doug fir trim throughout.

I've just finished stripping the paint off of my upstairs bedroom and am perplexed on how to finish it. The hallway trim looks untouched since the home was built and I think it has a shellac finish. I rubbed a denatured alcohol soaked paper towel on some trim and started to take off the finish.

If the hallway is shellac, I'm pretty sure my bedroom trim was once shellac, as in the removal process along with the paint I removed a brown gooey substance, probably shellac.

Everyone I talk to experienced in renovation and new construction tells me to just put polyurethane down after a good sanding.

Anyone here experienced in preservation? I'm in the process of listing my home on the historic registry and would like to 'do' things that can also be 'undone' in the future, if needs be.

Would refinishing with shellac be beyond my abilities? I consider myself pretty handy around the house, with cars, etc. and like to do and try anything by myself. I just love the deep rich color of the wood trim in my hallway. If I can get that same effect in my bedroom, that would be awesome.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. If I can figure it out, I will post some pictures.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Trim refinishing confusion

Finishing with shellac takes a bit of practice, but is doable as a DIY project.

The most important part is starting with fresh shellac. That means the best way is to buy shellac flakes, denatured alcohol, and containers(I use quart Mason jars with two piece ---canning---lids) and dissolving the flakes in the alcohol.

There are also several different colors of shellac, but yours is most likely orange shellac---as opposed to blond shellac.

The concentration of shellac to the base alcohol is referred to a a cut. One pound up to three pound cuts are the average. One pound of flakes dissolved in one gallon of alcohol yields a one pound cut.

Three pound cuts are used for finishing.

One pound cuts are often used as wash or conditioning coats for staining/dying the wood.

The good---or bad, decided by the problems encountered---is that shellac never cures. A fresh coat partially dissolves the old coat---which is why the alcohol partially dissolved the hall finish.

That means adding coats can be problematic after two coats.

The other option would be standard varnish(not polyurethane varnish). It is more easily applied, can be built up if needed, and is more easily removed/repaired than poly.

RE: Trim refinishing confusion

When I refinished my fir trim I used a coat of tung oil based varnish.

RE: Trim refinishing confusion

Thanks for the input.

I just did a test area with some Formby's tung oil varnish, low gloss. I like it, but would like a more red/orange slight tint to it. Any way to tint the varnish to achieve this?

RE: Trim refinishing confusion

You can add an oil-based stain to color the varnish, or use a concentrated dye like TransTint. Beware that without spray equipment it is quite difficult to achieve an even finish with colored varnishes (polyurethane or tung), brush marks tend to be very obvious. Coloring first with an alcohol or water-based dye and then using a clear finish often is easier.

Shellac is also good, and dries much faster which means less chance for dust to embed itself into your work. For some reason it seems to be easier to get a uniform color when using a darker shellac, for me anyway. You can choose an orange, garnet or even darker shellac to achieve a vintage look. Making up your own fresh from flakes is the way to go.

RE: Trim refinishing confusion

Use real shellac.

It is not all that hard to use (just make sure you get a GOOD brush).

'badger hair' (actually hog hair) is good.

You want a reasonably thick brush so it will hold enough shellac to flow it out well.

Shellac dries VERY quickly, ad sticks to itself very well.

About the only problem you can have is 'blushing' if the humidity is high.

The correct grade of shellac (probably 'orange') is all you need.

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