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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

shellac for a maple neck finish?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by appar111, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    I'm thinking of doing shellac for a finish on a maple neck & fretboard.

    I'd like to use amber shellac, but since it's maple and I don't want it blotchy, should I use non-amber shellac for the first coat, and then use amber shellac for subsequent coats?

    How many coats are needed for an adequate finish? I do realize that alcohol will definitely affect the finish, but I'm ok with that since I don't plan on spilling beers, etc. on the neck. :)

    Also, how tricky is it going to be to use a brush or soft cloth to apply it on the fretboard?
     

  2. tonewoods

    tonewoods Former Member

    Age:
    66
    Jun 23, 2007
    Orcas Island, Washington
    My favorite finish for a neck, bar none...

    Nah, just go for it with the amber....
    It's not all that difficult to get it even in color...

    I dunno...
    A dozen??
    I like to French polish....

    Just French polish right over the frets, and clean up the frets later when you dress them...
    Check out the Blackguard Book for numerous pics of lacquer build-up on the sides of the frets, so that's how they did it as well back in the day...

    Keep in mind that I'm building relics, and that I really like the way that shellac will accept aging...
    It probably wears a lot quicker than lacquer...

    I just like the idea that my hands are flying over bug residue... ;)
     

  3. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    Bug residue rules :)

    The guitar that this neck will be going on to already looks like an old barn (worn alder, what's left of a paper-thin black lacquer finish, etc.), so I want something the yellows and ages/relics nice.

    What shellac are you using? Flakes, or Zinsser Bullseye Amber Shellac?
     

  4. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

    955
    Aug 11, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    Shellac is great stuff. I use it a lot as a washcoat under lacquer for guitars and drums, as well as the interior drum finish. I've used it for full finishes, french polishing, and even the birch trim on the inside of the picture window on the front of my house. It will go over or under anything, dries fast, and is totally non-toxic when cured (however, just thinking about the source of the product might make some people puke!).

    The only caveat I have applying it to a neck is that, if you are using Bullseye, which is perfectly good shellac, you might want to let the shellac cure for a couple of weeks if building multiple coats, because it CAN get sticky-feeling when new. After awhile, shellac dries REALLY hard.

    I use Bullseye all the time, mixing the Clear and Amber versions for whatever tint I want. However, for a neck, in order to expedite the curing, you might want to go for fresh, blond, dewaxed shellac flakes. Mix (and strain) it yourself, mixing only the amount you need. You can tint it with alcohol-based dyes if you'd like. Fresh shellac cures fast and hard very quickly, and if you are going to French it on, it is THE best way to go, as the build is pretty quick.
     

  5. tonewoods

    tonewoods Former Member

    Age:
    66
    Jun 23, 2007
    Orcas Island, Washington
    I got some flakes off (I think) e%$y...
    They are pretty dark, but the finish is pretty Fender-esque, and fairly light in color...

    Mix with Everclear (great stuff!!), and apply with a soft cloth backed with a large wool ball....
    Lots of fun, really...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

  6. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    thanks for the advice! The fresh flakes are expensive though--- Woodcraft sells a big bag of them for $22 a bag. There's gotta be a place that has them for less than that.
     

  7. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    If I'm only doing a few coats--- enough to seal the wood but still feel like bare wood, how long should I allow the Bullseye to cure?

    Would a few coats (2-3) be adequate to seal the wood?
     

  8. tonewoods

    tonewoods Former Member

    Age:
    66
    Jun 23, 2007
    Orcas Island, Washington

    Here's some...
     

  9. maryjane

    maryjane Tele-Afflicted

    imho, when tinting; always clear coat first with any wood, because there is always a chance of some areas soaking up more color than others, goes for maple and mahog too.
    a clear primary coat will prevent that from happening.
    just my .000002cents
     

  10. Can shellac be wet sanded and buffed with compound like lacquer? Say you use the Zinsser shellac in a can (applied with a brush), how do you polish it and what do you use?

    tbof
     

  11. (From the Zinsser website:)

    Non-toxic/hypoallergenic – Dry shellac is certified by the Food and Drug Administration as a protective glaze for candy and pharmaceuticals.

    :eek:
     

  12. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

    955
    Aug 11, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    In response to the last few posts:

    2-3 coats of Bullseye will seal the wood fairly well, but it WILL wear through over time. You can always wipe on more if you want. Shellac is really thin in texture and forms equally thin coats.

    You CAN wet-sand and buff shellac if you build up LOTS of coats. However, the more traditional method of high-luster/gloss finishing with shellac is hand-applied French Polishing, which is an acquired skill and art. Basically, you build up the finish and gloss in a single, consolidated, yet multi-faceted operation. Shellac would be easy to buff through. It ALL must be done by hand.

    Using a shellac washcoat (2lb. cut) BEFORE staining wood, especially maple, will prevent the blotchiness that often occurs. The wood still absorbs the stain, but the shellac sealer prevents over-absorption in more porous areas.

    Yes, as I said, cured shellac is totally non-toxic. As far as the approved FDA use is concerned, I wouldn't get skeeved-out by it's origin, as it is so far removed. Believe me, most of us put LOTS worse in our mouths (willingly, no less) every single day. :eek:
     

  13. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

    Admin Post
    +1,000
     

  14. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    It sounds like it would be a real bear to apply a shellac finish in a decent manner on a maple fretboard.

    Ideally, I'd like to just be able to swing by the hardware store, pick up some Bullseye Amber Shellac, some Natural Shellac and some denatured alcohol. Then I could just wrap a soft cotton t-shirt scrap around some cotton balls, dip it in some thinned down Bullseye and buff it into the wood in a tight circular motion.

    Would this work, or do I have to buy the flakes, learn the artform, etc.? I think I'd rather forego that whole process if it's more difficult than it's worth, and either do a few spray coats of Minwax satin nitro, or an old shop rag and some Tru-Oil.

    I'd just rather keep the finish natural, thin, and something that gets a great slight vintage tint right out of the gate that deepens with age. I was just hoping that would also be something easy to apply.
     

  15. tonewoods

    tonewoods Former Member

    Age:
    66
    Jun 23, 2007
    Orcas Island, Washington
    Why?
    Just go between the frets, and don't worry about cleaning up the frets. That all happens when you dress the frets, and it all comes out fine...

    And don't be intimidated by the process of French polishing, especially when it comes to a Fender style neck....
    And especially if you're gonna age it a bit...

    It's not a guitar or grand piano.... ;)

    Here's a great read on the subject...

    And another...
     

  16. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

    955
    Aug 11, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    Well, you kind of have the first part of French Polishing, called "Padding", down with the cotton "rubber", and that is, in fact how you put on the first couple of coats. You can stop there and after they are dry, rub lightly with a little 4/0 steel wool to smooth it and be done with it. If you need it again down the road, do it again. No big deal. If you are just loking to seal against the elements and handling, then this is OK. If you are looking for a sheen that will last for awhile, shellac isn't the answer. Then you need to go with lacquer.
     

  17. Thanks for all that information, jrfrond.

    All I know about shellac is that I have a strat neck (from Musikraft) that is finished in shellac. It's very soft and fast, almost feels like bare wood with no finish, not sticky at all. My most amazing and prefered neck in my collection. I'm in the process of building a Tele and will most certainly buy another neck with a shellac finish (also from musikraft). It's good to know I can continue building up the finish with tinted shellac.

    Thanks,
    tbof
     

  18. appar111

    appar111 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    42
    Mar 8, 2006
    Ohio
    It sounds like if I used that method for the first couple coats and just want to seal the wood (i.e. have it still look almost bare, with no "sheen") then I'm good. Just a couple coats of shellac applied in that manner will still amber with age, right? If I start with Bullseye Amber, I'll be that much further ahead. I'll still do the first coat with the natural/clear Bullseye to be safe against blotching.

    It's all the other stuff to build up a super deep, rich finish that I just know I don't have the skills developed for. This will be a pretty nice neck, and I don't want to "learn" on it, so I'll just go with a couple coats using the cotton rubber method, followed up w/ 0000 steel wool.

    I'll report after I've done some testing on some wood scraps.

    thanks for the advice!
     

  19. Rob52

    Rob52 Tele-Holic

    Here's a pic of some cheap white colored Radiata pine (about as white as maple) with 3 coats of amber shellac, just to give an adea of the degree of tint.
    While I do French Polish, this was just wiped on, which is a method that is easy and works well, if you're worried about the "art" aspect of French Polishing.
    Make a pad of soft lint free cotton, dip in shellac, wipe in an even strait line, one direction. Wait a few minutes for that coat to touch dry and repeat. You might not get a perfectly smooth finish, but after you've built up a few coats and have let it dry for a few days you can level any sports just the same as you would laquer. Give one (or more) light coat after leveling and when totaly dry, say in a couple of weeks, hand polish. Shellac wears beautifully, lasts well and can be recoated easily. Vintage Martins, Gibsons, etcetera, are finished in the stuff.
     

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  20. schoolie

    schoolie Tele-Holic

    565
    Apr 21, 2008
    Portland, OR
    I bought my shellac flakes from http://www.shellac.net. I just bought the sampler bags which go for like $7. I mixed two parts amber and one part garnet in my concoction, and I rely like the results. The only problem was that this allparts neck had some kind of weird sealer applied so the shellac sent on splotchy. I diluted with some alcohol to maybe 1/2 pound cut and got much better results. When I was tired of waiting, I put on a thin top coat of wipe on poly.
     

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