How to smooth out shellac?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by etype, Jan 19, 2020.

  1. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    I posted this body and a few questions months ago. Took a while but I settled on this method.

    1. Prep. 220 grit, water to raise grain, 220 grit, water to raise grain, 220 grit again.
    1. Two coats of 1/2 # cut super blonde dewaxed shellac.
    2. Two coats of Aqua Coat clear grain filler, sand back to wood. First sand back with 220 grit, the second time I sanded with 320. I wasn't as worries about getting all the way back to wood the first time. After the second time, I realized the Aqua Coat sands faster than the wood. I did not do a third coat as I figured I had more shellac to come and a tiny bit of grain evident in the finish is ok.
    3. 16 more coats of 1/2# cut (equivalent of 4 coats of 1# cut) with a rubber (shellac pad). I did use a grey Scotch Brite pad to smooth it between several of the coats.

    I might want to finish it off with Arm-R-Seal, or maybe just stop with shellac to see how it ages (it is easily fixed anyway).

    It is still a bit rough. On my trial (and error) board, I sanded dry with 600 grit and it worked well. However, that board is flat... and Jazzmaster is not.

    I have seen the following suggestions:

    "Internet Expert" A. Mix shellac with about 25% mineral oil. Add two more coats and use Naptha to wipe off the oil as it rises out of the drying shellac.

    "Internet Expert" B. Just add a few drops of olive oil to the pad. Wipe with Naptha when done.

    "Internet Expert" C. Wet sand with 600 grit, using mineral oil for the wet. Wipe down with Naptha when done.

    "Internet Expert" D. Don't use any oil if you might add an additional top coat as the oil will keep it from sticking (even an oil-based urethane like Arm-R-Seal).

    "Internet Expert" E. Dry sand with 600 grit, jut stay away from edges.

    I know I can try these on my sample board, but I'd like to narrow it down to 1-2 things to try.

    And the obligatory pics:

    Before (the body is a 3lb 9 oz Warmoth chambered swamp ash):
    [​IMG]

    With shellac, Aqua Coat, and more shellac.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Speedy454

    Speedy454 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    566
    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2013
    Location:
    Highland, IL
    How about none of the above 'Internet Expert' choices?

    Shellac is about the softest finish you could pick. Maybe not THE softest, but still...

    Depending on how rough it is and how smooth you want it, there are a couple of options.

    If it is pretty smooth already, try buffing it with a nice palm sized wad of burlap. That is not very aggressive and will give a nice satin smooth finish.

    If you have bumps and lumps, try about 1000 to 1500 grit sandpaper on a 1" to 1.5" square flat sanding block. With shellac, you will be surprised how fast even 1000 grit cuts. Use your hand and a small section of paper to very gently wipe the curves and contours. Just knock down the nubs and bumps. Then use the burlap. Then for more of a polish, buff with a cotton terrycloth or old cotton diaper.

    As for a sanding lubricant, for lacquer I generally use mineral spirits. It allows the wet/dry paper to cut very fast and prevents the paper from clogging or gumming up. It also prevents the wood from swelling up if you cut through anywhere.

    With the shellac being as soft as it is, keep pressure to a minimum. Stop often and check your progress.
     
  3. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Holic

    Age:
    64
    Posts:
    750
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    That's a beautiful ash body! If you decide to just ride with it, be prepared to deal with wear, particularly in areas where it contacts your body and clothing. Shellac is very delicate as finishes go, most luthiers use it as a seal coat before applying sunburst coloring or as a poor man's sanding sealer. As pretty as that grain is, I think I'd consider a more durable topcoat.
     
  4. Sax-son

    Sax-son Tele-Meister

    Age:
    68
    Posts:
    336
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2019
    Location:
    Three Rivers, CA
    I like shellac! I agree that you should put a topcoat on top if you want to avoid wear, but that is not something I worry about. The less finish you can get away with the better in my opinion.
     
  5. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    Thanks all! My first thought for the finish was to make it more rustic looking. I don't want to relic it, but I'd like it if it started to look a little more broken-in sooner rather than later. My fear with the shellac is that it will get sticky/gummy (mixed reviews on that online too).

    I'm planning on a maple/rosewood neck with a black pickguard. But tortoise shell might be good too. Or maybe an all maple neck with a white guard. The pickup will be a single neck pickup (Mojo Gold Foil -- coil tapped humbucker). One of these:

    https://www.mojopickups.co.uk/product/wide-range-dual-foil-humbucker-gold-foil/

    It is essentially two of these, so tapped it will be like this one.
    https://www.mojopickups.co.uk/product/n-foil/
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
  6. bender66

    bender66 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,131
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2010
    Location:
    on my bike
    I'm with you etype. Modern guitars dont wear enough, if at all. Well, very few do.

    I want something that will wear in just a couple years, color fade, etc. I like shellac for that "cheap man's sanding sealer" specifically.
     
    etype likes this.
  7. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    778
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA near New Hope PA
    The reality is that shellac is actually hard not soft...hard enough that it can shatter if you smack it and if it was put on too thick. It's not like varnish and can't be used like varnish. The primary reason that shellac isn't the best kind of finish for something that's being handled is that it's an evaporative finish that can be re-disolved by alcohol as well as other chemicals and because it's a hard surface, it can scratch easily. It has its purposes, however, and when applied properly, it can be a truly beautiful finish. I use it frequently as a barrier coat between dissimilar and/or incompatible finishes to promote adhesion and in that use, it's a very thin coat (sprayed) for that specific purpose. But I also have some furniture items finished with shellac that are amazing looking, even after many years of use.

    OP, don't put any oil "in" the shellac. It's normal to use a little on the rubber (pad) if you're doing a French polish to help insure the extremely thin coats don't catch on the pad since they flash off so quickly as you do your strokes.
     
    etype likes this.
  8. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    220
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2019
    Location:
    Moscow, TN
    Why not just coat it with lacquer? I did that and it turned out great! This is a few coats of spray on shellac followed by lacquer. No sanding between coats other than a finishing pad. Satin lacquer I might add. 4A33A571-A8C4-434A-9E19-1DB6E8352337.jpeg
     
  9. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    'Cause I'm afraid of rattle cans! BTW, the look of the strat in your avatar pic is what I am going for!!!
     
  10. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    I don't think I have it thick enough to "shatter" as it still looks pretty thin. And I am actually ok with scratches and have never spilled alcohol on any of my guitars... yet. Sweat making the forearm cut sticky is my biggest concern.
     
  11. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    And when modern guitars do show wear, it can be pretty ugly!
     
  12. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Age:
    33
    Posts:
    220
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2019
    Location:
    Moscow, TN
    Gotcha. The Strat has a poly gloss finish. I will say it has darkened a little bit over 19 years. Not much but a little.
     
  13. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    778
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA near New Hope PA
    Shellac is supposed to be a very "thin" finish. It's truly a different animal than most other finishes we use in that respect. In fact, if a heavy cut is slathered on like varnish, it's bound to look horrible and likely to crack.
     
  14. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    FYI, for those that know, as I was adding coats, it was just the last 1-2 that the shellac started to pick up some gloss, it was pretty satin before that.
     
  15. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,337
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2014
    Location:
    Dallas
    How long should I let it dry before attempting the 1,000 grit sandpaper? Some say 2 weeks, does it take that long?
     
  16. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    778
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA near New Hope PA
    If it was applied normally in very thin coats, the alcohol should be flashed off pretty darn quickly, depending on the purity of the alcohol you used to dissolve the flakes. Some alcohol has more water in it than others...the less, the better. I don't know that I'd wait two weeks, but probably at least a few days to a week "to be sure", assuming it's in normal room temperature.
     
    etype likes this.
  17. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    Age:
    62
    Posts:
    1,330
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Sauth Carolina
    I did a more traditional french polish on my Sasquire. Sand bare wood to 400 grit, one wiped coat of very thin platina grade shellac (I used PGA, 190 proof). Next day I laid down a coat of pore filler. Next day, sanded that back to 400.

    Then I started french polishing, a "wet" pass initially, then many layers with a few drops of mineral oil on the rubber/pad.

    I never had to touch it with sandpaper again...got smooth and shiny. You can put down new layers as soon as the last one is flashed dry.

    Once I felt I had enough shellac down, I let it stand for a couple of days. I wiped it down with naptha and applied two coats of wipe-on clear polyurethane.

    20181020_165023.jpg 20181020_165004.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
    etype likes this.
  18. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    778
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA near New Hope PA
    That looks really nice...but I'm curious about why the poly after all that work laying down a fine French polish? One or two applications of the shellac after the grain filler and then right to the polyurethane would likely have resulted in the same appearance. Note: this is not criticism. I'm truly interested in understanding why you chose to do what you did, that's all.
     
  19. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    Age:
    62
    Posts:
    1,330
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2018
    Location:
    Sauth Carolina
    Because I was kinda making it up as i went along. I enjoy the FP process and it kinda got away with me. I actually started it with 100% Tung oil...but I screwed it up, and used the FP as a fall-back. The poly was a last minute addition on a whim.
     
    Jim_in_PA likes this.
  20. ejphotos

    ejphotos Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    334
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I just finished applying a bunch of coats of shellac to a Tele body I'm working on. Going to the 600 on up grit sandpaper method to level it out. I'll stop when it's smooth enough for me then shine as desired.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.