Alternates to Shellac

Swanicyouth

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Hi. This is a Gilbert clock just as I found it. It’s been poorly refinished with polyurethane (I think). I was able to Citrus Strip it all off down to bare wood.

I know shellac seems the favorite top coat to use. I used it once & loathe it. Maybe it was old, but I bought it at hardware store big box & it was sticky, gross, & wouldn’t lay flat. Then I had to re-strip it all off. That was on another clock & ended up using linseed oil on that.

I’m pretty decent at finishing wood. I can get very good finishes with oil poly. I’d rather not use that for this clock. I don’t want to go through the shellac headache again, or spend the cash on the shellac beads you dissolve in alcohol yourself and have it not work out. I’d rather use poly & do a quality job worse case.

I’m wondering what other finishes people have commonly used. I’m familiar with lacquer, tung, Danish oil, linseed, wax, etc.. I would use linseed, but was looking for something that may darken the would a bit & not sure if linseed w/ oil stain is even compatible.

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S_Owsley

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I think your choices are shellac or lacquer. I know for store bought wet shellac, it should have an expiry date stamped on it for freshness. If old, then it will act like you described in your post above. That - or you didn't dilute the liquid from the can with additional denatured alcohol. I suggest you do some research and buy flake shellac and denatured alcohol if you go that route. As for lacquer, I'm not an expert but it is generally a spray on application. Why not look up a recipe for "French Polish"? That would keep you busy for a while and should give a good result. (I haven't worked with Shellac in years, but I really liked the results I got.)

One nice thing about shellac is that it can easily be hand rubbed to give the desired balance of matte/gloss. I notice originally the clock looks like it was stained a dark mahogany color?
 
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shutterbug

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Shellac can be touched up with alcohol too. I've seen some really nice finishes with wax too though.
Here's a recommendation from a recent discussion in the repair forum.
 

MuseChaser

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I know it's heresy in terms of restoring valuable (or not-so-valuable) clocks especially if authenticity is desired, but "Danish Oil," which is really pretty much just thinned varnish, is something I've used for years while building and finishing speaker cabinets and on some interior surfaces on a sailboat. It's extremely versatile, and pretty much totally goof-proof, requiring virtually no skill at all to get a nice finish.. and the finish can be anything from a lustrous matte finish to a high deep gloss... whatever you want. I've used it on a couple low-dollar clocks with cases in pretty bad condition, and it looks beautiful.

Technique? Sand with 400 or 600 grit if the original finish is really, really rough, then steel wool. Wipe down with mineral spirits. Rub a coat of Danish oil on with a cotton rag, let sit for five minutes or so, then rub/buff it dry with a different clean cotton rag. Repeat once or twice a day until you get the finish you're looking for. Each subsequent coat gets a slight bit darker, a slight bit smoother, and a bit glossier and deeper. You can knock down the gloss after your final coat with 0000 steel wool and a final wipe with mineral spirits if you want.

You can NOT mess it up, there's no chance of bubbles, brush strokes, embedded bristles, nothing. If you let it dry too long before the drying/buffing wipe and it's too sticky to buff w/ a cloth, just put on some more, THEN dry/buff.

I used that technique on this clock. Obviously, I didn't bother to fill any gouges, nor address worn edges or severe cracks in the original finish.... just sanded/wooled and put on four coats over three days.

Mystery Clock
 

Swanicyouth

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Ok. Thanks for all the advice. I’ve used Danish oil & like it too. But dumb me is going to go with shellac again. My previous shellac experience was from big box - they dont have expiration dates there - so who knows how old.

I’m ordering flakes from Amazon. Decided to go this route because I want to darken it up a bit & I can get garnet flakes. I’ve watched videos of shellac - the stuff I had must have just been garbage
 

shutterbug

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Shellac likes to be warm when applied, and multiple light coats work best.
 
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roughbarked

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Ok. Thanks for all the advice. I’ve used Danish oil & like it too. But dumb me is going to go with shellac again. My previous shellac experience was from big box - they dont have expiration dates there - so who knows how old.

I’m ordering flakes from Amazon. Decided to go this route because I want to darken it up a bit & I can get garnet flakes. I’ve watched videos of shellac - the stuff I had must have just been garbage
I haven't any idea of the half life of shellac but I am sure it is far longer than you think.
 

Swanicyouth

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Ok, when with shellac. Got the flakes & fuel alcohol. The can stuff is garbage. Strip, Wet sand, polish, wax. Came out gear.

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Bruce Alexander

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I actually enjoy working with fresh shellac. If it is the original finish I'll go with nothing else other than a wax top coat. It can give a fantastic finish. Like anything else, it requires some practice and experience. I've not tried Danish Oil before but it sounds good. I agree that one should avoid the pre-mixed, canned Shellac. Even if it is fresh, you'll probably never use a quart of it before it ages out of its useful date. The flakes and denatured alcohol you can mix up when needed in whatever pound cut you want to work with. It's not as durable as some of the more recent finishes (lacquer included) but it's usually easier to repair/restore.

Glad you came out with some good results Die. It's good to have Shellac Flakes in your shop and some experience working with it under your belt. There are some Shellac sticky threads at the top of this Forum. Be sure to check them out when you have some free time.
 

Swanicyouth

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Thanks. I learned way too much about shellac and old lacquer finishes. Subsequent to this I did a project that was originally lacquer I thought was shellac. I learned alcohol/shellac will make a mess out of lacquer & how to tell the difference.

Also, came up with a polishing method other than French polish that gets same results - but faster
 
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JT88

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Thanks. I learned way too much about shellac and old lacquer finishes. Subsequent to this I did a project that was originally lacquer I thought was shellac. I learned alcohol/shellac will make a mess out of lacquer & how to tell the difference.

Also, came up with a polishing method other than French polish that gets same results - but faster
Can you share your findings? And your discovered technique?
 

skruft

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Here is a wonderful technique taught me by a gunstock maker and restorer. If you have a solid gunstock that has been sanded and still has some small dings that will not come out by steaming, put in a drop of shellac and immediately sand around it lightly with fine paper, repeating as necessary. The dust from sanding will combine with the shellac ultimately fill the ding to the surface. I have done it with gunstocks and suspect it could work anywhere else as appropriate.
 
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bikerclockguy

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Here is a wonderful technique taught me by a gunstock maker and restorer. If you have a solid gunstock that has been sanded and still has some small dings that will not come out by steaming, put in a drop of shellac and immediately sand around it lightly with fine paper, repeating as necessary. The dust from sanding will combine with the shellac ultimately fill the ding to the surface. I have done it with gunstocks and suspect it could work anywhere else as appropriate.
Would that have been NoRemf on rimfire.com? I’ve done a little drop filling, but it definitely takes patience!
 

skruft

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A different person. Yes, it does take a long time.
 

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