Wood Clock Topcoat Questions

Savageblunder

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Next project is this Ansonia. It seems to be running ok; so it’s basically disassemble, clean, & oil. The case is a mystery. It looks to me like the finish is in good shape - but there is no topcoat on the wood. It looks to me like someone sanded off the topcoat at one point - as the finish feels natural like bare wood.

I have some experience in wood finishing. My plan is just to resand & topcoat the case with oil based spray satin polyurethane; then sand & polish as needed.

I have a few questions. We’re these tambour style clocks generally gloss or satin finish new? Next question, I use oil or water based poly, depending on what I’m doing. I have it on hand & am familiar with it. Seems like with clocks people use varnish or shellac? Is there a reason for that specifically? Different look?

thanks.
 

tracerjack

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To me, modern polys look very different from shellac or lacquer. Shellac or lacquer are preferred by most because they replicate the original finish of the clock. You may use whatever finish you like on your own clock. I personally have not found a water based poly that doesn’t leave a slightly plastic feel when compared to shellac. I’m actually planning on stripping off the poly I used on a clock, as it just feels wrong. Having used shellac several times now, I still need more experience with it, but even with my beginners application, the beauty of the finish is amazing.
 
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Uhralt

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Shellac would be my first choice too! Easy to apply and very forgiving. Dries quickly so you can apply multiple coats in a short time. If you haven't used shellac before, there is a shellac tutorium in the case restoration section (close to the top of this section).

Uhralt
 
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tracerjack

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To answer your other question, I think the finish on tambours is glossy, as I can see my reflection when I do the shellac correctly. Some prefer to tone the gloss down with fine steel wool. And some just wax the wood, so you have lots of choices.
 

Savageblunder

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Finished this little clock. Basically, stripped whatever shellac was left on it with alcohol & sandpaper; then sanded and re-applied shellac & wax to the case.

I used Zinser Amber Shellac & the stuff was terrible. Never used it before & will never used it again. It was sticky and dried with blotchy sheen. Even where it looked sort of OK - I still didn’t like the look of it. Just did not look nearly as well done as oil based poly.

2nd coat with equal volume of alcohol & same thing. I don’t know if it was old or this stuff is just garbage. Tried applying it with nylon brush and cotton cloth. Same result. Can goes right in garbage. Supposedly this stuff doesn’t age well, but since it has no date on it you don’t know how old it is when you buy it. I saw this was headed to frustration land...

So, ended up sanding the shellac way back with 600 grit & 0000 steel wool. Seemed to take forever - blotches didn’t want to go away & only after 2 coats. Seemed to always be kinda sticky... Waited about 3 hours at room temp. After I got a pretty equal sheen; waxed it with Johnson’s. Polished bezel, cleaned movement, replaced some stripped screws inside, & re-assembled. Movement was very clean. So just cleaned & oiled it without stripping. Used Brake Clean & Castrol 5w30 synthetic.

I don’t know if I got an old can of shellac or the “amber” stuff is just bad. It got sticky very fast - even after cutting it with alcohol. I’m used to working with water or oil poly and Danish oil with no issues.

Found this marking in the back door of case:

C7E3B85E-E7D0-4734-A5E3-B590D53CC562.jpeg

Clock keeps very good time. Tic Tock & gong seem loud compared to metal Ansonia. Maybe that’s just because of wood case? Was just as loud when I got it - so nothing I did.
 

John Arrowood

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Has anyone used this old finish recipe? 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 turpentine, and 1/3 vinegar; could have been something other than vinegar since I haven't thought of it in many years. Rub on the surface then wipe off what was not absorbed thoroughly. Repeat this process every day for a week, every week for a month, every month for a year and once a year forever after. There is another description of the linseed finish in George Grotz's book "The furniture doctor", Doubleday, 1962.
 

tracerjack

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Looks very nice in the photo. Congrats for hanging in there. Shellac does take some getting used to, but it dries super fast, so something was wrong with yours if it stayed sticky. If you ever decide to try again, use the shellac flakes.
 

Savageblunder

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I did read that. Thank you. I was all ready to go with the shellac. Like I said, I’ve worked with paint / stain / drying oils / poly on various antiques before. I’m not a pro, but I end up getting good results.

This shellac must have been bad. It dried almost immediately and just remained sticky.i will never use it again, simply because it has no date on the can and it goes bad as it ages. Plus, I loathe anything sticky. Mixing my own is a rabbit hole I don’t wanna go down because I can simply buy premixed topcoats that perform well and look good if tweaked.

But the clock turned out really nice. The sanded shellac + wax finish doesn’t look plasticky, shiny, or “new”.
 

Kevin W.

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Shellac is a great finish, you can apply it over and over. Mixing it yourself is better than buying pre mixed.I buy the flakes and mix my own when needed.
 

Bruce Alexander

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Yeah, I don't buy pre-mixed Shellac. You should stay away from it. As you point out, you don't know how long it has been sitting on a shelf.

It's a simple matter to weigh out what you need and add the appropriate amount alcohol to get the "Pound Cut" you need for your application. Slap a date on it and dispose of it after six months. It does dry fast, but it's not sticky/tacky for very long.

I've ordered from this company, and have been happy with their products but there are probably many to choose from: <!--45-->With Shellac, it is all about the Finish

If in doubt, you should place a drop or two on glass to see how long it takes to dry to a hard surface. If it hasn't hardened after an hour, throw it out and mix up a fresh batch.

Sounds like you're happy with the outcome you've achieved. I think it may have been mentioned that 4-0 Steel Wool will tone down the gloss of a newly applied finish fairly well too.
 
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Uhralt

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I wouldn't use the canned shellac undiluted. I thin it with ethanol 50:50 and use a cotton ball coated with a piece of white t-shirt or similar to put it on in thin layers. A sticky shellac is likely due to too much water getting into the mix. It is important to use fresh ethanol for dilution, not some that has been in the shop for a long time and the container opened and closed multiple times. Don't use rubbing alcohol (isopropanol), it often contains only 70% isopropanol and 30% water. It will take forever for the shellac to dry completely.

Uhralt
 
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fbicknel

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I wouldn't use the canned shellac undiluted. I thin it with ethanol 50:50 and use a cotton ball coated with a piece of white t-shirt or similar to put it on in thin layers. A sticky shellac is likely due to too much water getting into the mix. It is important to use fresh ethanol for dilution, not some that has been in the shop for a long time and the container opened and closed multiple times. Don't use rubbing alcohol (isopropanol), it often contains only 70% isopropanol and 30% water. It will take forever for the shellac to dry completely.

Uhralt
I prefer the flakes over canned (though I have to admit never having tried the latter).

My preferred mix is to make about a pint of 4lb stock, then dilute that 1:2 stock : DNA -- or DAA apparently elsewhere in the world -- to make a 1lb cut for use as needed. Some nice older Australian gentleman taught me how on YouTube. :)
 
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wspohn

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One alternative I have experimented with is tung oil. You strip the original distressed shellac finish (very quick with fine steel wool and alcohol) and apply a couple of coats of the oil. It doesn't come up as high gloss as modern finishes and approximates a non French polished shellac. The similar Danish oil is just tung oil plus varnish but I don't like the gloss as much. One caveat - tung is no good on wear surfaces like table tops but then clock cases aren't that.
 

ezed55ontime

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Yes, I only use shellac for beautiful results. After several coats, using a soft cloth I will finish using OOOO steel wool. I let the shellac set up first for about 3-4 days. I'll then use a quality Mahogany paste wax of several coats.. Use the wax instructions for application, and buffing beauty. Results...Incredible!
 

fbicknel

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I have mixed up both blonde and garnet shellac and used them both. I can't really decide which I like better. I used the garnet where I thought I might like to add a shade darker result, but truth be told I'm not sure I can tell much difference after about 4-5 coats.

The exception to that is if the wood is very light and unfinished at start, in which case you do see a difference. It is subtle, though.

Anyone have any experience with garnet shellac and where to use it effectively?
 

Robbie Pridgen

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I have mixed up both blonde and garnet shellac and used them both. I can't really decide which I like better. I used the garnet where I thought I might like to add a shade darker result, but truth be told I'm not sure I can tell much difference after about 4-5 coats.

The exception to that is if the wood is very light and unfinished at start, in which case you do see a difference. It is subtle, though.

Anyone have any experience with garnet shellac and where to use it effectively?
I have mixed up both blonde and garnet shellac and used them both. I can't really decide which I like better. I used the garnet where I thought I might like to add a shade darker result, but truth be told I'm not sure I can tell much difference after about 4-5 coats.

The exception to that is if the wood is very light and unfinished at start, in which case you do see a difference. It is subtle, though.

Anyone have any experience with garnet shellac and where to use it effectively?
I haven’t used this particular finish in my line of work or any of my woodworking hobbies. Whenever I try any new finish I ALWAYS make one or more test samples before working on the actual piece to ensure success and prevent possible stripping and refinishing. In my trade this can become quite costly! Also, I closely follow manufacturers instructions. Hope this helps. Good luck! Robbie
 

Robbie Pridgen

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I haven’t used this particular finish in my line of work or any of my woodworking hobbies. Whenever I try any new finish I ALWAYS make one or more test samples before working on the actual piece to ensure success and prevent possible stripping and refinishing. In my trade this can become quite costly! Also, I closely follow manufacturers instructions. Hope this helps. Good luck! Robbie
Also ... a link to shellacshack was posted previously which includes a very informative book to download The Project Gutenberg eBook of French Polishing and Enamelling, by Richard Bitmead
 

MikeDeB

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I have done both canned and flake shellac. I never use the canned without thinning, usually to about a 2 pound cut or just under. Before the shellac I apply 3 to 5 coats of Zinser Seal Coat thinned to a 1 pound cut. The Seal Coat is nothing more than dewaxed shellac. I only use a natural bristle brush; synthetic bristle brushes don't work as well. I've also rubbed shellac (thinned of course) with great results. Also, before buying canned shellac, decode the lot number on the can lid to make sure it's not too old. If it's more than 6 to 8 months old, don't buy. YMMV
 

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