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Issues with my first shellac finish, help?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by scottymc, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. scottymc

    scottymc TDPRI Member

    24
    Apr 28, 2010
    Harrisburg, PA
    Hey all, I'm working on finishing my second pinecaster body! First one I did a solid color with auto paint, this one I'm wanting to do more of a natural/ natural amber finish. I want to do as easy/ forgiving/ non-toxic a finish as possible, and from everything I read thought shellac would be a great choice. So I picked up some spray can Bullseye clear shellac.

    I love the way it's making the grain "pop," but after several coats I'm getting horrible run. I'm definitely a novice at finishing and my technique certainly needs some practice, but my first project didn't give me anywhere near this amount of trouble. I've tried sanding the runs out several times, but wind up taking off a lot of the coat by the time I get it smooth. Any thoughts on how to proceed? Am I better to just take er back to square one with some DA and start again? Jump to a wipe-on approach? Ditch shellac all together?

    Unfortunately, I don't have the equipment or budget to spend money on quality shellac flakes, which ultimately would require me to buy an HVLP spray gun and compressor big enough to run it. Knowing there are disparities in quality between what a spray can and a HVLP gun can achieve, I hoped I'd be able to get a least a decent finish out the Bullseye spray stuff. I also don't have a good set up (or honestly strong desire) to deal with super toxic finishes like nitro.

    Thanks in advance for the input everyone, ya'll are the most helpful lot anywhere on the interwebz!
     

  2. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    I sprayed a milk-painted body with shellac through a Preval because I'm cheap.

    What a mess.

    Runs, uneven, just an amateur job all around. I sanded carefully/tried again, and again, gave up, and now call the body "relic'ed." And laugh.

    Next time, I'm buying a real sprayer.

    I had great results applying shellac with a pad.
     

  3. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 9, 2015
    Seekonk, MA
    Shellac finish dissolves with alcohol. That disqualifies it for my purposes. “Hic”
     
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  4. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Don’t spray shellac. It’s terrible to spray and lousy to sand.

    French polishing, or padding, is the way to go. I posted a thread on it a while ago, describing the process. It’s not hard. It’s not fussy, it requires no spraying,you get zero runs, you only have to do minimal sanding. Below is are some shellac finished projects of mine. No spraying, all French polished. Get some blond shellac flakes. Dissolve some of them in alcohol. Make a pad of terry cloth the size of a handball. Then wrap it in a lint free cloth and start padding it on. You already have a base coat

     

  5. bender66

    bender66 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 18, 2010
    on my bike
    I'm doing a SG Jr kit as we speak using brush on shellac. Go light on the first couple coats & build up. Level as you see fit, maybe every other coat. It's pretty derp-proof. Lacquer or other after you're happy with your shellac.
    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/my-turn-how-do-i.717405/
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Also- shellac flakes are inexpensive. Making you're own de-waxed shellac is the way to go.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. scottymc

    scottymc TDPRI Member

    24
    Apr 28, 2010
    Harrisburg, PA
    Those look great!! I think that's the way I'll go with this, and will check out your thread on the process. Thanks!!
     

  7. scottymc

    scottymc TDPRI Member

    24
    Apr 28, 2010
    Harrisburg, PA
    Looks great! Have you noticed a difference between brush on vs french polish?
     

  8. Count

    Count Friend of Leo's

    The old French Polishing technique is still the best for Shellac. Very light coats put on with a pad building them up gradually, it takes time and patience. Our polishing instructor had two sayings with regard to French Polishing "when you wipe it on there should not be enough to wipe off" and "hover over it", in other words the lightest amount of pressure with the pad.
     
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  9. scottymc

    scottymc TDPRI Member

    24
    Apr 28, 2010
    Harrisburg, PA
    So I went back and read through your post, SUPER HELPFUL, thank you! (For anyone else, reference: http://www.tdpri.com/threads/an-intro-to-french-polishing-and-shellac.621494/)

    In building up the shellac, do you do light coats and let it dry for a bit? Or do you just keep wiping until it builds up? Wasn't sure if I was following correctly
     

  10. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 19, 2006
    Gilbert, AZ (PHX)
    I would not use Zinnser Bullseye premixed shellac... buy flakes and alcohol.

    You are not going to build up thick multiple sprayed coats of shellac like you could with nitro or poly.
    Shellac works well as a base coat or barrier coat under nitro lacquer.
     
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  11. bender66

    bender66 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 18, 2010
    on my bike
    Yes. Brushing, no matter how conservative you are, is a much thicker application. I've done french polishing on necks just because I like it as thin as possible there.
    [​IMG]
    I did an initial thin coat as a sealer on the SG before I went to the brush. I'm gonna let the shellac build up for my grain fill & level.

    [​IMG]
    Yes! The image of the neck above is Zinnser amber & DA. The SG is my first flake mixture. It's much better to work with & cheaper. Mix it up as you need. Both my Zinnser containers went bad before I could come close to using it all.
     

  12. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA

    It drys fast so you can just keep padding it on. I usually do it till i feel like taking a break, then come back and do it some more. After the initial "bodying " coats you don't want the pad to be too wet. I often start out with it wet enough so it moves really easily, then when it starts to stick I add some oil to the pad. You can really bear down on the pad too. It's not a fussy or delicate process in my experience. Not compared to, say spraying nitro.

    I keep the pad in a mason jar between sessions, and it starts to dry out. You eventually want the pad to just be slightly damp, but in the initial coats you really lay i on there, and you can bear down hard to level it.
    I often find that after a while the surface needs to be leveled by wet sanding with 800 grit. It just gets to where it builds up or dust gets in. You could probably fix that by using thinner shellac, but I just sand it flat.

    I've had really good luck wrapping the pad in "wonder rags," which are some kind of artificial fiber pressed into a material like paper. They are really great for french polishing

    https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=wonder+rags&tag=tdpri-20


    Before that I often used linen, which was ok but would sometimes want to shed fibers.
     

  13. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    true dat
     

  14. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    Before you abandon spraying (I happen to think shellac is very easy to spray since it's so thin it's easy to atomize finely), have you tried scraping the runs with a utility knife blade or a razor? Dan Erlewine's trick of putting cellophane tape at either end of the blade, leaving a small bit in the center exposed, is great for this because it keeps the blade just a few thousandths off of the surface for leveling drips and sags.

    Yes, French polishing is a widely accepted and even historical method, but you can't do it with the materials you already purchased, so give the rattle can another try.
     
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  15. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

    745
    Oct 28, 2015
    Kalamazoo
    Shellac is not too good for a thick finish. Usually you get the shellac just thick enough to scrape or sand down to a flat surface. Shellac is soft and feels funny when it is thick.
    I love working with shellac. After it cures for a couple of months I give it thin nitro. Nitro is harder and feels more normal where you touch the guitar.
     

  16. dkmw

    dkmw Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    63
    Mar 30, 2016
    Florida USA
    I'm very impressed by the results others get with french polishing. But I don't have the patience (I tried).

    The main thing when spraying shellac is to do light coats. It will run quickly if you try to spray heavy or wet. DNA evaporates quickly so you can lay down multiple coats in a short amount of time, almost as fast as lacquer.

    The other thing is that mixing your own is vastly superior to rattle-can shellac. Freshness is key, and you don't know how old that rattle-can stuff is. Fresh stuff dries hard and crisp - I've got one neck I sprayed with a few light coats of amber shellac to get the tint, intending to do nitro over. I never sprayed the nitro because the straight shellac just feels so good on the neck surfaces.

    My first pine body I used shellac to bring out the wood color, just like you're trying to do. I sprayed clear nitro over and I like the look. Just kind of simple and natural...
     
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  17. scottymc

    scottymc TDPRI Member

    24
    Apr 28, 2010
    Harrisburg, PA
    Ooohh no I didn't know about that trick. That might be worth a try before I have to go buy some flakes... Would you have to do this after every coat? Or after several coats when it's built up more?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018

  18. TNO

    TNO Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    NC-USA
    I've had good luck spraying fresh-mixed shellac through a preval. It works way better when its hot/low humidity. Just spray light coats, hit it lightly with steel wool between coats. Garnet is the color for a vintage tint on a Fender neck. Have had no issues with it being soft or gummy, even on a maple fretboard.

    I would like to try French polishing one day...
     

  19. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Although some experienced finishers build shellac up I don't recommend it. Shellac has little abrasion resistance and almost zero solvent resistance, so it's generally not worth trying to build it up to a lacquqer-like thickness. There's also far too much chance you'll just wipe it right back off as you go.

    To simplify things:

    1) you can remove runs and level out what you have with clean pads and denatured alcohol. DO NOT use other types - they contain too much water and can cloud the finish and raise the grain.

    2) if you don't want to keep using shellac - and honestly, I wouldn't because of the durability issues - wipe it down with alcohol until just a hint is left. You will have just sealed the grain, step one in any other finishing system (after smooth-sanding).

    And don't ever spray the stuff again, or use the spray cans just to get it on the surface - then wipe it. Next time look up all application information first -

    and no matter WHAT system you use now or in the future - practice applying ALL parts of it, including final polishing, before a drop touches your guitar. Sealers, fillers, stains, dyes, color coats, clears, toners, sanding polishing - the WHOLE thing to completion FIRST.

    Then you'll already know what's going to happen and will solve all problems ahead of time. you won't have "help I have runs" questions with coatings on your guitar - the stuff will be on wood that doesn't matter.
     
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  20. G&Lplayer

    G&Lplayer Tele-Meister

    282
    Dec 17, 2015
    Virginia
    So I tried shelac as a base and put lacquer over it on a test peice. It came out okay. Spray the guitar with shellac and it has dimples. Is there a good way to remove the dimples, sand, dna anything else.
     

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