Interested in mixing your own shellac?
Here are the basics tips on mixing shellac used for wood finishing, French polishing and other antique restoration projects.
Shellac finishes are simply shellac flakes mixed with denatured alcohol. Shellac flake suppliers can be found online, and denatured alcohol can be found at most hardware and paint stores.
Some finishers prefer different cuts (thickness or viscosity). The cut is the ratio of shellac flakes to alcohol per gallon. A 3 lb cut means 3 lbs of shellac flakes dissolved in 1 gallon of alcohol. The lighter cut is thinner and the heavier cut will be thicker.
Shellac flakes are available waxed and de-waxed. When using shellac as a sealer under paint or clear finishes, de-waxed shellac is recommended. A 2 lb cut or less is typically used as a sealer, while 2 1/2 – 3 lb cuts are used to build a shellac finish.
Mixing your own shellac is not difficult, just be sure to do it in a well ventilated area. Use a container (with a well fitted lid) slightly larger than the amount you will mix. Before using – allow to dilute for several hours, preferably overnight for larger quantities. Stirring or shaking every 30 – 60 minutes will quicken the process. Typically the shellac will settle and form a thick sludge on the bottom. When this is completely gone, your shellac is mixed.
The following mixing chart shows the most common ratios used in different quantities.
To start – select the row with the amount you want to mix (cup, pint, quart or gallon).
Then choose your preferred cut (viscosity) for that row (2lb. 2.5lb. or 3lb.)