Shellac Now Plentiful at Rockler

Shellac Now Plentiful at Rockler

"Shellac flakes have been hard to come by in recent years," said Steve Krohmer, Rockler's Vice President of Product Marketing. "We are excited about the current upswing in production, which allows us to increase the availability of this versatile finish."
 
The Liberon Shellac Flakes are available in Garnet, Lemon and Blonde Dewaxed varieties and come in 250-gram packs. Typically, the flakes are dissolved for 24 hours in methylated spirits (sold separately) and then brushed or sprayed onto wood surfaces for a durable, high-gloss finish.

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Woodworkers have long valued the adaptability and warm, rich look of shellac. It's fast-drying, easily repairable and non-toxic. (It's even used as a coating on pills to make them easier to swallow and as a "confectioner's glaze" on candy.) But shellac flakes have been in short supply for the past several years. Drier than normal weather patterns in parts of south Asia affected populations of the insect that produces seedlac, the raw material for shellac. Recently, however, seedlac production has rebounded, increasing availability.
 
Shellac starts out as a crusty protective coating secreted on branches by the tiny lac bug (Laccifer lacca), which infests certain trees in India and Thailand. The coated branches are harvested, and the seedlac is scraped off and processed.
 
Raw seedlac naturally contains dyes, some of which are removed as the material is washed. But some dyes remain, and their color varies with the type of tree, the geographical area and even the time of year when the seedlac is harvested. These variations produce the different colors of shellac.
 
Raw seedlac also contains wax and bits of bark, twig wood and insect remains left over from scraping. To remove these impurities, the seedlac is melted or dissolved in alcohol and strained. It might then be filtered to lighten its color or undergo a process to remove the wax. The purified resin is dripped onto a sheet to cool into "buttons" or is stretched or rolled into sheets, which dry and are broken into flakes. The wax-free "dewaxed" shellac works well for sealing stains, odors and knots and can be used under other finishes.
 
Packs of the Garnet (47802) and Lemon (44204) Liberon Shellac Flakes retail for $24.99 each, and Blonde Dewaxed (44864) for $36.99.