Shellac Sundays

Or: The Policeman’s Boot Bench… Part 7

When it comes to applying a finish to the interior of a furniture project I either don’t bother (my Anarchist’s Tool Chest) or I apply a home brewed soft wax directly to the wood (the School Box). With the Policeman’s Boot Bench I decided to chanel my inner Tom Fidgen and adop a full pre-finish regime for the internal faces of the casework. There were two reasons for this. Well, three, but the third reason is my usual workshop motivation “hey, let’s try something new”, which probably doesn’t count. So there were two serious reasons for applying a pre-finish to the casework. Firstly, glue-up is going to get increasingly cramped as I install the four shelves, and a pre-finish will make cleaning up any squeeze-out much easier. And experience tells me that anything which takes the pressure off during glue-up is well worth doing. Secondly, a shellac and wax internal finish will offer some protection from any moisture or mud that gets tracked in by dirty shoes in the years to come (although I hope the client will only store clean and dry shoes on this piece). As with many processes at the workbench, I guess it comes down to what the specific project requires.

IMG_5484

An end piece, taped up and the knot filled with epoxy. Once the epoxy cures it will be sanded flat.

The first stage of the pre-finishing the top and ends was to remove any small dents and workbench rash. Using a standard household iron and a clean cloth I steamed out a couple of dents and tool marks, and followed this up with a light planing using my Lie-Nielsen No.3 smoothing plane. Using an iron and plenty of steam is a very effective way of restoring a dented or marked surface and reduces the amount of planing needed.

IMG_5489

I use a 1″ Gramercy finishing brush for shellac

Next I had to fill three knots with epoxy. The oak I’ve use for this project was remarkably clear of knots when you consider the size of the boards (15″ wide) and through careful placement and selection I managed to minimise the number and location of knots. However I was not able to avoid knots all together, and each of the end pieces has a knot on the internal face, and the top has a small knot on the underside. These knots were stable, but the centres had crumbled a bit when I was planing the boards back in January, and I wanted a cleaner surface should anyone take a peak inside the boot bench. To fill the knots I used Araldite standard epoxy, which I dyed black using Lampblack (which essentially soot). Lampblack has a very fine grain and as a result it only takes a small pinch to dye epoxy a solid black colour. I keep meaning to try West System 105/205 epoxy for this task as it seems to flow quite easily judging from Youtube videos, but I already had a pack of Araldite to hand and it is perfectly serviceable in this application.

IMG_5492

After two coats of blonde shellac, and before applying the black wax

With the epoxy liberally applied to the knots I taped up the dados and rabbets with blue painter’s tape to keep them clean and free of shellac. I then brushed two coats of a 2lb cut of blonde shellac onto the internal face of both ends and the top, being careful not to brush onto the still curing epoxy. Once the second coat of shellac had dried it was then a simple case of rubbing on a coat of Liberon Black Wax and leaving it to dry before buffing out to a soft sheen.

IMG_5508

The underside of the top – the shellac and black wax combination has emphasised the character of the timber and given a nice sheen

I still need to sand back the epoxy once it has fully hardened and then fill in those localised spots with shellac and wax, after which the casework can be glued up. I could have waited for the epoxy to cure before I applied any shellac or wax, but truth me told I was a little impatient and wanted to see how the oak looked with some finish applied. The beauty of using shellac is that if carefully applied it melts into any pre-existing shellac finish in a very seamless way, so other than the black dyed epoxy no one should be able to see which patches I finished separately.

IMG_5499

The inner face of the left hand end.

4 thoughts on “Shellac Sundays

  1. You are right to suggest that the West System Epoxy would flow more easily, and might even do a better job. I’ve used it years ago in boat-building. However, the investment is huge, and the minimum quantity you can buy would last you more than several lifetimes for such purposes as this, if the shelf life were long enough, which it isn’t. I like the Araldite for it’s easy sourcing, cheap to buy, and reliability. I may be prejudiced, but the 24 hour standard stuff always seems superior to me than the 5 minute epoxy.
    I’ve never tried staining it. I must give that a go!

    • The Araldite standard is a good general purpose epoxy for sure, and like you I find that the price it right 😉 Axminster look like they are now selling small “repair” packs of the West Systems epoxy which although more expensive than Araldite look not too extortionate so I might look into it next time I need to do some filling.

      Staining is pretty easy and definitely adds to the versatility of using epoxy fillers.

  2. I switched over to West Systems a few years ago and will never look back. The ease in which is flows is worth the price. I can’t compare it to Araldite but most of the other epoxies available near me are too viscous for filling. As to dying, I’ve had good luck with one or two drops of Transtint.

    Thanks again for the info on the wax finish. I can’t believe how easy it was on the dresser and how much I’m digging the finish.

    • Hi Shawn glad the wax worked out on the dresser – your photos on Instagram looked great!

      Thanks for your tip on West Systems, I’ve managed to find smaller “repair” sized packs which are more economical than the hige vats they normally sell, so will give it a try next time I need to fill some knots or shakes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s