Best finish over shellac for heavy use?


I have a table from the 60s with a shellac finish. I would like to make it water resistant, but don’t want to strip it and lose the current stain. I’m not a big fan of polyurethane, only because it chips over time and cannot be repaired. What do you recommend? Can Tung or Danish oils be applied over shellac?

2 Responses

  1. Both Tung oil and Danish oil are designed to soak into the wood surface so they won't do a good job. A varnish will stick to the shellac and will give you a water resistant surface. Choose a good tried and true varnish, talk to the salesperson at the paint store (a real paint store not a glorified hardware store) for recommendations.

  2. Applying Tung or Danish oils over a shellac finish from the 60s can potentially offer a solution to make your table water-resistant without the need to strip the existing finish. Shellac is known for its beautiful appearance but lacks durability when it comes to water resistance. Tung oil, derived from the nut of the tung tree, is a popular choice for enhancing wood while providing water resistance. Danish oil, a blend of various oils, dries harder and faster than Tung oil while offering decent water resistance as well.

    Another option is French polish. Beautiful finish that compatible with your current shellac. Here’s some information on this finish;

    Before applying either oil, ensure the shellac finish is clean and free of any debris. Sanding lightly before application can also help with adhesion. Both Tung and Danish oils can be applied over shellac; however, the effectiveness may vary depending on the condition and type of shellac used. It’s important to test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure compatibility and desired results.

    The application process involves rubbing the oil into the wood using a clean cloth or brush, allowing it to penetrate and dry between coats. Multiple coats may be required to achieve the desired level of water resistance. Regular maintenance and reapplication may also be necessary to maintain the protective layer.

    While Tung and Danish oils offer good water resistance, they may not provide the same level of protection as polyurethane or spar varnish. However, they are easier to repair and maintain over time compared to polyurethane, allowing for spot touch-ups without the need for complete stripping and refinishing.

    Ultimately, using Tung or Danish oils over your shellac-finished table can be a viable option to enhance water resistance while preserving the existing stain. Careful preparation, application, and maintenance are key to achieving the desired level of protection and longevity for your cherished piece of furniture.

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