What to Dissolve Shellac Flakes In

By thewoodmeter •  Updated: 05/14/24 •  3 min read

Shellac is a timeless wood finish that has been used for centuries, cherished for its natural origin and lustrous finish. Derived from the secretions of the lac bug found in India and Thailand, shellac flakes are processed and sold in a dry form that must be dissolved before application. Here’s a detailed look at what you should dissolve shellac flakes in to achieve the perfect finish for your woodworking projects.

The Solvent: Denatured Alcohol

The primary solvent for dissolving shellac flakes is denatured alcohol. This solvent is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous and unpalatable, primarily to prevent human consumption. Denatured alcohol is ideal for shellac for several reasons:

  1. Effective Dissolution: Denatured alcohol efficiently dissolves shellac flakes, creating a smooth and uniform solution without leaving residue. The rate at which shellac dissolves can vary based on the ratio of alcohol to flakes and the temperature of the alcohol.
  2. Quick Drying: One of the benefits of using denatured alcohol is its quick evaporation rate, which contributes to the fast drying time of shellac once applied. This property allows for multiple coats of shellac to be applied in a shorter time span, making it a favorite among woodworkers who need to complete projects swiftly.
  3. Non-Water Soluble: Unlike water, denatured alcohol does not raise the grain of wood. This is particularly advantageous when applying shellac as a finish, as it minimizes prep work and maintains the integrity of the wood’s surface.

How to Prepare Shellac from Flakes

Preparing shellac from flakes involves a simple process of mixing the shellac flakes with denatured alcohol. Here’s how you can do it:

Tips for Working with Shellac

Shellac remains a popular choice for wood finishing due to its ease of application, natural composition, and beautiful results. By understanding the correct solvent to use and the steps involved in preparing the finish, you can achieve professional and durable results on your woodworking projects.


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