Saturday, July 31, 2010

Some Finish Decisions. I Think.

Early last week, after the previous post, I'd made a decision on what I was going to do about my shellac.  I was going to buy a great big gallon of the Zinsser Bullseye Amber at the blue and gray store, tint it with the aniline dyes I've mixed, and use it on all my floors and trim.  The buttonlac I'd save for a few furniture pieces I have to do.

But Tuesday afternoon I showed up at Lowe's, and the Bullseye shellac can didn't say what the pound cut was.  And there's this other shellac product Zinsser has called SealCoat, and it's 100% dewaxed.  Meaning the other kind isn't.  But the SealCoat can didn't list the pound cut, either.  And the kid behind the paint counter hadn't a clue.  I wasn't about to blow upwards of $25 on the wrong thing, so after getting the scissors I needed to cut sandpaper, I went home and did some research on line.

OK, Bullseye is still 3-pound cut, and SealCoat is 2-pound.  Hmm.  If wax is not that great, maybe I can just tint the SealCoat and put on three coats of that, with a couple of thinned-down coats of polyurethane over it?

Did some more research.

And ended up back on the site, where I'm reading about the buttonlac I already have, and it says this: 

"Buttonlac is a unique shellac product preferred by restorers and those looking for a very protective shellac finish.  It is superb for French polishing due to its hardness. Button Shellacs are prepared by the hand made process of heating the seedlac in a cotton tube. The resin secretes through the pores of the cloth and the molten shellac is formed into buttons. The processing heat polymerizes the resin, resulting in a very tough & moisture resistant finishing material.  Button Shellac is preferred for finishing floors and interior woodwork."

Oh.  Floors and interior woodwork.  I do seem to recall having a phone conversation to this effect with Ron at  Just about a year ago, it was.  I shot him off an email Tuesday evening, full of questions about poly over shellac, could I get the right tint with the red mahogany and dark walnut dyes I already have, what if my dog peed on a shellacked floor, etc., etc.  A few minutes later, I got impatient and called him.

He said yes, I wanted to leave the wax in the Kusmi #1 I'd mixed.  Yeah, I could do poly over the shellac . . . if I laid on a coat of the dewaxed kind first . . . and if I really don't mind losing the repairability of the shellac finish.  Up to me.  As to the dyes, he didn't think I'd need to lay in a supply of golden oak or anything of the sort.  Just try a very little bit of red mahogany, and the natural tone of the yellow pine would supply the gold.  And if I ran out of the buttons for the floors, he could have more to me in three days.

That put me firmly back in the do-it-myself buttonlac camp.  On Wednesday I sanded down some original yellow pine floorboards (what was left of them after I'd sliced them for gap-filler strips) and on Thursday I tinted up some of the Kusmi #1 mix with a wee bit of the mahogany dye (we're talking 1/4 teaspoon in 3/8 cup of 1.5 pound cut shellac-- is that 1/72?).  Over the next two days I brushed on six (count 'em, 6) coats of this mixture on three different old floorboard remnants, and I think I have a reasonably good tone for my hall floor and stair treads.  (Note that the piece shown above is fully-coated only on the left.  Otherwise we have a 6-5-4-3-2-1 sample).  Ron was right-- the yellow in the boards was enough.  Some might think six coats is too much, but I like the easy way the 1.5 lb. cut goes on and everything I've read tells me that several thin coats will hold up better than fewer thicker ones.  I tried splashing some water on it and it beaded right up.

(Two boards have shellac only at the ends; I was reserving the rest in case I needed to test other tones. Yeah,
there's a stripe of build-up next to the bare or less-coated wood.  I've read I can avert that by starting to brush the shellac on about an inch or so away from the end of the workpiece, continue to the other end, then quickly brush back all the way to the first end, picking up and evening out that first deposit of finish on the way.  Should work if I can keep the tread shellac off the stair stringers in the process.)

All this led to a decision:  Instead of successively coating the 3rd floor stairs, 2nd floor hall, and the main stairs (which had long been my assumption), I would now start on the 3rd floor stairs alone.  I'll give them five or six coats of shellac only, then live with them for awhile and see what the dog, cats, and I do to them.  If I think they still need a layer of polyurethane over, I can repair any damage to the shellac and go from there.  Meanwhile, I can be working on the hall floor and the stairs down to the 1st floor.

But today, I had a brainstorm.  You know how I've been stressing over how to keep the animals off the work?  I already had figured out that I can use my tension-sprung baby gate to exclude them from the 2nd floor when I'm doing the stairs to the 3rd.  But I was looking down the stairs to the 1st floor today, and I said to myself, "You know, if you replaced the balusters to the stairwell first, you could put that gate at the bottom of the stairs between the wall and the newel post, and do the upstairs hall and maybe even some of the steps below without the cats and dog in the way."

Hmm.  But that means mixing up the dark shellac for the woodwork in the stairhall and refinishing all that first.

What of it?  A lot of it is vertical surfaces, and maybe it'd be better to have that done before I do the floors.

So tonight I mixed up another jar of button shellac, a pint and a half of 2-pound cut Kusmi #2.  It's still getting shaken and dissolved.  This batch I plan to keep more of, as this time I won't be trying fruitlessly to get rid of the wax!


Larry said...

What's really scary is that you can eat the shellac.

It might be made out of beetle bodies, but it's on about 90% of all hard coated candy!! Think of that the nest time you eat M-n-Ms!!!

Looks good though!

Kate H. said...

Actually, it's more like beetle cocoons. The processors filter the bug parts and the sticks out.

I figure if I can wear silk next to my skin, I deal with lac bug secretions on my M&Ms!

dynochick (Jan) said...

Don't they use some sort of beetle juice in some types of lipstick?

Kate H. said...

Yep, they do. Good old shellac again.

Michael said...

Hey I was wondering what aniline dyes you used to get Mahogany and if it really made a difference to the color of the Kusmi #2 Buttonlac. I just bought some Kusmi #2 Buttonlac and I was hoping to get a reddish brown color out of it.

Kate H. said...

Hi, Michael, I ordered the alcohol-soluble aniline Red Mahogany dye from, same place I got my shellac buttons. Yes, I think it really did make a difference to the color of the Kusmi, even at a very low concentration.

For the trim, which will be darker than the floors, I'm using their Red Mahogany and Dark Walnut dyes mixed about 1/2 in proportion to one another. Started with 1 cup 2-lb. cut Kusmi #2 shellac, 8 teaspoons Walnut, 4 teaspoons Mahogany, and enough denatured alcohol to make it into a 1.5 lb. cut. Later I decided I wanted it a little more reddish and threw in another 1/4 t. of Mahogany. And more alcohol to keep it workable. Be sure to do a sample piece to see how many coats you'll need to get the color you want and adjust dye concentration accordingly.

Hope that helps.

Kate H. said...

Larry, I was wrong about the cocoons. Beetles don't go through metamorphosis!

Beetle spit is more like it.