Uh oh, We Used Old Shellac
October 9, 2011 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Uh oh, I think we used old shellac. Now what?

Apparently if you have old shellac, you're supposed to test it to make sure it dries. If it's too old, it won't dry.

We did not know this, unfortunately, and now we've got a shellacked cabinet that hasn't dried after 24 hours. What can we do?
posted by musofire to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
Best answer: To be clear, we are talking about actual shellac made from lac bugs and not some polyurethane or other finish, yes?

Before you do anything, wait it out. Older shellac can dry really slowly sometimes and you might get lucky. Give it a week.

If it still isn't dry you need to strip it, which fortunately is really easy with shellac. You just wipe the finish away with some shop rags and wood alcohol. The fumes are ungodly so do this outside if possible.
posted by LarryC at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2011

I've safely used old finishes several times. 25 year old oil based polyurethane, 20 year old shellac, various types of waxes too old and not labeled, and many more types of wood finishes.

For some of the older liquid finishes, I have just let it sit in the dust free workshop for a long time. I made sure that there was indirect airflow to the area where it was drying to make sure that the fumes did not build up too much. I did not use direct airflow since I did not want anything to stick to the finish and ruin it. That said, my workshop was in the basement and it was easy to keep indirect airflow down there since it did not affect anyone else in the house.

If it still tacky after a week or so of drying time, then it might be time to start worry and removing the uncured finish. For that, I recommend old credit cards and other dull plastic scrapers. This will allow you to remove the sticky goo and get down to the closest good layer before you start refinishing. If some of the shellac is being stubborn, some good 160+ proof alcohol should help is removing it. Some people swear by denatured alcohol, I just use Everclear or whatever similar alcohol is around the house. The fumes are not as bad as denatured alcohol.

Just give it time and you should be okay.
posted by Nackt at 10:24 AM on October 9, 2011

Yeah, shellac is one of the most forgiving finishes to clean up - LarryC has it.
posted by coriolisdave at 6:28 PM on October 9, 2011

« Older Video art exhibit featuring American auctioneers?   |   The physics of tops Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.