Shellac is a natural finish made from lac bugs of southeast Asia. It is one of the oldest types of finishing coat. Shellac is non-toxic, easy to work with, and dries quicker than most other woods finished. When the wood is finished with both stain and shellac, you need to have a clear idea of which finisher applies first. So, let’s talk, Can you shellac over stain?
I decided to look more into it, and discovered:
Yes, you can shellac over stain. But that depends on the type of wood. If the wood takes stain so well, then better to apply stain first and they apply shellac over stain. But if the wood doesn’t take stain well, apply shellac first and then apply stain for the best results.
But there’s a lot more to know about can you shellac over stain and how it should be done.
So, in this article, we’re diving into topics like how can you shellac over stain, how long should stain dry before shellac, can you stain over shellac, and how to do that.
Furthermore, I’ll answer some of the frequently asked questions about applying shellac over stain.
So, let’s get going!
Sometimes a coat of amber shellac over a stain is just the thing to nail just the right color. pic.twitter.com/psVnRqUVzQ— John Nephew, 🦖Planegea🦖Now on Kickstarter (@JohnNephew) July 20, 2016
How Shellac Work When Apply Over Stain
Applying shellac over stain is quick, easy, and fantastic. You can apply shellac to any woodworking project.
But never apply it over stained cutting boards or any kitchen utensils because it is not food safe.
But you should know the stain that has already been applied on the wooden surface is oil-based or water-based. Because if the stain is oil-based, the shellac you’re going to use should be oil-based as well.
I highly recommend going with oil-based stain products, because they always perform better than water-based ones.
You can get shellac in 2 different ways. They are,
- Readily available shellac from the supply store
- Buy flakes and mix your own to make shellac
Buy flakes and mix your own to make shellac is also pretty simple by mixing flakes with denatured alcohol.
If you don’t have much time best to go with readily available shellac such as Zinsser shellac which works pretty well.
After eight coats of very old shellac, I was getting almost no coverage. I bought a fresh can (Zinsser clear, the old stuff was dewaxed the new stuff is not). Coverage much much better. pic.twitter.com/jfPKA0ELcT— Tim Kordas (@timothyzillion) December 20, 2020
How Long Should Stain Dry Before Shellac?
The wood stain layer will dry completely approximately within 2 days. But this can change because of the wood type you’re using, humidity levels, and the place where you live.
Before applying shellac, you need to make sure that the stained wood surface is completely dried. Otherwise, both shellac and stain layers will get destroyed, if the stain layer is tacky and wet.
Also, make sure not to make any mistakes during wood stains. Read how to fix wood stain mistakes for your knowledge.
Building an 8 ft PC desk, stain is done, shellac starts tomorrow pic.twitter.com/G5x5vMM9Kn— Keith Swann (@EastEndHorror) November 20, 2020
So, let’s have a look at how to apply shellac over stain.
How To Shellac Over Stain?
- Shellac can
- Cotton Clot
- Rag or cloth
- 320 grit sandpaper
- Denatured alcohol (optional)
Here’re the steps you need to follow applying shellac over stained wood surfaces.
- Sand the stained surface with 320 grit light sandpaper and clean the whole surface with a rag to remove dust and make it smooth.
- Let the wood dry for at least 2 hours.
- Take cotton cloth wrap and twist it around to make a little ball-shaped thing.
- Saturate the ball-shaped cotton cloth by dipping it in a shellac can. Make sure the cloth is wet before the application.
- Apply shellac to the woodwork by rolling dipped cotton ball all over the stained surface by working all the way around.
- Let the first coat of shellac dry for 30 minutes.
- While you’re letting the first shellac coating dry, make sure to put your cloth applicator in a covered bag to keep it fresh and reusable.
- After the first coat of shellac dried completely do a light sanding with 320 grit sandpaper to eliminate the fuzziness.
- Apply the second coat of shellac by following the same procedure.
- Let the second coat of shellac dry for 30 minutes.
- Apply the third coat of shellac and dry for 30 minutes.
- By applying paste wax you can get a much shiner look in the end. (Optional)
Tips and Tricks When Applying Shellac Over Stain
Three coats of shellac are well enough for small and medium woodworks. It’s going to last a long time, is easy to repair, and easy to put on.
When you’re taking a cloth applicator from the covered bag to apply the second coating of shellac, you’ll feel it is a little harder. But as soon as it touches the shellac, it is going to free, moisture up, and be ready to go again.
The drying time of shellac depends on,
- The climate of your area
- Ventilation level of the room
- Humidity level
You can easily check whether it is dried or not by running light sandpaper a couple of times all over the surface and you’ll get nice powder left it is fully dried. If it starts to clog your sandpaper, it is probably a bit wet, and give extra 15 minutes and try again.
The end grain will take a lot of shellac finish. So, feel free to be liberal in your application on end grain. You’ll probably go back and touch the end grain of the stained wood a few extra times while you’re putting on your coats of shellac.
Once you apply the shellac layer over stain, it doesn’t mess up if you wipe over it. It’s stable as that much.
When you’re applying shellac, if you notice you’d get runs or drops, just touch them up. If you miss one, that’s fine. They stand up super quick. You can simply wipe the drops that are landed on the surface while applying shellac coating.
When you’re applying shellac over stain getting down into tight corners of woodwork can be a little hard. Probably the easiest thing to do is just make sure your cotton cloth applicator is nice and saturated and almost bring it out. So that the drains of shellac will drain down into those tight corners easily.
Also, make sure to sand with the grain when you’re sanding between coatings. Because sanding across the grain could leave marks and stained layer does not have any resistivity against those marks and they’ll highlight once we’re done with finishing.
Letting the last coat of shellac dry tonight so that I can start working on the dice tray insert tomorrow pic.twitter.com/O8p8MRQHmV— Jason Dinger (@jasondingr) September 25, 2019
So, that’s it about how can you shellac over stain. Let’s have a look at the opposite side of this same procedure.
Can You Stain Over Shellac?
Yes, you can apply shellac fist and then apply stain only if the wood type doesn’t take stain well. Woods with fewer pores structures don’t absorb stain so well. They’ll reject the stain and therefore best to apply the stain after applying shellac coating first.
Here’re the woods that better apply shellac over stain.
- Other exotic woods
Never apply shellac fist and then stain for the woods that take stain so well like Ash, Oak, Hickory, Cherry. Stain only does the color changing and it’s not very durable to face outside. Applying stain over shellac is no use because the shellac is the layer that gives the protection and its cover-up because of stain. The wood will get damaged very soon.
Oak, cherry, walnut, and chestnut are your hard durable woods that will take a stain well, avoid your “soft” woods like pine because they will stain blotchy! Sorry had to let my old SW knowledge out 😅 hope this helps!— 𝑀𝑟. 𝐶𝐸𝑂 ②.⓪ (@ZeeJayF) June 19, 2020
Stain doesn’t cure the wood because of not have any curing agents. The pigments that change the color of the wood lay on the shellac surface without penetrating inside of the wood. Therefore, no color change can expect if you stain over shellac.
Ultimately, staining over shellac will create a mess for the woods that take stain well and it’s just a waste of money and your effort.
You can check the wood you select, takes the stain well or not by testing to stain a sample piece of wood before starting the main application.
So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions regarding can you shellac over stain.
Can You Shellac Over Tacky Stain?
Never apply shellac over the tacky stain. This will destroy both stain and shellac layers. Always make sure to let the stained wood dry completely before applying shellac.
You can remove tacky stain by wiping excess stain on the surface or by wiping tacky areas with stain thinner.
Can I Shellac Over Water Based Stain?
Most shellac products available on the market are alcohol-based. It is compatible with water-based stain. So, the water-based stain does bond well with shellac and can cause less trouble than applying over oil-based stain like layer separation and surface blotchiness.
So, if you’re willing to apply shellac over stain, better to go with water-based products. It won’t create a mess.
Looks like this will be used as a plant stand. Hard maple, water-based Rosewoid stain, amber shellac, gloss water-based poly top coats. pic.twitter.com/8RQ5ZStw8i— John Nephew, 🦖Planegea🦖Now on Kickstarter (@JohnNephew) December 20, 2016
Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Can You Shellac Over Stain?
From this article we’ve deeply discussed can you shellac over stain and how it should do.
We have discussed all the tips and tricks you can follow to do apply shellac coating over stained wood correctly.
While wood stain changes the color shade of the wood, shellac gives better protection from outside elements.
Furthermore, I’ve answered some frequently asked questions about shellac over stain.
Hope you have gained good knowledge about the process that should be done. Enjoy woodworking!