Shellac Finish For My Les Paul

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Shellac Finish For My Les Paul

Postby Lance Lawson » Wed Jun 29, 2016 7:23 pm

Hello MIMF! It's been a while since I'm been here but I'm glad MIMF is still going strong. Anyway I've made a huge departure from the norm and decided to build a Les Paul in a box because I parted with my Telecaster in 2014 and have been minus an electric since. The Paul is Chinese Epiphone reject but will play fine and has at least decent electronics.

That said I had a bit of an accident in late 2013 and I no longer maintain my specialty finishing premises and spraying at home is next to impossible. So I have chosen to work with Shellac on this one and French Polish it. I've done French Polish before and understand the process.

However my current shellac is not hardening well at all. I chose Zissner Seal Coat as I've used it before with good results. But now after nearly two weeks of drying the Les Paul is still prone to smudging, finger prints and imprinting into the finish when set down. I deciphered the date code and my can is about 2 months away from being 3 years old and expired. Although the can was bought new two weeks ago it's pretty old stock. So first question is has anyone run into drying issues with Seal Coat this old and how long is a reasonable time to give the existing finish time to get hard enough to handle? Also if I were to use fresh shellac flakes what is the hardening time to safe handling? I've never used shellac flakes. Lastly I assume that if the Seal Coat stays soft it'll all have to go although one source said putting fresh mixed flake shellac could help the entire thing harden. Doesn't make sense though. Cheers!
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Lance Lawson
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Re: Shellac Finish For My Les Paul

Postby Matthew Lau » Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:38 pm

I generally recommend making the stuff fresh when you're going to use it.
Mix only what you need. I don't like to keep it past a few weeks.

As for handling, I personally find that fresh coats should be hard to the touch in maybe 20-30 minutes for a very thin coat. If you can get the good alcohol (real everclear, no the junk we have here in California), it makes a huge difference. I highly recommend having different types of shellac-- kusmi for a nice vintage amber, stronger finish; platinum for an almost colorless (as colorless as shellac gets) film. For full strength, let sit for at least a few days to a week.

Fresh shellac is a huge revelation over the canned stuff.
It'll take some practice, but will be something that you'll be proud of.

For french polish, I heard from Kathy Matsushita that there's a very good online tutorial from a young guy that "looks like McDreamy."
Matthew Lau
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Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: Shellac Finish For My Les Paul

Postby Matthew Lau » Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:47 pm

Oh, and don't waste your time by dumping good shellac into the old batch.

You'll have a much better and more consistent result with fresh alcohol.
I've had excellent results from shellac at (recommended by Frank Ford on his website).
Matthew Lau
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

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