Daily Archives: June 25, 2010

A Silky-smooth Shellac Finish

Shellac is my finish of choice for furniture. I like the quick dry time, the easy
build and the warm color that shellac adds to my work. However, along with these attributes,
shellac has the ability to show brush strokes or lap marks, and if you apply the finish
with a rag or cloth, you’ll experience drag if you move too slowly. In each scenario,
the finished surface is not exactly smooth. For those reasons, I spray shellac, but
I know that there are still those out there who won’t take a dip in the spray finishing
pool. Another solution may be this technique shared with me during a seminar in New
Jersey this past weekend.

The technique is to add mineral oil to shellac in a ratio of 25 percent oil to 75
percent shellac. The oil allows the cloth to flow over the shellac without any drag
or noticeable lap marks. OK – the key word here is cloth. This technique works only
when padding on the shellac – much like one would do when French polishing. (Stay
with me, I’m not suggesting that you do a French polish.)

I experimented with this mixture and was amazed at how it worked. I found the shellacked
surface was smoother than the surface on which I ragged on straight shellac. There
was little difference in build between the two products, and as you can see in the
photo below, the sheen and build are nearly identical, at least to my eye. (The left-hand
side is the mixture and the right-hand surface is the right-from-the-can shellac.)

An oil/shellac mixture is not like an oil/varnish mixture. An oil/varnish finish usually
needs three or four coats for a nice build. It took 14 layers to get the build shown
in the photo – way too much time spent and muscle depletion for me. I’m not using
this mixture only as my finish, but I would consider this a last coat possibility.

Here’s what I would do. Brush the shellac onto your piece to build a solid thickness.
Don’t worry about brush marks, but try to keep them to a minimum – I still believe
in the saying, “A better brush gives you a better job.” Once you’ve established the
build, sand the entire project to remove any brush marks that do appear then apply
a coat or two of the oil/shellac mixture. It’s easy to apply and quick to dry.

You don’t have to rush the padded-on mixture to keep a wet edge. As a result, your
finish should be smooth. You will find oil sitting on the surface. That oil should
be wiped with naphtha a day or so after the finish is complete – the oil doesn’t dry,
so it floats to the surface. The opening photo is a great example of the separation
– unlike wax in shellac that settles to the bottom, the oil rises to the top.

—Glen D. Huey

For more information about finishes:

  • Go here to
    read Bob Flexner’s article about finish compatibility.
  • Visit
    to pre-order a copy of Flexner’s upcoming book “Flexner on Finishing.”
  • Click
    to purchase a DVD on “Finishes That Pop” and learn how to make your projects
    stand out.

Gmail Can Now Open All Word Documents in Your Browser [Gmail]

Gmail can now open all Microsoft Word files (both DOC and DOCX formats) in Google Docs Viewer with the click of a link—a new feature accompanied by an equally simple route to editing the file in Google Docs. More »

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Our Hackintosh Build Upgrades Without Issue to 10.6.4 [Updates]

Apple released Mac OS X 10.6.4 just over a week ago, and if you’ve been waiting to hear whether it works on systems built following our start-to-finish Hackintosh guide or the newer no-hacking-required guide, I’ve got good news: I finally got around to installing the update, and the Hackintosh upgraded without issue. More »

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f.lux is a free piece of software that slowly shifts the color temperature of your computer monitor throughout the day in order to adapt it to the natural rhythm of light. I first downloaded it after reading about Seth Robert’s self-experimentation involving sleep. As Roberts points out, research indicates that certain color temperatures stimulate wakefulness and affect circadian rhythms. This is why people with Seasonal Affective Disorder use blue light devices that supposedly mimic the blue sky of summer. By using f.lux to shift the temperature of a computer monitor away from blue light and towards red after natural light has faded the idea is that it will diminish the unintended wakefulness caused by the screen and allow for a more restful sleep.

While I am not as careful a self-experimenter as Seth Roberts, I have noticed that when I use f.lux not only do I get sleepier sooner but that I also awake earlier. By simply disabling the program for an hour (an option that is built into the software) I also notice an immediate sense of renewed wakefulness. The shift in color temperature is significant and immediately noticeable when I use my computer at night, but not in a way that negatively impacts the quality of the image on screen (and when it does, or if I need to edit photos, I simply disable it).

The program is available for Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7. A similar program called Redshift is available for Linux users.

— Oliver Hulland


Available from f.lux

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Know Your Body’s Quick-Cooling Spots [Heat Hacks]

You’ve probably heard that you can pour water over your wrists or neck to cool off quickly, but we’ve got the lowdown on all the body’s best cooling spots, as well as the most effective ways to use them. More »

HardwareComponentsBusinessHealthConditions and Diseases

Keep the Bugs at Bay Without Bug Spray [Beat The Heat]

Earlier this week we sang the praises of a good bug spray, but what if you want to enjoy your backyard without all that bug spray every time you step out? Use these tips and DIYs to make your yard bug resistant. More »

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Seven Myths About Grilling a Steak [Grilling]

Cooking instructor and author of Planet Barbecue Steven Raichlen knows a thing or two about grilling a steak, and today he’s debunking a few grilling myths that’ll help make your weekend barbecue that much better. More »

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