Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Finishing Finishing with Wax over Shellac

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  • #133080
    AnthonyH
    Participant

    Hello All,
    I recently watched PS’s “Finishing with Shellac” video. He finished off with National Trust furniture wax. I have Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, would this work as well as the wax he used, or shall I purchase Renaissance Wax or similar? I am finishing a recently completed furniture piece. Additionally, I have 0000 steel wool but, when used it produces a multitude of tiny wool fibers. Will this be a problem becoming lodged in the wax finish? Your help is very much appreciated.

    Minwax & Steel Wool

    Attachments:
    #133082
    Craig
    Participant

    Anthony,
    The Minwax will work just fine as will Johnson’s Paste Wax commonly available.
    There are numerous wax finishes commercially available and which you choose depends to some extent on the finished appearance you want. Butcher’s wax as an example will only buff up to a satin finish, not a high gloss.
    The steel wool breakdown is normal and those pieces should be removed during the buffing out of the dried wax.
    Best,
    Craig

    SW Pennsylvania

    #133090
    AnthonyH
    Participant

    Craig, thank you very much for the response. I will use the Minwax and when its all done upload a few photos. I appreciate your guidance. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    #133100
    Craig
    Participant

    Anthony,
    You’re welcome, Merry Christmas
    Craig

    SW Pennsylvania

    #134183

    AnthonyH- I’m also a little confused by the correct use of steel wools and wax.

    Length of open air time for the wax could be an issue? You might be applying the wax to thick or waiting to long (or short) to buff it. I’ve had better luck with Briwax over shellac (for a low lustre). I’ve had difficulty using Renaissance Wax over shellac. It buffs completely off of shellac with very little effort.

    I’ve seen wax applied with cotton cloth, cheese-cloth, 000 scotch-brite, and 0000 steel-wool. I wish I understood how best to use steel wool…

    Steel wool, for me has always left behind trail of steel fibers and dust that become wedged into the surface looking dirty and tattered. Hopefully the min wax works out for you.

    Cheers

    www.PracticeAndProcess.com

    #134187
    raze599
    Participant

    I’ve found that if bits of steel wool get stuck on the surface in small “pores” in the finish or whatever, I just keep rubbing the steel wool back and forth over that area and eventually the steel fibres come out and smoothen up.

    #134188
    David Perrott
    Participant

    Can’t remember how P.S. applies the wax. I like a softer wax but I have been using colored waxes and they are often softer. I put a bit of wax inside a soft cloth and apply it that way. I use a shoeshine brush to buff it, then maybe a soft cloth, or I polish it with a pad and pumice. It depends on what type of finish I’m going for. I use steel wool after I’m done to remove the shine, but not to apply the wax. When I used it to apply I had the issue with fibers being in it.

    #138486
    lowpolyjoe
    Participant

    I’ve used that Minwax over shellac many times. Usually apply with a cotton rag, then rub out with steel wool. I’ve experimented with running an electric buffer over the final surface, but I often do more harm than good. Lately I’ve just been relying on the steel wool by hand. I’ve never noticed fibers stuck in the finish but maybe I’m just not that observant. heh.

    I bought some pumice and rottenstone a while back when attempting a French polish but never thought about using it for a final buff of a regular shellac finish – I will give that a try.

    Would be nice if Paul did a French polish demo video. I’ve watched many such videos and while it looks simple (but time consuming), I have not been able to reproduce reasonable results myself. Paul is an excellent teacher and I would love to hear what he has to say on the topic.

    #138493

    Lowpolyjoe – If you do indeed give the pumice and rottenstone a try please post a images! I’d love to see how it comes out. French Polish is something I’m interested in trying eventually too.

    www.PracticeAndProcess.com

    #138600
    lowpolyjoe
    Participant

    This past weekend I gathered all my French Polishing supplies together to try using some of the abrasive powders to rub out the shellac finish I had applied to some small speaker cabinets. Having everything arranged on the benchtop, I almost started to feel like I knew what I was doing 🙂 I tried French Polishing a few times in the past, so I had bought everything I thought I would need

    You all may gasp to hear that the cabinets are MDF, but that is the preferred material for speakers. The veneer is Bubinga. It had a good number of coats of shellac brushed onto it (not a French Polish application). The finish was fairly thick (at least 5 coats) but there still seemed to be divots, seemingly along the wood grain.

    My first effort was to rub with some 0000 steel wool just to see if that would be enough. It brought the high gloss down to a matte finish (I’m trying to attach a pic) but the small dents in the finish didn’t change.

    Photo-2016-07-17-10-25-52

    I then tried dry rubbing progressively with Medium Pumice, Fine Pumice then Rottenstone. I could feel the abrasion but didn’t see a huge difference in the finish. I sometimes wet sand with Abralon sanding pads on a random orbital sander for this task, but I often find I sand through the finish so I’m trying to get away from that approach.

    In an effort to fill the divots (the pores?), I started a French polishing style process – rubbing with a wool wad wrapped in cotton, mostly with shellac at first, then just some alcohol near the end. I used a drop or two of mineral oil for lubrication. I believe the first step in French Polishing (before shellac coats are built up) is to rub with the abrasive powders to slightly sand the surface and fill all the pores with dust and a little shellac – my approach here was completely backwards since I was only rubbing on the thick shellac finish itself in hopes the finish would desolve enough to flow into the holes. I got a reasonable looking finish with some improvement to the dent filling and a fairly high gloss. As a last step, I rubbed on some minwax paste wax. 30 seconds later, I went to buff it off. But it wouldn’t come off. It completely destroyed the hour+ finish job I had just done. I was so angry that I didn’t even take a picture.

    I’m still not sure what the problem is. Two hypotheses : either the finish wasn’t dry from rubbing with shellac / alcohol + a tiny bit of oil. OR the atmosphere was too ‘gross’. It has been ~90degs with ~80% humidity here in the Northeastern US the past week or so.

    I went so far as to get out a power buffer to try to remove the wax – it helped slightly but fibers from the buffing pad got embedded in the waxy finish. I believe I’m going to have to sand off the entire finish and start from scratch. Absolutely heartbreaking. Thankfully the project is tiny.

    (I’m having problems attaching and labeling pics – there should be one of my supplies and one of the 2 cabinets, 1 before and 1 after rubbing with steel wool only).

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by lowpolyjoe.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by lowpolyjoe.
    Attachments:
    #138607
    chemical_cake
    Participant

    Don’t know exactly what the formulation of Minwax is, but many paste waxes can be dissolved with white spirit (US mineral spirits). So perhaps try that before giving up on the finish.

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me with Briwax that I put down to putting too much on, the harder waxes want just the thinnest film and I had been used to a softer brand.

    Matt

    Southampton, UK

    #138616
    David Perrott
    Participant

    I don’t think you “polish” with shellac. You can apply it with a pad. You use pumice/rotten stone with pad and alcohol and can use mineral oil to polish. Think you were using the wrong agent. You can also put the wax down first and then polish the wax with the pad and pumice.The book isn’t only about french polish but I like Pourney’s book the furniture bible. Discusses historical and natural finishes on antiques but also works for “new” pieces. He also tells you how to fix your mistakes. I really enjoy the book. I need to practice my french polishing on some boards.

    #138641
    lowpolyjoe
    Participant

    Thanks for the tip Matt – I’ll try some mineral spirits the next time I have the heart to go look at that project again. heh.

    David – I’ve heard/read so many different descriptions of the French Polish technique that I’m thoroughly confused. I would very much like to hear what Paul has to say on the topic. A professional woodworker I met a few years ago said he used to do a lot of French Polish work and I *think* he said the early steps involved using a rubbing pad with a little shellac on it with some abrasive powders to do the pore filling. The powder sands the wood, creates some dust, combines with the shellac and fills in the pores. My attempt the other day was to rub the finished surface with shellac (thinned with extra alcohol) in an effort to partially sand and dissolve the existing shellac to get it to fill in the divots in the finish. I did use a little abrasive powder but may have forgot to mention it. I figured this technique was not standard but sometimes it’s fun to try something random. Thanks for the book reference, i’ll probably pick that up.

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