I’ve been using shellac for a few projects, just the ready-mixed Liberon sanding sealer that I’ve also seen Paul use. The final finish seems very delicate to me. A light scratch with a fingernail leaves a white mark on the surface, so everyday scuffs start to show up easily. This happens even with 3-4 coats and it’s more pronounced on softwoods because the finish is more easily deformed.
Not sure if this helps, but I think that shellac can be quite brittle on it’s own. I usually put some paste wax (beeswax) on top of the shellac (clear or otherwise) and this seems to improve durability – and also feel in my opinion.
4 coats of sanding sealer is very little. Try 10 or so, and let it harden a few days when finished. I think, wax makes it easier to remove dirt, dust and the like but doesn’t really protect the shellack much.
How old is your shellac? Shellac can go bad. Put a little on a plate of glass. It should dry and be very brittle. If it stays soft or tacky, throw it out and buy some more. Don’t be afraid of buy flakes and mixing your own fresh when you need it.
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