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Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:29 pm
by mei-mei
Topic moved - Site Admin.

Hi, Posting this in case any of you are interested.

It takes a little longer (min. 5 days) to finish the case of any machine using Button Polish, but the results are worth every moment spent. Shellac is a product made from ground shell and used in conjunction with turps, linseed oil and beeswax in the furniture trade to French polish high quality furniture. For the purposes of polishing your machine you do not need to go to the lengths of French polishing it as this would produce a high gloss finish not in keeping with the age or condition. However by just using the Button polish on it's own you can achieve a rich warm durable shine without the mirror finish achieved with the French polishing method or the harshness of polyurethane.

A simple guide:

Button polish can be bought cheaply on line, I get mine from Ebay.

1. Sand the outside of the cabinet approx. 3 times reducing the grade each time until you are down to 600 grade glass paper.
2. Wipe over with lint free cloth dampened with white spirit to remove sanded dust.
3. Using lint free cloth, make a 'rubber' by making a small ball of cotton wool and covering it in the cloth leaving enough cloth to hold on to.
4. The button polish is very liquid so be careful when upending the bottle to coat the 'rubber' Coat the rubber with a little polish and with a small circular motion rub the polish into the wood. Complete the whole machine using this method.
5. Leave to dry overnight. Next morning, a very very light sand using the 600 gauge paper. Remove dust as before.
6. Repeat stages 4 and 5 building up the layers, a minimum of 4 is recommended but the more the merrier.
7. The final coat can be applied with a brush using straight up and down motion.
8. If you require a higher shine just add a coat of furniture wax.

Re: Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:20 pm
by badpenny
**xXx** .......... I've been tempted to try this for a few years, having watched a few videos on Youtube.
Except it always seemed to leave more questions than answersand seemed a lot of faff.

Reckon I'll have a go now, nEXT TIME>
ps my keyboard is SUDDENly going odd>>>>

Re: Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:25 pm
by mei-mei
Time for a new one B.P?
Just follow the instructions on the bottle you can't go wrong. And if by some chance you B&#g%*r it up, it is a simple enough process to remove.

Re: Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:28 pm
by pennymachines
It seems odd how little we've discussed wood finishing in the twelve years this site has been online. It's such a crucial aspect of restoration, creating a game's immediate and lasting visual impression or 'presence'. Lack of thought and attention to this is probably the biggest spoiler of otherwise honourable attempts to bring machines back from dereliction.

The plasticky look of polyurethane and acrylic varnishes just won't do and, unlike shellac or wax, cannot be easily repaired when scratched.

When contemplating refinishing, you take into account the game's age and desired wood colour. French polishes, brushed shellacs, hot oils, yacht varnishes cut with oil are a few I've used and I often employ waxes for finishing the finishes. Colouring can range from off-the-shelf spirit or water-based dyes (almost invariably diluted), home-concocted stains and various methods of chemically lightening or darkening the wood.

The possible combinations of these techniques are huge, but you soon settle on favourites and, when necessary, experiment on test areas.

A good book on the subject is Fine Woodworking on Finishing and Refinishing which manages to be entertaining and informative, condensing the knowledge of several expert craftsmen into about 100 pages, with a focus on 'antique' finishes.

Shellac, by the way, is not derived from ground shells - it's a resin secreted by the female lac bug. It's dissolved in ethanol to make a liquid and comes in a range of colours, most commonly garnet (darker) and button (lighter), but it can be darker still or colourless.

As a slight variation of mei mei's French polishing method, I pour the shellac into the wool of the rubber, allowing the cotton wad to filter out particulates (rather than pouring it directly onto the cotton). Practice on spare pieces of wood to get a feel for the polishing technique, which can consist of figure of eights, circles and shorter strokes, depending upon the surfaces you're polishing. The important thing is the rubber keeps moving and must never lie stationary on the wood or you'll get pools of shellac. The object is to apply very thin, even layers, building up the finish. As MM says, if it goes wrong, it's no problem to remove and start over.

Re: Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:26 pm
by mei-mei
Hi, my appologies, I clearly misunderstood, I was taught it came from shells. Perhaps they thought it came from the shell of the lac bug?

Re: Shellac (Button Polish) instead of polyurethane

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:39 pm
by mei-mei

Just checked this site and absolutely no shells period. Interestingly though they say that it is scraped from the bark of trees that the bug has been living in and the product often contains bits of bark and bug. Wow the things you can learn from the net! Regardless of its origin, I personally think I prefer it to polyurethane.