shellac+stain+shellac = perfect

I had no idea how much of a hassle this would be. I figured I'd just buy some garnet shellac, slap it on, and life would be good. Not so much.

The garnet shellac wasn't brown or dark enough. It actually looked very similar to the orange/amber shellac I had tried out in the summer. It added beautiful depth and color to the wood, but it wasn't what I was looking for. So then I bought all kinds of little sample packages of Varathane stain. Sample packs like that are God's gift to DIYers. After much sampling, I've finally decided on "golden mahogany". The absoloutely terrible photo below shows all of my attempts at finding the right color combination. Remind me not to take pictures before the sun comes up and/or I've had some coffee. The top of the right-hand board is the garnet shellac, with the amber shellac beneath it. I imagined garnet as a deep reddish hue, but it's very orang-y. More red-orange than red-brown.

Because our woodwork is pine, it's kind of difficult to stain without it turning out blotchy. Based on some recommendations, I decided to seal the wood first using a 1 lb cut of clear, dewaxed shellac (Zinnser SealCoat, thinned). The stain goes over that, then I coat it all with a coat of garnet shellac to bring out the red tones. And then a few coats of clear shellac over that for protection. Is that complicated enough? The resulting color just about perfectly matches the existing woodwork upstairs, which is what I am aiming for. I'll take a picture when the room has brightened up so that the flash doesn't wash it out.


Omar said...

Your post inspired me to look into what the deal is with shellac. I'm currently in the process of refinishing one of my bedrooms and was fearing the decision of how to actually do this the right way. I've settled on using shellac on everything but the doors and windows (varnish for those).

Seems there's various techniques for how to do this though. The woodwork in my home is also pine (fir?). I've had one project already dealing with refinishing and had quite a time getting it to look right. Blotchiness being a major factor. Has the technique you describe to avoid that worked for you? I'm very interested in your results. Hopefully I can get this room ready for stain/shellac in about a month or so. I hope.. :)

Anonymous said...

I came across your post while doing some web searches, and it was refreshing to read. I went thru a very similar situation, and in the process of searching the net for a definitive answer, I got overwhelmed with lots of contradictory information. Not to mention all of the "expert" information which usually involved spending money on things that aren't really needed. You know the drill. Anyways...
I got fed up, so I tried something very close to what you've done.
The existing woodwork in my house is 50 year old yellow pine; amber shellaced to a nice gloss finish. I installed a new closet (and door, etc.), and wanted to match the exsting woodwork. Long story short, I sealed some new yellow pine with Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner. I then applied a coat of Minwax Cherry stain (which nicely duplicated the aging of the 50 year old yellow pine). I followed all of that with multiple thin coats of Zinsser amber shellac (cut in half with denatured alcohol) until I got the gloss I wanted.
No fancy tools, no frivilous (and expensive) chemicals or additives, and no unneeded work.
My results were exactly what I wanted, and I didn't get caught up in the "overthinking" that seems to be so prevalent on the internet.