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  1. #1
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    Default Why oil French Polishing pad?

    Hello, I am new to "shellacking", having attempted without success many years ago, and gave it away as a bad joke.

    This time, rather than using a brush, I have made a wad out of flannelette, folded in about 4 layers and made about 3" x 3". I covered this with a thin cotton /polyester material from an old bed sheet, gives a nice smooth thin smear of shellac. I am using 50/50 mix of Ubeaut White Hard shellac and metho

    I have put 4 or 5 coats of shellac on a box, and I now find that when I fill the cotton pad and rub it along applying the next coat, it tends to be sticky and not flow smoothly.

    Can anyone please advise why this is so? Is it time to make a new pad?

    I think one possible solution is to add a couple of drops of paraffin oil. Can this be added to the underside of the pad, or must I open the pad cloth and put drops of oil on the top of the cotton wadding? Or do I put a couple of drops on the workpiece surface?

    Hope some finishing experts can help
    regards,

    Dengy

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2014
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    Default

    Hello Joe,

    Greetings from newly-released Melbourne!

    The shellac gets sticky as the surface builds up on the project, particularly if you donít keep the rubber moving, or have too much shellac in your pad or you keep polishing for too long in one session. Thatís a bit simplistic but best I can do in a short answer

    To provide lubrication I use baby oil/ mineral oil. My rubbers are small as Iím only finishing boxes, but itís important not to use too much or it all becomes a smeary mess. I put a drop of oil on my thumb then lightly rub it across the surface of the rubber. When the pad starts to drag itís time to repeat the process.

    The oil is just a lubricant so it should go on the outside of the pad not inside. Towards the end of the polishing process (spiriting off) you are using progressively reducing the ratio of shellac you add to the pad and increasing the proportion of methylated spirits (alcohol for our friends in North America). You will be removing the oil that youíve used on the surface so the less you use on the way through the better - just enough to keep the pad moving freely.

    For the cover of the rubber I use well worn linen or cotton - I think they transfer the shellac better than anything with polyester or similar in it.

    Avoid polishing when it is very humid, Joe, or you may well find your finish developing a white blush after it dries (moisture trapped).

    A good practical YouTube demo French Polishing with Mitch Kohanek - YouTube The CCs are not bad.

    Hope all is well with you.

    Best regards,

    Brian

  4. #3
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    Default

    There's also an excellent youtube video by Clickspring showing the french polishing process at Spare Parts #14 - French Polishing A Piece Of Red Morrel Burl - YouTube . He uses olive oil as a lubricant.
    Good luck!

  5. #4
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    Default

    Hi Brian, many thanks for this informative and very helpful post. It answered all my questions.

    Can we take it to the next steps, right up to the final coat?

    so far I have been only using the one rubber and the one mix of 50/50 Ubeaut White Hard shellac and metho (industrial alcohol)

    Q1. How do you get rid of the runs that occur on the corners? I seem to get good coverage except for one or two runs on the edges of the box.
    Q2. Do I stay with the existing shellac mix?
    Q3. How do I get the final finish coat nice and shiny and smooth?
    Q4. What other steps have I missed ?

    Don't envy you in Melbourne. I have a son and daughter in Altona, and they are stir crazy. Just 12 months ago he finished a 3 year around Australia 4WD tour, so you can imagine just how itchy his feet are. He has been rebuilding his Troopy in readiness for the next trip to the top of Cape York, but has not been allowed take it out on the road to test at each stage of the rebuild.

    Did you get much woodwork done during your confinement, Brian? I haven't done much this year due to back problems incurred on an exercise bike, of all things, off to a neurosurgeon next Feb to find out what is going on, but will definitely not be doing surgery. Just have to stay with the walking stick. Beginning to hate this ageing process

    Off to watch the YouTube link you provided. Thanks for that
    regards,

    Dengy

  6. #5
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    Apr 2014
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    Kew, Vic
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    Default

    Hi Joe,

    I guess most finishes have a bit of a learning curve - I certainly had my moments with shellac! I spent a lot of time reading up, watching local polishers and finally spent a few days with Andrew Crawford getting his tuition - most of his own boxes have been finished with shellac.

    Leaving aside pore filling with pumice (the traditional way to get a smooth suface to begin with) I use the same mix as you - 50/50 U-Beaut Hard Shellac and methylated spirits. I use industrial methylated spirits now as there can be quite a bit of water in some hardware store meths. The SDS for Diggers brand says it contains <5% demineralized water but all meths absorbs moisture over time so I decant into a small plastic squeeze bottle from the chemist, then seal up the main container.

    As you know, each application of shellac blends into the existing finish so there are no layers as such. I just start moving across the surface in circles, figures of eight and straight lines, adding shellac to the rubber when it seems dry, and a very little oil on the outside to keep things moving smoothly.

    Once Iím happy with the session I leave it overnight before keeping going. This is because shellac Ďsinksí a bit as it dries so what looks like a lovely surface tonight may look less pleasing in the morning. A very light denib (I use a grey Scotchbrite pad as it does not clog as much as sandpaper). Then keep going until you feel the surface looks pretty good even after a day or so drying.

    At this point, when charging the rubber, just use meths (alcohol) in the back of the rubber - no shellac. There is already shellac in the rubber, so as you proceed the concentration of shellac reduces constantly. At this point you are almost just burnishing the finish and picking up any remaining oil. The rubber should be almost dry towards the end.

    I let the Hard Shellac dry and cross-link for around 3 weeks before either buffing lightly with a polishing compound for a high gloss or very gently rubbing along the grain with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. My preference is actually Rustins 0000+ Steel wool which is even finer than some 0000 products.

    If you have runs your rubber is definitely too wet. After I charge the rubber with shellac I press it on a piece of clean white paper - if the paper looks shiny wet keep pressing on different parts of the paper until the rubber is just damp. Existing runs Iíd either smooth out using a damp meths rag or sand gently. Remember that any new shellac put over the top will blend into the existing layer so you wonít get witness lines as you would with, say, polyurethane.

    Hope this helps, Joe. With luck one of the forumís professionals will be along to give a more experienced view.

    Best regards,

    Brian

  7. #6
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    Default

    Brian pretty much said it all and very well too.

    Traditional method of oiling was done with linseed oil. But I find Paraffin Oil to be much better. For our Hard Shellac I recommend our FoodSafe Plus oil which is 100% pure, heavy grade,
    medical/pharmaceutical paraffin oil. The beauty of that one is in its' purity, the benefits are much better than using linseed or most other oils in that it is a non drying oil meaning that you can walk away from the job and come back in a weeks time and pickup where you left off unlike paraffin and most others where the oil would have skinned on the surface unless removed before leaving.

    Another benefit of the FoodSafe Plus is that it gets trapped in the matrix of the shellac as it's being polished bringing out a much more vibrant and deep looking finish. This will not effect the final finish. Also the FoodSafe is easier to spirit off when you're finished.

    Beware of baby Oils as they can often have adulterants in them like a perfume of colourant which could cause a problem down the track with possible crazing, cracking or even delamination. I've seen the full delamination of a French Polished coffee table top which was put down to using baby oil as lubricant.

    Methylated Spirits, Metholated Spirits, Meths, Metho, Ethanol, Denatured Alcohol:
    All the above are the same just different names

    • Beware of buying the cheap supermarket meths.
    • It can have up to 40+% of water added to it.
    • To be called meths it has to be OP (over Proof) meaning it has be able to burn and it will at a bit over 50% alcohol.
    • It is OK for cleaning windows, etc but you definitely don't want to use it in shellac.
    • Ideally use 100% Industrial Mentholated Spirits (100% IMS or 100% Ethanol same thing different names).
    • 100% IMS is not easy to obtain and mostly available in 4 lt tins containers from good paint shops.
    • You can use 95% but it may bloom easier if you're polishing in humid or wet conditions.
    • Unless you've got yours through an act of parliament, it will not be 100% proof. All metho will have a couple of percent of denaturant in the mix to make it unpalatable.
    • If you're buying it in bottles it should be marked somewhere on the bottle with either 100% or 95% usually in bottom left or right corner of label.
    • If you're not sure if it has water in it pour a little into a bottle and add a drop of mineral turpentine to it. Shake it and if it has even the slightest milky look about it there is water in the mix. If it has a very milky look then it has a lot of water and is not for polishing anything other than glass.


    For what it's worth when you first start using Hard Shellac it's a good idea to start with a weaker mix until you get used to using the rubber. up to 4 parts meths to 1 part shellac. Doesn't build as quick but helps you get used to the application process.
    • Apply a number of the weak coats until you feel confident using the rubber (pad) and are happy with the way it is going for you.
    • Then switch up to the 50/50 mix.
    • Apply at least one coat before using any oil as lubricant.


    As for the drips:

    • Don't do it.... Rubber, is way too wet. Even so, work to the outside edges not from the outside edges and you should avoid drips.
    • Glide your rubber off the work when you come to edges. Dont start on the edge rather glide your rugger onto the work a little inside the edge of the work.
      But first:
    • Wring out your rubber so that it's not wringing wet before you start.
    • As Brian said. Have a clean sheet of white paper (not news paper) beside your work and press out any excess liquid before starting.
    • I use a clean piece of pine or other timber for this as there were always scrap bits around, but the paper's a good thing.
    • I would also tap the face of the rubber down hard on the scrap wood regularly, to keep it the face nice and flat and help to bring a little more of the shellac to the face of the rubber.


    Hope this is a little more info and of some help to you although you already got some good help from Brian and SingwithFishes although I'm bit of a non Olive Oil fan.

    Cheers - Neil

    A Polishers Handbook"
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  8. #7
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    Default

    Thanks, Neil - can’t get better information than that - straight from the master!

    I buy IMS from Timbecon, where I also buy Hard Shellac

    Thanks again,

    Brian

  9. #8
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    Default

    WOW !! How good is this Forum. What a great group so willing to share their experiences. Many thanks to you all for helping me out. I need to re-read all this, and then get back into it.

    My first problem area is the shellac appeared to dry out immediately I smeared the surface with the rubber, so much so I could not go back over it. It would be quite tacky. This happened on the first layer as well as subsequent layers. This means starting right at the edge, causing runs. Finishing at the other edge was no problem, just gliding it off. Probably too much shellac in the rubber, as indicated above. I presume the best way would be to start in the middle and then lift off both ends.

    The video links given by homey and singswithfishes show up the rubber going back and forth all over the workpiece non stop until he gets a nice shine. I never knew you could do that, and I have certainly been unable to do so. On the boxes I am doing, I run parallel smears of shellac, and hope to cover up any imperfections next layer.

    I went and got some paraffin oil and eye dropper from the Chemist last night, so will put a couple of drop on the rubber to see it that permits me to do that.

    Thanks again everyone
    regards,

    Dengy

  10. #9
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    Default

    Sorry Neil, pressed the wrong icon. I donít want pictures with your post
    regards,

    Dengy

  11. #10
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    Default

    Thank goodness for that.

    This How to French Polish - Woodworking Finish with Shellac - YouTube is an excellent video on traditional French Polishing goes for 18+ minutes but really shows pretty much all you need to know.

    Sorry about the glide on glide off which is more for brushing shellac. with the pad glide it on and then work the entire surface, working to the edges and not going over them you will see in the video. Make sure to change the pattern of the rubber from circles to ovals, figure 8s long ovals and figure 8s etd then straighten out along the grain occasionally.

    Hope this is of more help.

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  12. #11
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    Default Another problem

    Another problem has just cropped up. The lid of a box I am making is a plywood panel with a 10mm black bean frame, with the panel sunken down into the frame so that there is a lip of 2mm all the way around the ply. The frame is about 170 x 150.
    I have tried to shellac the frame and panel with a rubber, but the join of the panel and the lip of the frame ends up with shellac pooling in the corner of the join and looks unsightly.
    What would be the best way to go about doing this?
    regards,

    Dengy

  13. #12
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    Joe, if youíre getting pooling you have waay too much shellac in the rubber/pad. If you tap the rubber on your inner wrist it should feel damp not wet. See earlier post about pressing on clean paper until there is no real wetness. Too much shellac will cause exactly the effects you describe - pooling, runs, uneven surface and sticking.

    The rubber should be moved in different ways, circles, figures of eight etc as described by Neil. Pressure should be light at first, then as the rubber dries out you can apply more pressure as long as it isnít sticking. If it starts to stick stop immediately. Go and have a cup of tea and come back when the surface has dried. Iíve stuffed more shellac finishes due to keeping going when the surface got tacky than all other causes combined

    Itís well worth practising with the rubber on sanded scrap. I know it sounds complicated but it isnít and soon there comes the ĎAha!í moment when overything just seems to work.

    Good luck!

    Brian

  14. #13
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    Default

    My Ubeaut book is in storage....

    Q - once this is all done and finished, is there a period that it is left to completely dry/harden?

  15. #14
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    Yessir! 20 days according to the Hard Shellac page on ubeaut.com.au:

    ĒAfter shellac has been dissolved in ethanol* it is possible to introduce additives that cause the shellac to cross link after it has dried. This cross linking takes about 20 days to completely cure, less in hot weather.Ē

    Brian

  16. #15
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    If you pit a point on your rubber you should be able to get into those edges and corners.

    Traditional rubber should be a pear shape with a bit of a point at the front rather than what seems to around everywhere on the internet, looking like a mini plum pudding in a bag.

    Below is page from Polishers Handbook with info on making a trad rubber. Click for bigger view. The finished rubber bottom right illustration if tapped flat as i mentioned before can be made to and almost knife sharp front edge that should fit into all sorts of tight areas like you described.

    Other option is to use a brush but get a good one. The brush below is a Camel Hair Artists Watercolour mop. will cost around $20-$25. It is a natural bristle brush and a 1 inch brush will hold about as much polish as a 4 inch brush off the shelf in any paint.

    The beauty of this brush is that it has the ability to get and hold an almost razor sharp edge along the tip of the bristles enabling you to get into almost any edge and corner. It is also extremely soft and will leave no brush marks on the finish. The bristles are fine and there are way more in a 1inch mop than in a 4 or 5 inch brush.

    I have demo piece that had 5 coats of Hard shellac on it and it looks like it's a piano finish. Those 5 coats were done over the period of 1 day, one on top of the other, no sanding between coats and nothing was done to it after the last coat. it was done over 20 years ago and has been kicked from pillar to post during travels and at exhibitions, etc. I have a number of these brushes also a dozen or so very small natural bristle brushes for getting into problem areas, carvings, etc.

    I also a set of 3 French Ox Hair brushes 1", 2", and 3". Purchased from Gramercy Tools New York USA. Specifically for use with shellac, they are the bees knees. Brilliant. Cost around US$120 (landed here in Aus0 some 18 years ago (bit dearer now) but still well worth the money. Best money I ever spent. They are also pictured below. These also can be drawn to a razor sharp front edge. If you look at the Gramercy tools link have a look at the making of a brush. Fascinating bit of video and well worth a look or two. Here's a link to it on >YouTube< bit easier than finding it on their site. Video runs for a little over 4 min but is definitely worth a look.


    Rubber.jpg Camel hair mop.jpgGramercy.jpg
    The above are all from the latest version
    Fifth Edition 2016 of "A Polishers Handbook"

    Cheers
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