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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

WARNING: We Interrupt This Blog for an Upcoming Shellac Moment.

On Sunday I got the new oak floor laid in the 1st floor powder room and put the stain on it (Minwax Golden Oak). The stain has been sitting around the place for two years and was quite lumpy. It needed a good stir before putting globs onto the wood and rubbing them around with a cloth. Any lumps of pigment got thrown back into the can in the hope that they will be smaller lumps in another couple of years. There is nothing like recycling! I tell you this because I see some people are very particular about the stain they use. Stain is basically pigment suspended in solution. Some solutions are supposed to penetrate the wood while others rest on the surface for a layer of translucent color. The latter are called topical stains. Most people are happy staining their wood and then putting polyurethane over it. Not me. This house is old. The floors should look like they belong here. Right now, this one doesn't! Take a look for yourself....

If I put polyurethane over it it will look like this only more glossy. This floor looks good but not in this house. It looks too new. This is the floor you would expect to see in a new home or a rehabbed one in a historic district where they advertise "beautiful" hardwood floors. I could do what many people do, buy another stain color or two and mix it until the wood is the proper color and then cover it with the "plastic" layer of poly. That doesn't solve the problem though. The floor would still look new and I want it to look like it has always been there. How will I do that? Amber shellac! I will still use polyurethane as the final coat because this is a bathroom but I am going to use the poly to protect the shellac. I am using the shellac like it is a topical stain.

I am posting this now because the timing is appropriate and because I haven't done the work yet so there is no "after" picture to show off. I can't tell you how great my floor looks after messing with it a gazillion times until it came out right. You see, I already know how the floor will turn out. I did one just like it last year in the hallway upstairs. I will be applying three or four coats of shellac and two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane. Then I do the super fine steel wool and beeswax treatment. When done, I predict this floor will look like it has been here 50 years, without the dings of course. So, unless I spill the can of shellac, I will post a picture of this floor again within a week when it is done. If I spill the shellac I will post a picture sooner and post about how not to refinish a floor and put in a paragraph about how to remove shellac stains from your clothes!


At 10/31/2006 2:24 PM, Blogger Jodi said...

Ironically the professional we consulted recommended amber shellac for our old woodwork and tinted amber shellac for our new staircase that needs stained. We will be picking it up later this week.

Does shellac smell like poly? I have to do this indoors and don't want to die from the smell.

At 10/31/2006 4:10 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Shellac smells like denatured alcohol. The smell doesn't linger long because the alcohol evaporates within an hour and the shellac dries. Denatured alcohol smells a lot better than the petroleum based polyurethanes but can make you nauseous if you aren't used to it.

At 11/01/2006 3:29 PM, Blogger Jodi said...

Thanks! We poly'ed a floor last year and I swear the smell was in my lungs for 2 weeks. yuck!

At 11/01/2006 4:35 PM, Blogger Ms. P in Jackson said...

Hi Gary. I can't believe you found my sorry-*** site! Anyway, while using a heat gun to strip-off about 10 layers of paint I noticed that it comes off very easily in thick peels and leaves an amber-red residue which actually turns somewhat crystallized from the heat. Is this varnish or shellac? The house was built in 1895 or so they say. I love the color and want all the wood in the house to be this color again. I can't wait to see what you do with the shellac. I may decide to shellac the woodwork before applying poly as a sealer if yours turns out good. I've been reading up on it and I'm amazed people don't use it more often. I tried using Minwax's Polyshades and thought the results much less than what I had hoped for. It took 24 hours to dry on top of that. I can't believe the shellac dries so quickly.

At 11/01/2006 5:05 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Try rubbing the finish with alcohol. If it dissolves then it is shellac. (I suspect it will). You won't need to use poly on doors and molding when done. You wax it. Shellac needs to be protected from standing water and spilled alcohol so doors and molding is generally safe and wax is sufficient to protect it.

When you are done with the heat gun, use alcohol and steel wool in place of paint stripper. You may find it does a comparable job and is cheaper.

At 2/26/2007 6:44 PM, Blogger 2009 Sponsors said...

I am doing my bathroom ceilings with amber shellac on v-joint pine. do i need to seal this at all or just the shellac? Thanks! Lee.

At 2/26/2007 6:57 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Since it is a bathroom, I would put a thin coat of poly or spar varnish over the shellac to protect it from water. The shellac should seal the wood. Trouble is it "blooms" when wet (goes cloudy).


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