Getting Shellacked at the Tavern Table

The finish on the tavern table is well underway. I put on two coats of “Goldenrod” milk paint from The Real Milk Paint Co. on consecutive evenings, burnishing with Scotch-Brite between each coat. Let’s be clear: I hate burnishing milk paint. It’s not so bad on a flat surface, like this tabletop, but it is dusty, messy, smelly, finger-numbing work on the turnings with all their curves and crevices. But, if you wish to use milk paint, it is a necessary evil (a necessary evil that almost makes me want to try oil paints).


The color goes on rather bold:

shrink pot 004

But after two coats, I apply a layer of orange shellac which calms things down considerably.


I once asked Chris Schwarz if he used pre-mixed shellac or mixed his own. His response: “Buying pre-mixed shellac is like buying frozen lasagna”. Perhaps, but the frozen lasagna has one thing going for it that homemade does not: it may be mediocre, but at least it’s consistently and predictably mediocre. Homemade lasagna can be world-class, but I have had some crappy homemade lasagna as well.

This is relevant, because I have had mixed success mixing my own shellac. Last time I bought a pound of flakes, they didn’t dissolve in the alcohol any more than if I’d thrown a handful of Wheaties into the jar. And the dregs that did dissolve refused to dry, but instead preferred to live out their brief existence as a gummy film on top of my painstakingly wrought furniture. The shellac was from a reputable dealer, but I was too inexperienced at the time to know that it was a bad batch, so I just ate the cost and moved on.

All this to say: I buy Zinsser from Home Depot, and I don’t feel a bit of guilt. It’s always 10 minutes away, and at least I know what I’m getting when I buy it. I have no complaints about how it’s held up on my furniture, and my earliest shellac-finished piece will turn 10 years old this year.

So, after hours of painting and burnishing and shellacking, here’s where things stand. Next up will be a couple coats of blue-green “Peacock”, unless I decide that this straw color is more to my liking. I’ll have a better idea when the shellac is fully dry and rubbed down.





3 thoughts on “Getting Shellacked at the Tavern Table

    1. It definitely benefits from cutting when using it as a clear finish. I use denatured alcohol, since it’s more readily available. For coating milk paint, I prefer to go full strength, as it seems to give a more aged appearance. It’s finicky to use that way, but I feel like I’ve got it under control after a bit of practice.

      Liked by 1 person

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