Everything You Need To Know About Shellac Flakes (FAQs)

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Shellac, a resin that occurs naturally, finds several uses, not only in woodworking but also in other areas. In woodworking, you can find shellac in liquid as well as solid form. A popular way to procure shellac is in the form of shellac flakes, making it convenient to carry and use.

Shellac plays a prominent role in woodworking, and many questions exist regarding this substance. In this post, we have compiled a list of shellac flakes FAQs, which consist of questions and answers about shellac and shellac flakes. We hope we can clear any queries you may have about this substance through this article.

Shellac Flakes FAQs

What are shellac flakes?

De-Waxed Super Blonde Shellac Flakes 1 lb. (16 oz.)
De-Waxed Super Blonde Shellac Flakes (Amazon)

Shellac is a substance that the lac bug (Kerria lacca) and Laccifer lacca secretes. We find these insects on trees in India and Thailand. After processing, shellac comes in the form of flakes. We then dissolve the flakes in alcohol to create liquid shellac. You can apply the resultant liquid onto the surface of the wood to create a layer of sealant and colorant. Shellac offers many benefits as a stain, glossy varnish, sealant, and natural primer.

How do you prepare shellac flakes?

Shellac Flakes
Shellac Flakes (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Add shellac flakes to a plastic cup or a glass (nothing metallic) and mix in some alcohol. Ensure all the contents are 16°C or more. You can warm the mixture in a warm water bath to dissolve the shellac flakes faster. Never heat the mix directly. Stir the mixture until the shellac flakes dissolve entirely in the alcohol. Finally, filter the liquid to remove any sediment or residue. You can store this liquid shellac for a few months if you keep it in a cool area away from direct light.

How do you apply liquid shellac?

Shellac Flakes
Shellac Flakes (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

You need to prepare the surface of the wood before you apply shellac by thoroughly sanding it. Once done, you can apply it through a brush, cloth, or spray gun. If you apply multiple coats, give 30 minutes to 45 minutes gap between successive coats to dry completely. Smoothen the surface with 320-400 grit sandpaper and dust it with a dry cloth before applying the next layer. You can add natural resins like dammar and rosin to the shellac for improving the texture of the surface of the wood.

What are the pros and cons of shellac flakes?

Advantages of Shellac Flakes:

  • High degree of resistance to scratching and water
  • Faster curing time
  • Eco-friendly and has a milder smell than other varnishes
  • Easy to apply
  • Also, easier to clean
  • Natural resistance to UV rays and does not yellow or darken with age

Disadvantages of Shellac Flakes:

  • May not provide a robust enough surface for kitchen counters and tables
  • Only available with a glossy finish
  • Tendency to collect at the edges of the surfaces when applied by brush
  • Deteriorates gradually once dissolved in alcohol

What is the history of shellac?

The earliest documented evidence of shellac can be found up to 3,000 years ago. However, much earlier, Indian mythology mentions a palace made of dried shellac in the Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata. In more recent history, it was exported to western countries from Asia. It gained popularity as a furniture lacquer from the 13th century onwards.

How do insects produce shellac?

Stick Lac
Stick Lac (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Shellac comes from stick lac, a substance produced by the female lac bug. The insect consumes wood sap and exudes it in a tunnel-shaped tube which it spreads along with the tree bark. The stick lac is then harvested and refined into the form of shellac as we know it.

Does shellac finish turn white when exposed to water?

You can easily damage shellac by exposing it to water and alcohol. It turns white in the presence of humidity, which is why you shouldn’t apply shellac in humid weather. Therefore, you need to prevent surfaces coated with shellac from getting wet. You may find it necessary to repair a shellac surface frequently, which fortunately is not very difficult.

How is the thickness of shellac flakes measured?

We measure the concentration of shellac using the unit “pound cut.” It refers to the weight in pounds of shellac dissolved in a pound of shellac.

What are the different colors of shellac?

Three colors of Shellac Flakes
Three colors of Shellac Flakes (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Shellac comes in a variety of colors. You can get it in light blond or dark brown or a wide range of colors in between. The color of shellac varies according to the climatic conditions and the time that the resin is harvested.

What are the uses of shellac?

Shellac made by the insect Laccifer lacca is not toxic, like the resin that we extract from the lac bug (Kerria lacca) that we get in hardware stores. While we use the Kerria lacca variety of shellac to coat wood, the Laccifer lacca shellac has various applications.

We use Laccifer lacca shellac in for making dentures and other dental products. It plays a vital role in tablet coating in the pharmaceutical industry. It is also a prime ingredient in hairspray, and we use it in several cosmetic products. Shellac does not have any known medicinal uses.

Does shellac deteriorate as it ages?

Shellac exhibits natural resistance to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This helps it to not become yellow or dark with age. If you see dark shellac, it is probably shellac that was dark to start with, or perhaps it was artificially tinted.

Is a surface coated with shellac scratched and damaged easily?

Shellac Flakes
Shellac Flakes (Image: Phil Gradwell)

Shellac has scratch-resistant properties. It is less brittle than other lacquers and varnishes, which reduces the chances of the surface cracking. If there is any damage to a shellac surface due to rough use or exposure to water, you can easily touch it up or add another coat. You can get a grade of shellac called “button shellac,” which is more robust than regular shellac. It gets its name from the button-shaped pellets of the final product.

Can we mix shellac with other finishes?

Shellac mixes easily with most types of wood finishes. However, ensure to clean the surface suitably. Using a de-waxer also helps. Take particular care if you are applying shellac to older surfaces that have accumulated grime.

Shellac will adhere well when mixed with almost any other type of clean, wax-free, and oil-free finish. If you are using shellac as a sealant, ensure to read the manufacturer’s product information. Some waxy grades of shellac may not be suitable for use as a sealant, and you may need to find an alternative.


After going through these shellac FAQs, we hope that you will now be more aware of shellac, shellac flakes, and their uses. If you are a woodworker, you will find that shellac is a versatile and useful substance. You are likely to use it frequently.in your various woodworking projects. Hence, you can benefit from a bit of basic knowledge about this substance, which is why we have created this post. We hope that the information will put you on the right track regarding how to get the best out of shellac and shellac flakes.


Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons