When Should You Use Dewaxed Shellac?


Choosing the right type of finish, sealant, or paint application on your woodworking project can be a bit thought-provoking. You have done so much work to get to this point; you would hate to see it get messed up. When using shellac or dewaxed shellac, is there an ideal time, though?

Dewaxed shellac can be used on wood without much exposure to water or alcohol as shellac is not considered highly water-resistant and is not alcohol-resistant. Dewaxed shellac can be applied between layers of stain, before lacquer or polyurethane sealant, or as a pre-sealant.

You might see lots of different amateur woodworkers talking about using dewaxed shellac as the sealant on their woodworking projects- but this is just not a good idea. The longer you are working in the woodworking world, the more you will see why. However, whether you are an amateur or a pro, it can still be helpful to look at a few cases when dewaxed shellac should be applied.

Situations to Apply Dewaxed Shellac

Ok, so you have come up with a beautiful design for the perfect woodworking piece in your new dining room. It is all completed in its natural state– now is the time to begin applying stain, finish, sealants, etc. However, choosing the right time (and process) for applying these can be a bit overwhelming.

Taking a closer look at dewaxed shellac, here are a few situations when it is best to apply this product:

  1. Use dewaxed shellac on pieces that will not be exposed to water, alcohol, or general wear and tear. If you are working on a small woodworking project and plan for the project to turn out more design-oriented than functional, you might be able to use dewaxed shellac as a type of sealant. However, it is important to know that while the dewaxed shellac can “seal in” the piece you are working on, it will not “seal out” other elements that your woodworking piece comes into contact with.

This means that the dewaxed shellac (and shellac in general) is not designed to be a highly water-resistant sealant type. It can help prevent a little water absorption, but it does not have the same water-resistant properties as authentic sealants (lacquer, polyurethane, etc.).

Because of this, you must keep the functionality of this type of product in mind when you plan on using it. Along with water, dewaxed shellac is not alcohol resistant, so if you are using any cleaning, polishing, or other products that contain even small doses of alcohol, the dewaxed shellac will not be able to hold up- or protect your woodworking pieces from these elements, either.

Along with water and alcohol, since dewaxed shellac is not highly durable in terms of being a sealant, it should also not be applied to products that you plan to gain a lot of use out of. Instead, it can be added to decorative pieces hung on the wall, for example, or something similar.

  1. Use dewaxed shellac as a pre-sealant. Since we have covered the point that dewaxed shellac is not ideal to be used as a sealant, you might be confused about what this type of product is good for. After all, many companies market dewaxed shellac as a type of sealant, so if it is not good for this, how should it be used?

Interestingly, dewaxed shellac can be used as a highly effective pre-sealant. Many types of sealants used in the woodworking world do not come with bold shine or an ability to retain the glow that can make a woodworking piece stand out. However, dewaxed shellac can bolster the natural wood grain on your project.

Then, after it is applied, you can sand it down between layers and then apply a lacquer or polyurethane sealant on top of it to give the more durable sealant properties (such as water and alcohol resistance and protection from damage by general wear and tear).

When these two types of products are used (dewaxed shellac as a pre-sealant and another type of sealant on top of that), you can expect to find a beautiful piece that also has the durability you are looking for. If you are in the market for making your woodworking pieces stand out, this can be an effective route to take.

  1. Use dewaxed shellac between layers of wood finish or stain. Like you can use dewaxed shellac under layers of more protective sealants, you can also use dewaxed shellac between layers of wood finish or stain. This can be an incredibly intuitive way to achieve the type of coloration you are going for on your woodworking project, but it must be done carefully.

Let’s say you are working on a piece that has variations in-depth due to the wood’s natural cut. You are not yet trying to fill these in, but you want to apply stain or wood finish to them. If you were to begin staining the project and filling in all of the gaps, you would find that the deeper layers would soak in more stain or wood finish causing them to be much darker in appearance.

To prevent this from happening, you can use dewaxed shellac between the layers of wood finish or stain that you are applying. The dewaxed shellac can act as a barrier that prevents the absorption of the stain on certain parts of your project. Then, once you have finished staining your entire project, you can seal the piece with a different, more durable finish like lacquer or polyurethane (as mentioned above).

In this way, you can achieve the artistic design you originally had in mind (the one you spent hours tirelessly working to achieve). Finally, you can finish the piece off with something that will actually protect your hard work and enjoy the completed lookup close or far away- knowing that the artistic vision you had for your woodworking project was mastered.

Will Dewaxed Shellac Make Wood Waterproof?

Ok, so even if you are looking to try to seal up your woodworking project but are not wanting to go to the trouble of applying a more durable type of sealant, you might still be wondering how effective dewaxed shellac can be at keeping drops of water off of your woodworking project.

As stated above, though, dewaxed shellac will not make wood waterproof. Even though it is often marketed as water-resistant, this is often not the case for exposure to much water. Sure, dewaxed shellac adds a thin layer of protection if you were to drop a bit of water and immediately wipe it up, but it will not protect the wood from long term water exposure.

For this type of protection, you would need to apply a more water-resistant and durable type of sealant on your woodworking project to keep out the elements. Fortunately, this is not overly complicated and will be well worth your time and investment.

What Can You Put Over Shellac?

Now that you are more aware that you should not plan on using shellac or dewaxed shellac as your sole sealant, you might be looking for an alternative method of sealing your woodworking project. Honestly, this will save you loads of time, energy, and heartbreak in the long run as your woodworking piece is able to hold up to general wear and tear and the test of time

Still, you might be wondering what you can put over shellac to act as an authentic sealant. Fortunately, two of the best types of products used over dewaxed shellac include lacquer and polyurethane. These add enhanced durability, water resistance, and longevity to your woodworking piece.

Along with that, these types of sealants are not incredibly difficult to apply to your project. Fortunately, a lacquer is going to be able to be applied carefully over your shellac to provide a smooth finish. However, applying the dewaxed shellac beforehand is not overly cumbersome.

By adding a product like lacquer or polyurethane to your woodworking pieces, especially when applied on top of shellac, you can ensure that there will be a beautiful color and the high durability provided by an authentic sealant.

Now, while it is not likely that you will be pouring buckets of water on your woodworking piece, it is still likely that humidity, or even water rings from a cold beverage placed on your piece, can still come into contact with it. Therefore, it is recommended to add the protection even if you do not foresee much contact with water or other elements.

It is much better to be safe than sorry in protecting your projects from being damaged. You can avoid experiencing the heartbreak of your long hours, resources, and dedication going to waste by applying a sealant like lacquer or polyurethane over the shellac application for enhanced durability to your woodworking project.

Which Shellac Brand is the Best?

You have the choice of either going old-school and using shellac flakes(which some woodworkers swear is the best way to do it) or buying a can or bottle of dewaxed shellac(the way I do it). Amazon has both, and I recommend De-Waxed Super Blonde Shellac Flakes 1 lb. (16 oz.)Opens in a new tab. for flakes. Make sure you get the correct color of flakes.

If you don’t want to use flakes, then the Rust-Oleum Zinsser 854 1-Quart Bulls Eye Sealcoat Universal Sanding SealerOpens in a new tab. is specifically made dewaxed.

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