By Orville and Robert Milburn
It's time to prepare our shellac. Because the next step will require the proper "cut" of alcohol and shellac flakes, we will need to know how much alcohol and shellac to mix together in order to obtain the proper cut. A 1 pound cut means we 1 pound of shellac flakes are dissolved in 1 gallon of alcohol. If we want a 2 pound cut (thicker or heavier), we will add 2 pounds of shellac flakes to one gallon of alcohol. As we have stated before, it's never a good idea to mix more than can be used in a short amount of time. Besides, only a pint of a 2 pound cut is enough to French polish an entire guitar. Let's reduce the mix proportionally by dividing both the shellac and the alcohol to a manageable amount. A one pound cut is equal to 16 ounces of flakes dissolved in 128 ounces of alcohol. This is the same as 1 ounce of flakes dissolved in 8 ounces of alcohol. Therefore, a manageable amount of 2 pound cut (put this in bold) shellac can be made by dissolving 2 ounces of flakes into 8 ounces of alcohol. It's important to note that, at this point, we won't be too concerned about the exactness of the proportions since it is not that critical to the quality of the final mixture.
|Various shellac solutions. From far right: Very thin cut of "luna" shellac, 2-pound cut of "luna", 2-pound cut of garnet shellac, olive oil for comparison.|
You may mix the shellac flakes with alcohol and let them sit for 24 hours until they are throughly dissolved, or you can prepare the shellac for almost immediate use by grinding the shellac flakes into a fine powder with a coffee grinder or blender. The powder will dissolve into the alcohol many times faster than the solid flakes. Occasional gentle agitation or moderate heat will help speed the process. Use as water bath to heat the mixture, but do not use a range or hot-plate. Using this method will allow you to have a shellac solution ready to use in a few hours. Once dissolved, the shellac can be transferred to your squeeze bottle.
Just a word of safety...
- Do not allow smoking in the same room where you will be working.
- Do not work in a room with open flames such as wood stoves and appliances with pilot lights
- Be sure that there is adequate ventilation in the area where you are working.
- Keep the shellac and alcohol locked up if children are visiting or live in the same household.
1 ounce = 30 grams
1 gallon = 128 ounces or 3840 grams
1 gallon = 8 pints
1 pint = 16 ounces or 480 grams