Even after the wood has been sealed you can open up a whole new world of stain and tonal possibilities by adding a layer of stain (glazes or toners). This is true for all sealers or topcoats. Previously we checked staining over stains, polyurethane, and Varnishes.
To answer, can you stain over shellac, This article will cover the basics of glazing and toning wood sealed with shellac.
Can you stain over shellac – Staining shellac 101
If you do not like the hue or color of a certain wood then stains are your best chance at finetuning to your liking. Well, this is pretty easy when the wood is unsealed but in some cases, the wood may be sealed. In our special case today the wood is sealed with shellac.
So to fine-tune such wood can you stain over shellac?
Staining over shellac is possible. Shellac is a good finish sealer and will have no trouble hosting a layer of stain above it.
But for successfully applying a stain on top of shellac, the surface has to be clean and dull otherwise bonding problems will occur.
What happens if you stain over shellac?
Staining over shellac present a couple of possibilities. If you are planning to stain on top of a shellac topcoat it’s good to know some of these possibilities in order to know what will work for you. While applying a normal stain is still ok buying a glaze and using it instead is not only easier but will give better results.
Depending on the type of stain/glaze/toner, and the application process you can alter
- The optical mechanism that highlights the depth and richness of wood
- Alter overall hue and value
- Control splotching
- Subdue stain brightness
- Imitate age
- Imitate grain
- Highlight pore structure
What finish can you put over shellac?
Almost all finishes can be applied on top of other finishes. The golden rule is the finish should be fully cured, clean, and dull.
In the case of shellac finish experts like Bob Flexner advise that any film-forming finish can go over a coat of shellac as long as the shellac is fully cured.
Stains that have binders will also go over shellac with no major problems. However, stains may need an extra layer of protection regardless of having a binder or not.
Can I paint on top of shellac?
Painting over shellac is absolutely doable. But should you? It depends. Painting unlike stains will obscure the wood underneath completely. So if you don’t care about the grain and figure of the wood then painting on top of the shellac sealer is ok.
The advantage of shellac when the painting is that it has already sealed the wood therefore a primer is not needed. The only time you may need a primer in such a scenario is if the wood is too dark and the paint may not block it with much success then a primer can be introduced to block out and lay a good foundation for a lighter color.
If your intended purpose is color that still shows the grain and figure of the wood then avoid paint and use stains instead.
Can shellac go over oil-based stain?
Shellac can seal your stained wood regardless of whether the stain is water or oil-based. As discussed above the fundamental rule is a cured, clean surface.
A light sanding before applying your protective layer of shellac ensures your surface is as even as possible.
How do you apply stain over shellac?
Surface preparation is quintessential to get a perfect finish. In surface prep, you will need to sand lightly the surface to ensure it is smooth. Be careful not to sand the entire shellac off unless that’s the intention. Sanding takes care of dirt that may be on the surface. On top of this sanding etch the shellac allowing mechanical bond between the existing coating and the stain to be applied later on.
cleaning the surface
After the sanding clean the surface to make sure no dust particles lay on the surface.
Applying the stain/glaze
To apply the stain you may use a brush, rug, or spray gun. After picking a method that best suits you apply the glaze evenly on the surface. Make sure it spreads to all the areas.
Wipe off excess
Wipe of the excess glaze right after the thinner has flashed off and the glaze has become dull. wiping off can be done with a rug but I prefer using a brush. With a brush, you can brush off excess each time drying your brush with a rug you get a consistency and color concentration you like. Keep the coat as thin as possible owing to the fact a topcoat awaits.
Once you have applied the glaze let it cure. once it’s cured you can go ahead and lock in the stain with a layer of shellac. Adding a new topcoat ensures that the stain underneath cannot be scratched or easily dented.
let the piece cure
Once your topcoat is fully cured your piece is ready but you do not have to stop here. If a rich depth or more finetuning of the hue and value is desired the process can be repeated.
However, if multiple coats are to be used then it’s wise to keep each layer as thin as possible for every new layer obscure the wood to some level.
How do you make shellac darker?
Darkening a finish is called toning. In glazing, the stain is sandwiched between layers of clearcoat-like shellac. Intoning you mix the dye or pigment stain with the clear finish. In such a case the finish will be the “vehicle”.
You can add a stain to your finish to make it darker before application. How can you tell if a stain and finish are compatible? It’s easy the key is knowing the solvent or thinner used in each.
If the solvent is water-alcohol or lacquer thinner for both stain and finish then the stain and finish are compatible.
If the thinner is mineral spirits in either stain or finish then there is compatibility.
The explanation for the above is Dye dissolved in a solvent is redissolved by its solvent and thus by a finish that constitutes its solvent.
In the case of Shellac, it will redissolve alcohol and oil-based dyes, Therefore you can darken shellac with such dyes.
There is also the option of buying darker shellac like the Ruby-red since shellac flakes come in different colors as seen in the image below. For more on stains check out our article on the basics .
Can you stain over shellac – Summary
Staining over shellac is possible and opens up a world of possibilities. The application is not overly complex and anyone can use our outlined steps as discussed above.
In tackling can you stain over shellac we have covered much more regarding the glazing and toning process.
If you feel we have left out something or have any questions related to shellac and staining it please let us know in the comment section and we will reply diligently.