Making Black Shellac

Several years ago I heard about making black shellac out of an old 78 record. At the time, I didn’t have an old 78 around so I never gave much thought about it, but a few weeks ago, my Dad gave me some old records he had lying around his garage. In the pile were some old 78’s that were broken. I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to make black shellac.

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The first thing I did was make sure that the 78, even while broke, wasn’t worth anything. I scanned eBay to see what a good condition Darktown Strutters Ball was going for. At $3.00 plus shipping, it wasn’t worth much, so I was willing to destroy the record. I would only try this with broken 78’s that aren’t worth anything. Doing this to a 78 that is in good shape is considered sacrilege to audiophiles. Plus, you can only do this with old 78’s. Any newer records are made of vinyl and won’t work at all.

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I broke the record apart like snapping a KitKat. I couldn’t believe how easily it snapped in half. I then stuck all the pieces into a plastic bag and crushed it more with a hammer.

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Next, I weighed the pieces into a mason jar and measured out 4 ounces of shellac since I was making a two pound cut with 16 ounces of denatured alcohol

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If you get confused on much shellac flakes you need for certain pound cut of shellac, here’s a simple chart I’ve been using for years. Since I make 2 cups of shellac, I double the amount of flakes I need for a two pound cut on the chart. Pretty simple.

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Like any other shellac, I let the solution set for a day or two stirring the mix every few hours to help break it down. With the black carbon in the old 78 record, there will always be a sludge at the bottom of the jar. I shake and stir the black shellac before I use it to make sure the black dye is mixed well in the solution.

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Below is a sample of three coats of black shellac on four different species of wood. You can see how the soft maple and red oak look a bit muddy however, the southern yellow pine and poplar highlight the early wood and late wood of the grain. As of right now, I’m just playing around with the shellac. I need to see how it performs on a project I make. What I like about the shellac so far is that it’s very quick to add more coats not having to wait very long between coats as the shellac dries very fast.

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This is one side of an old rosewood tote from a Stanley plane with normal blonde shellac applied to it. Below is the other side of the tote with a coat of black shellac. Even though, the blonde shellac pops the grain, you can see how the grain on the black shellac is much more subdue and looks more natural. It’s all in what your intentions are.

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Have you ever played around with black shellac? Let me know what you think about it.

 

Making a Bed Part 3

Well it’s been a tough few days with my dog Rylee passing away but I finally pulled myself together and put the finish on the bed.

After sanding the parts to 220 grit sandpaper, I applied a Brown Walnut analine dye to the bed. I diluted the dye to a 4:1 distilled water:dye solution and applied a liberal amount to the bed with a sponge wiping off the excess. I’ve been told to use distilled water instead of tap water because the minerals in tap water may change the color of the dye.

The dye turns all the wood to a uniform color creating a base for the gel stain that will cover it. After I washed the bed with the dye, it looked like I grabbed a handful of mud and smeared it all over the place but I realized it’s just the first step in the process.

After the dye dried, I needed to coat the bed with de-waxed shellac so that the gel stain won’t penetrate the wood too much making the wood appear blotchy. I create my own 2 lb cut shellac by diluting 4 ounces of shellac flakes to 16 ounces of denatured alcohol. I keep the shellac in an empty glass maple syrup container.

 

Once the shellac is applied, the bed turned darker but was still nowhere the color I wanted it be. My wife came downstairs to look at the progress I was making and told me she hated the way it looked. I told her not to worry as I was only half way done.

Allowing the shellac to dry overnight, I was ready to apply my first coat of stain. I used one coat of General Finishes Nutmeg Gel Stain applying it with a piece of an old t-shirt and wiping off the excess with another piece of old t-shirt. I used a dry paint brush and brushed away any swirl marks left by the t-shirts. Fortunately the bed started to take on a brownish color removing the mud look after I applied the stain .

For the next color I used Minwax Rosewood Gel Stain but before I applied it, I coated the bed with another coat of shellac so that the new color won’t affect the nutmeg color giving the finish more depth.

Now the bed has the reddish hue color I’m looking for. All that is left to do is apply the top coat with Arm-R Seal polyurethane oil combo. Three coats of the Arm-R-Seal coat and a lightl sanding of 600 grit sandpaper and parrafin oil, the bed was ready to be put back together.

The bed is finally done and I was pleased with the outcome. It took me longer than the month I promised my wife but she was fine with the delay. I forget how much the bed actually cost me to build since I threw away the receipts, but if I believe it was around $300-$400. A far cry from the $1699 Pottery Barn wanted for their bed. Now to take it apart again and drag it upstairs.

Repairing a broken tote

Sometimes when you buy an old plane from an antique dealer or from ebay the tote is cracked in the middle. While the majority of the time, the crack is clean and can be easily glued back together, once in awhile the fibers of the wood are so damaged that simply gluing the two pieces of the tote back together will not work.

Totes crack in the middle because of excess pressure the user puts on the back of the plane. When a plane’s blade is dull and not properly sharpened, more force is needed to make a cut. This extra force puts added stress on the tote and often it will crack in the middle or near the bottom. Fortunately repairing the tote is not all that difficult.

The first thing you need to do is take the two sections of the tote and clean whatever glue residue is left on it from the previous owner trying to fix the tote. The two pieces of this tote here were held wrapped together with electrical tape when I bought the plane.

Next you need to find a scrap piece of rosewood that you can use as a filler. Take each piece of the tote over to a disk sander and sand away the broken fibers so that you have a clean and smooth surface in which  to glue the filler strip to. Now glue the tote back together with the filler strip in the middle using polyurethane glue.

After the glue is dried, file the filler strip so that it matches the profile of the rest of the tote. Take a 1/4″ drill bit and re-drill the hole through the filler strip for the tote screw and brass nut to slide down. Then sand with 220 and 320 grit sandpaper. Apply a coat of shellac to finish the tote.

Tote is repaired and ready for another hundred years of use.