[Medal Chest] Finishing the Chest in Shellac

*Note to my readers—this is the secret project I’ve mentioned a few times.  It has consumed my shop time since February.  That’s why it’s been so slow on the blog for the last few months.  Now that it has been delivered, I can post the details.*

This last stage was probably the most fun, the least amount of work, and yielded the most obvious results.  After going over (one last time) everything with 220 grit sand paper by hand, I was ready to vacuum all the dust off of the wood, attach the feet and start shellacking this thing.

I chose spray shellac in a clear (which is actually called “blonde” due to the very faint yellow color it imparts on the lighter woods).  I applied 8 coats each to the little boxes and 6 coats to the base and lid.  It used up the entire can.

The great thing about shellac is how fast it dries if you use thin coats in the right environment.  It’s been raining and cold here for weeks.  But the day I sprayed, it was mostly cloudy, about 60° and had a very gentle westerly breeze.  Perfect.

I set up out on the porch, with the pieces on foam insulation to protect the deck and house, and started spraying.  Every 8 minutes I added another coat.  Why 8 minutes?  Because the can said 15.  I sprayed and waited 15 the first time.  The wood was bone dry.  So the next time I waited 10 minutes.  Again, bone dry.  Then I tried 8 minutes.  It was dry, but you could tell it had just dried.  So thereafter, I sprayed in 8 minute intervals.

This took from mid morning through about 4pm—I sanded with 400 grit sandpaper on the next to last coat and got a nice glossy smooth surface on everything for the last coat.  As I put the empty can in the trash, I noticed I had finished (get it?) right when the clouds darkened and the next round of 3-day soakers rolled in.  I closed up the garage after the last coat dried and packed everything up—the shellacking was complete!

The next day, I went out to the garage and buffed everything with the old brown paper bag trick.  Here’s the result:IMAG3115

Everything has a nice glossy, soft (yet hard) smooth finish to it and feels wonderful.  And that shellac made the grain (especially the walnut) just explode.  I love it!


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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