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  1. #1
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    Default Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Has anyone tried tinting polyurethane to duplicate the ambering characteristics of orange shellac? If so, what were the results? I ask because the original trim in my house is finished with shellac. I'll be redoing much of it and I like the stain color with the shellac, but I have much more experience using poly. I could use shellac inside, but I have some stained exterior doors that I would like to look the same on the outside as the inside. I talked to someone at a local SW and she had never tried to match poly to shellac. I didn't know if it was possible to get a look similar to shellac and didn't want to spend the money on a wasted material if someone here knows. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Shawn- Here's what I've done:
    1. tint the shellac to match- I use clear, dewaxed shellac, and it really needs to be dewaxed!
    2. finish coat with poly.

    By tinting the shellac you can get the color closer, easier (more true with the dark colors from the 20s & 30s- they were tinted shellacs, sometimes with the wood underneath also stained), and can adjust color by adding coats. I have found it to be closer than anything any of the color specialists can come up with.

    The poly topcoat protects the shellac from scratching. Less important if you're also staining the wood underneath...
    http://www.lavrans.com

    "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -Andrew Lang

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Thanks Lavrans. I hadn't thought about tinting a shellac seal coat. So, I called every paint store in town and only 1 carries dewaxed shellac and will tint it for me, but they're out of stock right now. All the box stores have it, but tinting shellac seems to be out of their skill set, at least for the one that I asked. She said, "We've got clear, amber, and seal coat shellac. We can't tint them, so what you see is what you get." I told her it says right on the can that it can be tinted. She says, "Sorry, can't do it."

    The only paint store that had any clue about specialty finishes or matching old finishes shut down last year, so it is difficult if you need something more than a basic stain and lacquer/poly finish.

  4. #4
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    Jul 2007
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    Northern Vermont
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Yes, you can tint poly. In fact, Minwax has already done this with their Polyshades line. I have had good results mixing different colors of Polyshades to achieve a match. Or, you can add artists oil colors (in oil based poly) availabe at a craft store or artist's supply. I got a set at Wal-Mart.

    Water based poly can be tinted with paint colorants, but there are no formulas to work from, so they have to wing it and most paint store people don't want to mess with it. I have not tried it, but I expect that you could get good results using artist's acrylic colors to tint water based poly.

    There is much debate among woodfinishers as to the risk of using shellac under poly. Zinnser, who makes shellac, doesn't recommend it under poly, but theirs is not dewaxed. It is the wax that presents the risk of poor adhesion. I personally, don't mix poly and shellac on the same project. That said, shellac is one of my favorite finishes for interior work. It can be tinted with alcohol soluble aniline dyes available from www.constantines.com.

    For an exterior clear finish, you would want to use spar varnish rather than poly for an oil based finish, or a water based finish expressly for exterior. I haven't found many, though Minwax makes one, but I can't remember its name.

    Hope this helps.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2004
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Absolutely. But I would want to make sure that the particular poly I was working with is compatible with the colorant I am tinting with. A quick call to the mfg. wouldn't be a bad idea. I had a bad experience a few years back with some kind of WB poly and titanium white. I tint Target EM-9000 with amber transtint dye, I've also mixed it with WB dye stain to shade.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tradesman View Post
    Yes, you can tint poly.
    But, I don't think you can acheive the same look as orange shellac. Most of the polyurethanes I use I have tinted to match existing.

    Water based poly can be tinted with paint colorants, but there are no formulas to work from, so they have to wing it and most paint store people don't want to mess with it.
    Water based is what I use and have tinted most often. It is a little more difficult to brush, though.

    There is much debate among woodfinishers as to the risk of using shellac under poly.
    Everything I've heard and read says no problem with dewaxed and it is used quite often by many finishers as a seal coat before final top coating. Before I knew any better, I used an orange shellac (not wax free) under an oil based varnish on a bathroom vanity I built. It was stain, shellac, oil glaze, and then oil varnish. Luckily, no problems...yet?

    Zinnser, who makes shellac, doesn't recommend it under poly, but theirs is not dewaxed.
    They do make a dewaxed shellac called Seal Coat. But I agree, the amber is not for top-coating.

    It can be tinted with alcohol soluble aniline dyes available from www.constantines.com.
    Thanks for the tip. For as many problems as I've had just today getting someone to tint this, I may end up having to do it myself.

    For an exterior clear finish, you would want to use spar varnish rather than poly for an oil based finish,
    I agree and that's what is going on my exterior doors.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    On re-reading the OP I wouldn't try to tint to match if the piece you are trying to match is directly adjacent to the new stuff. You may be able to tint close but you'll never nail it. A good finisher would be able to tint close then shade to match but that requires a pretty darn good finisher and if you're asking these questions here that probably isn't you;-). I wouldn't hesitate to coat shellac with WB poly, I do it all the time and never had a problem. The older generation of poly that didn't crosslink may have caused a problem but the new ones that do crosslink won't be a problem at all. As far as I know shellac is a universal sealer. The saying goes "shellac sticks to everything, everything sticks to shellac." With that being said it may be just as difficult to get a shellac to match.

    You mentioned that it may be difficult to brush. In my experience a light amber tint doesn't pose much of a problem. Dark colors do tend to get pulled around. The EM-9000 I mentioned can be ordered with a retarder that gives you a longer open time.

  8. #8
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    Jun 2007
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    Ewing, NJ
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    126

    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    As others have said you need a dewaxed shellac, which leave 2 options. Buying the flakes and mixing it yourself or using SealCoat which is a 3lb cut of dewaxed shellac. You want to cut that down about a 1 1/2lb cut before tinting to making brushing it out a little easier. 4 oz of shellac and 4 oz of denatured alcohol and your good to go.

    Tinting the shellac would best be done with transtint and is available from Rockler or several other WW related stores. No paint store will be able to help you with color matching, your best bet is picking up a couple different colors and doing lots of test samples. Luckly the investment in a gallon of seal coat and couple different colors will still be low.

    For exterior trim I would only recommend Epifanes as the finish topcoat applied strictly by the instructions (lots of coats). There is a reason boatbuilders use it.
    Post a couple pics of the finished wood and the unfinished wood and I'll see if I can offer any more assistance.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    the learning curve really isn`t that steep to figure out toning and shading....
    i like to use products that can be cut with thinner, either lacquer or alcohol.
    be sure to build in layers and seal between layers..
    for under 100 bucks, a weekend and some scraps you can teach yourself some pretty cool finishing tricks.
    once you get started an airbrush and some artist brushes will likely find their way into your arsenal.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Thanks for the tips. As I said before, this is for my house so it is a great time for some experimentation without being under any time constraints or pressure for a "perfect" match. I suppose during the course of my experiments I could come up with something I like better. Posting pictures is on hold for now because of technical difficulties on my end.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    As I said before, I'm looking to add the amber/antique effect of orange shellac.
    Any color suggestions to get me started?

    Tod, you mentioned getting going for less than $100. What would be on your list?

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Prentice View Post
    As I said before, I'm looking to add the amber/antique effect of orange shellac.
    Any color suggestions to get me started?

    Tod, you mentioned getting going for less than $100. What would be on your list?

    you have spray equipment right?


    gallon of lacquer (15$)
    lacquer thinner (on hand)
    quart of schellac (6$)
    quart alcohol (6$)
    few oz various colored dye (45$)
    few tubes oil based pigments from art store (20$)


    for what it`s worth i use amber zinzer brand (waxed) shellac on cherry and walnut and lacquer over the top of it. the trick is to sand the shellac with 150 or so and use nitrocellouse sanding sealer thinned 50/50.....never had a failure in over 30 years. (indoor use only)

  13. #13
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    Mar 2006
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    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Just to point out- most oil based top coats you don't have to worry about using regular shellac. There's a long tradition of finishes that mix shellac with oils.

    If doing those, you can save even more by buying shellac in dry form and making your own cuts.
    http://www.lavrans.com

    "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -Andrew Lang

  14. #14
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    Jun 2007
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    Ewing, NJ
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    126

    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    Shawn, what type of wood is it?? The color of the wood dictates the shade of the dye. Hell I can even try a sample on my end and post picks to see if it matchs your trim.

    I've come to love the finishing aspect of WW, a great finish just brings everything together.

  15. #15
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    Sep 2004
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    Default Re: Tinting poly to match shellac?

    I did a little research on the subject of WB lacquers over shellac.

    In your OP you said you were talking to a SW dealer. Until a couple of years ago I used the SW Kem-Aqua WB lacquer for interior wood finishing. I also used their WB Polyurethane on floors and stairs. I have successfully used Zinsser Seal Coat, which is a shellac sealer, under both those products. SW does NOT recommend applying their WB finishes over shellac, the reason being that they've never tried it. They sell finishing systems that are designed to work together, you step outside the box you are on your own. It doesn't mean it isn't going to work, it just means they aren't responsible if something goes wrong.. I've never had a problem but some people have reported hairline cracks in their finishes when applied over both shellac or Seal coat. The general consensus is that this happens when you don't sand properly between coats and/or apply a coat that's too heavy

    For the last couple of years I've been using Target products and have been extremly happy with the results, ease of use and the range of finishes they have. http://www.targetcoatings.com/matrix-bottom.html They've managed to get most of the positive qualities of solvent borne products like lacquer, shellac, poly, varnish, stain and CV and put it into a water borne package. The only thing they suck at is solid colors with the exception of black, which is amazing. Their shellac, which is waterborne, comes in a range of colors from clear to garnet. http://www.targetcoatings.com/sealer_ultrasealwb.html It's guaranteed to work with their topcoats and they have exterior WB products as well.http://www.targetcoatings.com/emtech-9300.html All their finishes can be tinted with dyes and UTC's http://www.targetcoatings.com/dyes.html

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