Don Williams – conservator, historian and woodworker extraordinaire – was in town a couple weeks ago to shoot a video on historic transparent furniture finishes, for which he brought a truckload of examples and props (the video will be available in mid-August). He was kind enough to leave some of his stuff behind for us to try out, including the “lemon shellac flour” pictured above.
Now Don cares about shellac the way I care about my cats…which is to say he cares about it almost too much. And he knows more about it than anyone else I’ve met. “The topic of shellac and its uses and performance has been a near-constant focus of my curiosity for the past four decades,” he writes.
And he’s eager to share his 40 years of research with you. Don is in the process of digitizing 400 (possibly more…he hasn’t actually counted as far as I know) historic documents on the subject, as well as his own work, and is sharing it – free – on his blog at donsbarn.com; you’ll find it on “The Shellac Archive” page. Plus it’s well worth your time to tool around his site and look at his other work too – the “Writings” page and his blog in particular.
So what gives with the picture above? (I can’t imagine it would make a tasty cake…)
Shellac flour is simply a ground version of the product, the great benefit of which is that it dissolves quickly (in just minutes) and is ready for use. Don recommends Everclear as the alcohol.
p.s. Read more about Don in this post about his pre-retirement job as senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute. I’m so glad I got to visit him there before he retired to the Barn on White Run (where I still need to visit).