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ShellacEvery successful project should culminate at the finish line. And in the case of our seventh, eigth and ninth grade classes the finish (line) is made mainly of shellac. I like to use shellac because it is very forgiving for students’ mistakes. It dries fast and its components are mostly (if not totally) natural. To apply shellac successfully I came up with this protocol.

  • Our shellac is kept in a dispensing bottle.
  • We use a homemade shellac pads that cost nothing as they are made from old t-shirt fabric. 
  • Students saturate the pad with shellac and discharge the fluid using overlapping stripes on their project whether that is a frame saw, a stool or a box.
  • We use a fine brush to apply the shellac into the corners that the pad was unable to reach, but we don’t clean the brush afterwards. We dip it a few times into a container of denatured alcohol to remove most of leftover shellac, and before the next use, we saturate the brush for a few minutes in shellac to soften and prime it before its next round of duty. 
  • After the shellac dries we buff the surface lightly with 400-grit sandpaper and apply one or two additional coats of shellac followed by a light buffing with #0000 steel wool.

When I first showed my students how to fold a piece of fabric into a functional pad, saturate the pad with shellac fluid and then apply the finish on their work by pulling the pad in a systematic way one stripe adjacent to the next, I was sure that they all got it…

But then, when I came around to check on their progress, I was in awe of the numerous choreographies in which this simple method evolved into.


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