I want to try a rubbed out finish. Wondering if shellac will work? I'm using maple and cherry for a mirror frame.

  • 1
    What is a "rubbed-out" finish? I expect that term could apply to many processes. Can you be more specific?
    – scanny
    Mar 26 '18 at 22:13
  • @scanny, I'm referring to "finishing the finish": Sanding the coats of finish with finer and finer grits, steel wool, pumice, etc.
    – benmilkst
    Mar 27 '18 at 0:45

Can shellac be rubbed out?

Yes. The rule is that any finish that dries hard can be rubbed out, and that includes shellac.

Varnishes, lacquers, epoxies and other resin coatings can also be rubbed out as you might expect.

Despite the traditional French polishing technique* being capable of giving a superb gloss finish this is only if you can do it to a high standard and this is not considered easy. A few present-day woodworkers actually think that rubbing it out is the best way to get a really good surface finish with shellac.

This method should not be considered a shortcut in any way as you may want to apply more than a dozen coats depending on a few things, including but not limited to how perfect you want it to look, the 'cut' of the shellac and whether you're spraying it on or brushing it on.

*And numerous variations of applying shellac that called French polishing but aren't really the genuine article.

  • Thank you @Graphus. I'm going to try it. Any other tips would be appreciated.
    – benmilkst
    Mar 27 '18 at 17:30
  • @benmilkst There are a few previous Q&As here that touch on rubbing out but really there are so many good resources elsewhere online you're better off looking at those to read complete explanations, troubleshooting guides and even watch a full demo of the processes so you're more fully up to speed. Oh almost forgot, one important final tip is not to try this first on the thing you want to keep. It's much preferable to try out the techniques once or twice on pure practice pieces than to attempt it for the first time on an actual project.
    – Graphus
    Mar 28 '18 at 16:45

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