Helpful Potions

As previously mentioned, I will be adding/updating some of my home cooked finishes in this section. I prefer to use natural finishes where possible and practical.


I use shellac as a sanding sealer, rather than pre-manufactured sealers. Shellac comes in many colours/shades and can be blended for a range of timbers. The use of shellac is historical, going back to French polishing. Shellac was also used originally for electrical insulation.         
Some people think French polish is a substance. It is actually the process of finishing a surface to give a high gloss shine and a deep colour or chatoyancy.
This is the process I use to bring a shine to my turnings. The shellac also prevents the subsequent wax layers being absorbed by the wood.
Shellac can be applied using a soft brush, a foam pad, or as I do, toilet tissue.
There is much talk of “cuts” of shellac, which is basically the ratio of shellac flakes/powder to denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol is pure industrial alcohol which has been altered to prevent people drinking it. It can be purchased relatively cheaply in its normal (clear) form from industrial cleaning suppliers, or coloured purple in the form of methylated spirits from hardware stores. Don’t worry about the purple colour too much. If you leave the bottle in natural daylight, but out of direct sunlight the colour fades.
I generally mix up around a half pint at a time in a 2 pound cut. This equates to a half pint of alcohol to 2oz of flake. I’m not converting that to metric, I still work in old money.
I do this in an old jar with a well sealing lid. Add the powder to the liquid is the rule of thumb for mixing substances. Pour the half pint of alcohol into the jar, before adding the raw shellac. Shake vigorously and leave to settle. Repeat until the shellac has fully dissolved.
I then decant the shellac into a squeezy bottle for application.


Not the drink. This is a polish made from equal parts of mixed shellac and boiled linseed oil. Moonshine is especially good where timber may be very porous. The moonshine is applied in the same way as shellac, but is then buffed at high speed to bring up a shine. Capillary action draws the heated oil into the wood fibre and the shellac seals the surface.

Paste Wax

I tend to make my own paste wax. There are many different pre-made paste waxes on the market, and choosing is very difficult. Many are quite expensive, which for a beginner is a big concern.
I generally buy blocks of pure beeswax which is reasonably cheap. I then dilute the wax with a mineral oil, such as liquid paraffin – or my personal favourite, cheap baby oil. The baby oil mixed with the beeswax gives off a lovely smell.
My mix for the paste wax begins with 4 parts beeswax, to one part oil. The wax needs to be melted in a double boiler before adding the oil. Once the wax/oil has been blended it should be removed from the heat and left to cool. The resulting paste should have the approximate consistency of Greek yoghurt. If the mix feels too stiff, then re-heat and add more oil, slowly. Too much oil and you need to start melting wax again to firm it up.
You need to test the consistency at room temperature, or the temperature you will be using it at.

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