Shellac, as we know, is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. It has been used for centuries as a woodworking finish.
However, with time and a wide range of other options available, its popularity has diminished a bit in the past.
But it’s a comeback and has gained more popularity than ever before due to the products like Bulls Eye Shellac from Zinsser.
Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac is one of the best shellacs in the market and is a great option to choose for your woodworking projects.
It’s easy to use, dries quickly, and provides a smooth and consistent finish.
In this article, I’ll show you how to use Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac to get the most out of this product.
Along with detailed steps, I will also cover some tips, tricks, and FAQs to make your experience better.
So, let’s get started!
Applying Bulls Eye Shellac
Shellac is easy to use and provides a beautiful, natural finish that enhances the grain of the wood.
But to get the most desirable finish, you must be patient and take your time while applying the finish.
Typically, there are two methods that you can use to apply shellac, and they are The Brush-On Method & The Rag Method or a Pad Method.
The brush-on method is the most common and easiest way to apply shellac. In this method, a natural bristle brush is used to apply the shellac.
That said, I mostly prefer and recommend using both (the brush and a rag) if you have a pretty much larger project to cover that include furniture piece, doors, coffee table, floor, trims, etc.
Use a cloth rag for Bulls Eye Shellac application over large flat areas; and a brush for tight corners, edges, and curved surfaces.
Below I will be focusing on this method. The complete list of supplies you will need are:
- Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac
- 2-3″ natural bristle brush
- Can opener
- Glass bowl, cup, or a jar
- Denatured alcohol
- Mineral spirits
- Measuring cup
- Sandpaper (200 and 400 grits)
- Piece of scrap wood
- Lint-free polishing cloth and a clean cotton cloth rag
Now that you’ve gathered all the supplies, let’s move on to the steps:
Instructions for Applying Bulls Eye Shellac
Step 1- Prepare the Surface
The first and foremost step is preparing the surface on which you’ll be applying the shellac.
You need to sand the surface with 200-grit sandpaper (use a sanding block if it’s easy for you).
This will help provide a smooth contamination-free surface for the Bulls Eye Shellac to adhere to.
Once you’re done sanding, use a clean cotton cloth or a lint-free wiping cloth to remove all the dust from the surface.
Make sure to go over the surface multiple times to remove all the dust, dirt, mildew, grime, wax, oil, grease, adhesives, or other chalky materials.
- For cleaning bare wood surfaces, you can use household ammonia and water solution.
- However, if the surface is already finished, use mineral spirit or paint thinner to dissolve the finish and clean the surface.
- Fill any holes, gaps, or scratches with a wood filler that closely matches your wood surfaces.
- Finally, sand the surface lightly once again, wipe clean and allow to dry the wood.
Step 2- Open the Can, Pour and Thin the Shellac
Now that the surface is prepared, it’s time to open the can of Bulls Eye shellac with a can opener.
Once you’ve opened the can, pour the entire contents into a clean glass bowl, cup, or jar.
It’s good to clean your bowl thoroughly with warm water to avoid any chemical reaction that can occur between the shellac and the bowl material.
The next step is to thin the shellac by adding denatured alcohol to it. This step is optional; you can skip it if you want to get a thicker coat on a smaller piece of the project.
But for larger projects, I think you should not skip it, as adding denatured alcohol will thin out the shellac and make it easier to apply. It will also help in reducing the drying time.
Bulls Eye Shellac generally has a high Shellac ratio (3 – 4 pound cuts), resulting in thicker coats after the application.
Plus, if it’s not dried properly, the resulting finish can cause streaks and be gummy.
- To thin out the shellac, you’ll need to add four parts of denatured alcohol for every one part of the shellac.
- So, if you have 1/2 pint of shellac, you’ll need to add 2 pints of denatured alcohol.
- Use a measuring cup to add the denatured alcohol to the shellac in the recommended ratio and mix it well with a string stick.
Step 3- Test Your Prepared Bulls Eye Shellac
I would not recommend skipping this step if it’s an important piece of the project you are working on.
So, after adding denatured alcohol (and mixing it well), test your mixture to see if the ratio is correct and the mixture is of the desired consistency.
For this, you’ll need a piece of scrap wood and a natural bristle brush.
Pour some mixture on the scrap wood and start brushing it. If the mixture is too thick, it will leave streaks and bubbles; if it’s too thin, it will soak into the wood quickly.
The ideal mixture should be of the consistency of creamy peanut butter and should go on the wood smoothly without any streaks and with its true colors.
If the mixture is not of the desired consistency, add more denatured alcohol or shellac to fix it.
After you have made the adjustments and achieved the desired consistency, it’s time to apply the shellac.
Step 4- Apply the First Coat of Bulls Eye Shellac
Start by dipping a clean cloth rag into Bulls Eye Shellac mixture.
Wring out the cloth gently with your fingers so that it’s not dripping with the mixture but is still saturated.
Now, start applying the mixture to your project surface in a thin, even coat.
Work in small sections (2 to 3 sq. ft.), and keep a wet edge while you work. This means that you always start in an area where the mixture is still wet.
Then use a brush to coat the edges and corners that need the finishing touch.
Use long and smooth strokes in the same direction to avoid any brush marks.
If you see any runs or drips, just brush them out with the grain of the wood.
Step 5- Allow the Shellacked Surface to Dry for about 30 Minutes
Once you have covered the entire surface with a thin coat, allow it to dry for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Unlike other finishes, shellac is a fast-drying finish, so you don’t have to wait too long. This also means that you will need to work quickly.
You can test the surface for dryness by touch. If it feels tacky, it’s not ready yet.
Generally, Bulls Eye Shellac and denatured alcohol mixture will take not more than 20 to 30 minutes to dry. So, after that much time has passed, you can go ahead.
Step 6- Gently Buff the Surface with Extra Fine Sandpaper
Once the surface is dry to the touch, use extra fine sandpaper (400 grit) to buff the entire surface gently. This will help achieve a smooth surface for the next coat of shellac.
Mainly if there are any raised wood grain, blotches, or uneven Shellac globes, sanding will help to smoothen them out.
Use long, smooth strokes in the same direction while sanding. And don’t sand too hard, or you’ll end up sanding through the finish.
After sanding and buffing the area, wipe off the surface with a clean, dry cloth to remove all the dust from the surface.
In the process, pay attention to any areas that do not tend to reflect the light as much.
You should focus more on those non-reflective areas in the next step to make them smoother.
Step 7- Apply the Second Coat of Bulls Eye Shellac
Applying the second coat is the same as the first coat. Start by dipping a lint-free cloth into the mixture and wringing it out with your fingers.
Then apply the mixture to the surface in a thin, even coat while working in smaller sections.
Focus more on those non-reflective areas that were not covered well with the shellac.
After the second coat, you should see a slight sheen on the entire surface when you’re finished.
Let the second coat of shellac dry for at least 20 to 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
Step 8- Gently Polish the Surface with Ultra Fine Sandpaper
After the second coat of shellac has dried, use ultra-fine sandpaper (1200 grit) to buff the surface gently.
Just as you did with the first coat, use long, smooth strokes in the same direction while sanding, and be careful not to sand too hard.
After polishing the area, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe it down.
Step 9- Apply the Third Final Coat of Bulls Eye Shellac
You can apply a third coat of shellac if you want an extra glossy and smooth wood surface.
The process is the same as the previous two coats. However, this time, you don’t need to sand the surface before applying the final coat.
Ensure that the surface is free of dust before applying the final coat.
Allow the final coat to dry for at least 24 hours before using or handling the surface.
Optionally you can apply one or two more coats if your surface is still not as smooth as you want it to be.
The number of shellac coats you need to apply might also change depending on the wood type you have and the condition of the wood itself.
But for the most well-prepared wood surfaces, you can expect to get that shine and gloss in three or four coats.
Step 10- Enjoy Your Smooth and Glossy Surface!
You have now successfully applied Bulls Eye Shellac to your wood surface – using this French Polish method.
Now you can admire your smooth and glossy wood surface that is protected from water and stains.
This beautiful shellac finish will last for years with proper care. Always avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on the surface.
How to Remove Bulls Eye Shellac from the Surface
If, during the Shellac application, you make any mistakes or you are not happy with the results, don’t worry.
You can repair or remove the Bulls Eye Shellac from the surface within 24 hours of application.
- For minor dings, bubbles, or scratches, dip a clean cloth in alcohol and rub it over the surface in a circular motion to dissolve and repair the finish.
- For deeper scratches, you want to remove the shellac altogether. Sanding is the best option here.
Just sand the shellacked surface with fine-grit sandpaper until the Shellac is gone.
Then you can apply a new coat of Shellac following the steps above to get a super smooth finish on your wood floor or table.
You can also use a paint stripper to remove Bulls Eye Shellac from the surface.
But as paint strippers are very harsh, you want to be extra careful when using them.
Is Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac Dewaxed – Why Does it Matter?
Zinsser’s Bulls Eye Shellac is a 3-lb. cut alcohol-based shellac that is not dewaxed. Due to the presence of alcohol, it should be thinned with denatured alcohol.
There are, however, Zinsser Seal Coat and Zinsser Shellac Sprays, which are de-waxed, pure, and clear.
You can often tell if the shellac is dewaxed by its appearance. The waxed sealers are often cloudy, whereas the dewaxed ones are clear.
Most manufacturers also have this information readily available on their websites or product literature. So, check the label if you need to confirm before purchasing.
Knowing this information makes sense because, based on that, you can use it on different surfaces.
If the shellac is not dewaxed, you can use it as an undercoat or finishing coat. However, waxed products should only be used as a finishing coat.
Can Zinsser shellac be sprayed?
Yes, Rust-Oleum® Zinsser® Bulls Eye® Shellac offers the traditional shellac finish in a convenient aerosolized form.
If you are on a deadline to complete a project, this fast-drying product will give you the professional results you want in a fraction of the time.
What is the shelf life of Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac?
An unopened can of Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac, according to the company, has a shelf life of three years as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place.
Once opened and mixed, the mixture has a shelf life of no more than a year and a half. After that, it’s no longer reusable and should be cautiously discarded.
Can I use water-based polyurethane over shellac?
No, do not use water-based polyurethane over shellac. The two finishes are not compatible and will not adhere to each other properly.
Particularly if it’s waxed shellac, the water in the polyurethane will react with the wax and cause all sorts of issues, such as bubbles, streaks, and a generally poor finish.
The bottom line
Bulls Eye Shellac is a pro-grade sealer finish that can give your wood surface a smooth and glossy look.
It’s easy to apply, dries quickly, and is durable enough to last for years.
Bulls Eye Shellac is the way to go, whether you want to protect your wood floors or tables or just want to give them a glossy look!
Just follow the steps above, and you’ll have a beautiful wood surface that will look new for years.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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