Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is farmed and harvested with no harm coming to the bugs themselves. It is processed and sold as dry flakes which are then dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac which is used as a brush-on colourant, food glaze and wood finish – it is the primary element in French polish wood finishes. it functions as a tough natural primer, sanding sealant and high gloss varnish and is great at sealing out moisture.
For fired ceramics, shellac provides a protective cold finish to the piece and dissolving stains and oxides in the shellac and wax components can provide a range of interesting patinas to the finished piece.
To apply shellac, dissolve the flakes in alcohol overnight and then strain to remove any remaining debris. Add the chosen stains and oxides to the liquid shellac and apply to the piece using a paintbrush. It is better to do multiple thin coats as opposed to a single thick coat and this also provides more depth and variation to the patina. Once the shellac is completely dry, dissolve the wax in mineral turpentine. You can add whatever oxides or stains you want to the wax and stipple this onto the piece using a paintbrush. Once the wax had dried you buff and polish the piece. The wax pushes back the natural gloss of the shellac and allows the colours embedded in the shellac and wax to blend.
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