Monday, April 4, 2016

Mixing Shellac and Problems With Veritas Plow Plane


Today for the first time I mixed shellac from flakes and alcohol.  Previously, I'd always used Zinsser's "Seal Coat", which is dewaxed shellac.  I wasn't certain what pound cut this shellac was, so I did a quick search and found three different answers.  A post on some forum somewhere said it was a 1 pound cut, Highland Woodworking's site said it was a 2 pound cut and the technical data sheet from Rust-Oleum (apparently the parent of Zinsser) had it as a 3 pound cut.  You can always trust the internet to get you the right answers, huh!  I'm going with 3.

Anybody reading this probably knows that the "pound cut" refers to the weight of shellac in pounds dissolved in 1 gallon of alcohol.  In the past, I've typically thinned the Seal Coat one-for-one with alcohol, so if it really started as a 3 lb. cut, then I use it as a 1.5 lb. cut.
250 grams of blond shellac flakes
Of course, the units I'm dealing with are neither pounds (for the shellac) nor gallons (for the alcohol).  I'm just looking to mix up about 8 oz. (1 cup) or so of shellac, so I had to figure out how much of the shellac flakes to use.

I'm a math guy, so I worked it out as follows.  To change from 1.5 pounds per gallon to some weight in grams of shellac per cup of alcohol, I used:

(1.5 lbs./gal) * (1 gal/16 cups) * (454 g/lb.) = 43 grams/cup

This was close enough to 50 g/cup that I decided to split up my 250 g of shellac flakes into 5 equal portions.  Not having a scale for this type of thing, I just eye-balled it in plastic baggies.
Package of shellac flakes split in 5 (roughly) even portions

50 g ready to be mixed and the rest ready for future mixing
After adding a little more than a cup of alcohol, 
OK, I guess I need to stir this
I stirred a couple times over then next few hours and the flakes were nearly completely dissolved.  By tomorrow, this stuff will be ready to go.
Looking good

Plow Plane

Lee Valley recently offered an upgrade to the Veritas small plow plane that will enable it to take beading irons.  So I went for it and also bought a 3/16" beading iron.  I sent the plane to Lee Valley a few weeks ago and I got the plane back the other day and finally had a chance to unbox it today.
It's back
As far as I can tell, the upgrade to allow the plane to use the beading irons consists of a simple chamfer on the skate.
Chamfer on skate
Front view of the skate chamfer
I was happy to finally put the plane back together and anxious to try out the beading iron.
Parts is parts
I got almost everything assembled, but ran into a problem.  I must be doing something wrong with the depth stop assembly.  The depth stop never worked perfectly anyway, but now I can't even get the screw to contact the depth stop's stem to lock it in place.
The depth stop area is in center
Not shown in this pic are the thumb screw, curved washer and clamp block.  I wrote Lee Valley customer service to see if they have a suggestion.  It just seems that the screw is not long enough now.  And I didn't even send that part to them.  Wacky!


  1. Hi Matt,
    be careful with that jar. I used mason jars from Wal-Mart with screw on lids to mix my shellac in. The shellac 'glued' the lid on and I couldn't get it off.

    1. That's funny. The lid has a couple dents where I had to "persuade" it one time. I cleaned it really well with alcohol after last time using it. I often put smaller amounts of shellac in a plastic container with wider mouth when using it. And I really try not to get shellac around the rim of the mason jar. That way I can keep it relatively clean.


  2. Hi Matt,
    I had a jar of Moonshine in mind.....
    Anyway, if I remember right then I read something like "the replacement of the depth stop clamp" on the Lee Valley site. But you are already in contact with them I guess.


    1. Stefan, I'll have to look for that on the Lee Valley site. Thanks.


  3. Your math is good I mix 60g to get a 1lb cut so you weren't far off. We all have the same issue with the lid sticking no real work around for it. I do open it up a few times in a day and wipe the threads down with alcohol. Buying shellac from liberon is expensive Matt have a look around in paint stores for the flakes.

    1. Great suggestion about looking in paint stores, Salko. I've bought pre-mixed shellac at paint stored and never noticed any flakes. But then I wasn't really looking for it either. I'll check that out. Thanks.