Shellac over Lacquer – a Good Combination or a Disaster?

There are few things in this world than can rival the beauty of a well-finished piece of furniture. With its smooth, rich texture and original grain, wood is practically begging for some extra finish to be applied.

However, many people are afraid that any extra varnish or coat will negatively impact the beauty of their wood. Instead of painting their piece, they decide to leave it natural and rarely treat it.

When working with wood, you may have heard that applying a layer of shellac and lacquer is a good idea. But is this the best way to go? Applying shellac over lacquer can seem like a doable thing but can lead to disaster. The ideal way is to put lacquer over shellac.

What are Shellac and Lacquer, and How Are They Different From Each Other

The female lac insect secretes a substance called shellac. It’s been used as a wood finish for centuries and can be dissolved in alcohol to create a liquid finish. Conversely, lacquer is a synthetic substance created through a chemical process. It’s also available in both liquid and solid forms.

So, what makes these two finishes different from one another? Well, for starters, lacquer is much more durable than shellac. It’s also more moisture resistant and can be applied in thinner coats. But because it’s so durable, it can be difficult to repair if it’s damaged. On the other hand, shellac is much simpler to apply and repair.

Another key difference is that lacquer dries much faster than shellac. Depending on your project, this can be a good or bad thing. On the one hand, it implies that you complete your project faster. But on the other hand, it also means that you have to work faster and be more careful when applying it.

Shellac and lacquer are two popular finishes for woodworking projects. Both provide a protective coating that can extend the life of your project. But is it a good idea to apply shellac over lacquer?

What Happens if You Apply Shellac over Lacquer?

Unfortunately, this is not a good idea. Shellac is not as durable as lacquer and will not adhere well. Shellac over lacquer can lead to the shellac peeling off or bubbling up. In addition, because shellac dries more slowly than lacquer, it can take longer for your project to dry completely. This can cause problems with the lacquer finish, such as wrinkling or streaking.

It turns out that all this would do is make your finish brittle and prone to chipping. Shellac is a lovely, environmentally friendly finish that is also simple to repair. Still, it needs extra maintenance and shouldn’t be used on items that might be exposed to alcohol or even water. Please don’t use it as a top coat for anything due to those reasons.

If you must use shellac and lacquer together, the best way is to put lacquer over shellac. Doing this will ensure that the shellac adheres well to the lacquer and that your project dries quickly and evenly. Lacquer over shellac is a nice finish.

Even while shellac is an excellent sealer, it lacks in other areas, such as water and scratch resistance, necessitating the addition of another coat of finish. Applying lacquer on top of shellac is simple, and the finished product is excellent because shellac typically has a thin surface vulnerable to liquid damage and scratching.

How to Apply Lacquer Over Shellac for the Best Results

Use dewaxed shellac if the lacquer application is in your plans. However, if you have previously used waxed shellac, you must remove the wax before using lacquer. To apply lacquer over shellac, follow these easy steps to get a smooth finish on your wood:

  1. Sand your Shellac: Before sanding, remove any staples and fix any loose or harmed wood. You can use wood putty to seal cracks and holes. You can use wood filler to seal the pores. Remove protruding nail heads or drive them in. Because shellac dissolves in earlier coatings, you can usually thoroughly sand it before lacquer application (be aware of the danger of coating by sanding). Then, carry on applying and repainting as necessary.
  2. Pour the shellac on the surface: On the floor, pour the shellac. Use a brush with artificial bristles to go over it. Keep the brush out of the can to avoid clogging the product. If you must load it onto your brush, do it from a different container. It would be best if you used fluid strokes to spread the material. Applying thinner layers to your woodworking project is preferable. Be mindful that the color will be richer the more layers of shellac you put. This will speed up the curing process so you can sand the flaws, add another layer of shellac, and finish your woodworking project.
  3. Apply one to three layers of shellac: Sand between each layer as you reapply thinner coats of shellac to your woodworking project. However, you don’t want to obstruct the general design of your product by including too many layers. With this in mind, it is preferable to apply 1-3 applications of shellac, aiming for two layers.
  4. Sand between layers of shellac: After applying a shellac coat, you must wait until it is totally dry before proceeding to the following step. The advantage of sanding the item is that you do not need to apply the shellac appropriately, as was already explained. Any flaws, like ridges and lumps left by your paintbrush, will be eliminated by sanding.
  5. Apply the lacquer over the shellac: You will use the lacquer the same way you would on raw wood to apply it over the shellac. Even though it doesn’t have a deep color tone, smoothing it gently will reveal an increased hue. This will make it easier to see the lacquer application areas (or not). It is advised to apply this in a thin layer so that you can apply more applications if necessary.

How Long to Let Shellac Dry Before Applying Lacquer?

Before applying the lacquer, shellac typically has to dry for 30 minutes to 4 hours. Before beginning, you should dust the object you will be putting shellac to with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth. Delicate goods, especially furniture, can be scratched by a dirty or debris-filled material. To ensure that everything is smooth.

Benefits of Using a Combination of Shellac and Lacquer

Many people enjoy the natural look of wood furniture and cabinets, but they don’t always realize that there are different ways to achieve this look. One option is to use a combination of shellac and lacquer.

Shellac is a resin that is often used as a sealant or primer. Lacquer, on the other hand, is a type of varnish made from plant resins. It’s typically used as a topcoat to protect surfaces from scratches, stains, and humidity. Shellac can be applied directly to bare wood, while the lacquer is applied over a shellac base coat. With proper application, a shellac-lacquer finish can last for years.

The Risks Associated with Using Shellac over Lacquer

The debate between using shellac or lacquer can get pretty heated for those in the know. While both are great for protecting wood floors and furniture, each has pros and cons. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the risks associated with using shellac over lacquer.

One of the biggest dangers of using shellac is that it’s not as durable as lacquer. Over time, it can start to chip and flake, leaving your wood surfaces vulnerable to damage. Also, shellac is more susceptible to scratches and scuffs than lacquer, so it may not be the best choice if you have high-traffic areas in your home.

Shellac or Lacquer: Which One Should You Choose for Your Project?

As any woodworker knows, many different finishes can be used to protect and improve the appearance of your projects. Two of the most popular finishes are shellac and lacquer. So, which one should you choose for your project?

Shellac has been used for centuries as a finish for wood. It’s easy to apply and provides a beautiful, smooth finish. Shellac is also durable and resists stains. However, shellac is not waterproof, so it’s not the best choice if your project will be exposed to moisture.

Lacquer is another popular finish for wood. It’s more durable than shellac and provides excellent protection against moisture. Lacquer is also very easy to apply and dries quickly. However, lacquer can be yellow over time, so it’s not the best choice if you want your project to maintain its original color.

So, which one should you choose? If you want a durable, smooth, waterproof finish, use a combination of both.


The best way to waterproof your wood is by putting lacquer over shellac. This combination provides the best durability and protection. Applying shellac over lacquer is a recipe for disaster. The shellac will never fully cure and eventually lift and peel. Even if it seems to adhere at first, it’s only a matter of time before the shellac starts to fail. And when it does, the results will be unsightly and difficult to repair. It’s simply not worth the risk.