Waterlox over Shellac – Any Ideas on How to Do It Correctly

It’s essential to use easily applicable finishes that penetrate quickly into items and still give a water-resistant effect to form a protective layer.

Waterlox is known to be an all-natural finish that enhances the look of materials as gives them a glossy sheen. Waterlox products are distinct because they can be applied to various low-viscosity, low-solid, and thin films.

Generally, finishing oils opt to have a low VOC (volatile organic compound) content to reduce the further emission of toxic compounds. In recent times, air quality has been a significant environmental issue, and less action has been taken to tackle it.

It is essential to understand how these oil finish products are manufactured, how they are applied, the frequency of application, and the overall environmental impact. Using products that reduce ecological hazards will reduce the spread of toxic compounds.

In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of Waterlox and Shellac and how to use Waterlox over Shellac properly.

What is Waterlox?

Waterlox is a low odor and zero VOC, all-natural, waterproof oil finish great for wood and other porous materials that can be used for interior and exterior work. It has a profound, penetrating ability to yield a warm, matte look and enhance an item’s look.

It’s great for small and medium projects with a desired fine finish. It comprises 100% pure tung oil with no driers and additives. It is neither polymerized nor bodied in a solvent, and this makes it one of the most natural finishing oils out there.

Most Waterlox tung oil products are resin-modified tung-oil-based wood finishes. The resin enables the coatings to form a film that is both elastic and water resistant, while the tung oil provides the best drying and penetrating qualities.

For woodworking projects, Waterlox penetrates the wood’s pores and builds a coating that guards and strengthens the world. Waterlox is easy to restore and recoat. That is why most artisans use it.

What is Shellac?

Shellac is a resinous product from the secretion of the female ‘lac bug’ on trees commonly found in India and Thailand. The dry flake shellac obtained from these trees is dissolved in alcohol to get the liquid Shellac used for wood finish. The alcoholic solution of Shellac aids good durability and hardness.

Shellac is a significant choice for those who engage in the recreation and restoration of wood furnishings and fixtures. It is such a classic finish for pre-modern woodwork. Shellac is used to bond porous materials, cork, mica, ceramics, and metal.

It functions as a tough natural primer, odor blocker, sanding sealant, and high gloss varnish. It is crucial in wooden surface finishing due to the formation of a hard, smooth, and glossy film it delivers.

How To Apply Waterlox Over Shellac Correctly

Waterlox tung oil products can be applied over dewaxed Shellac. When dewaxed Shellac is cut into thin pieces, it can be used to seal over oily wood and other wooden products.

High penetrating Waterlox should not be used under Shellac, and this is because the alcohol used as the solvent for Shellac can attack the layers of Waterlox underneath and may result in a weak and soft film. Waterlox is inarguably one of the best finishes used over Shellac.

It imparts a lustrous appearance to woodworking projects without expelling a solid odor. It is definitely one of the best finishes formulated to be applied over Shellac.

Shellac must be rubbed out properly before Waterlox can be applied to avoid streaks. It is a very durable substance, so it’s most likely the wood finish used over will create a superior layer of protection over it.

If you want to produce a long-lasting shellac finish, an excellent wood finish must be used to achieve that. The following are procedures used to apply Waterlox on Shellac correctly:

  • Lay out several layers of old newspaper or a rag and then put the wooden material on top of that
  • Sand the surface of the Shellac, finish with fine-grit sandpaper slightly to avoid obliterating the finish and any significant amount of wood. You can sand the Shellac finish more if it is necessary to create a better surface for the Waterlox to bond with it.
  • Clean the wooden item with a drop cloth or rag to remove bits of sawdust and the Shellac finish.
  • Apply a coat of Waterlox on the wooden item while using long strokes with a paintbrush, and wait for a few hours before you can apply the second coat.

Tips For Applying Waterlox Over Shellac Correctly

  • Test for Shellac by applying a drop of alcohol on a small hidden area of the wooden material. Then cover the drop with a hollow material to prevent the evaporation of alcohol. The alcohol drop will dissolve the Shellac to prove its presence.
  • Prepare the surface by cleaning with Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) and water. Do a clear water rinse and let it dry for 24 hours. When the surface dries, buff it with a Marron pad or 320-grit sandpaper.
  • Once the surface is prepared, re-coat with the Waterlox finish.
  • To ensure the surface of the wooden material is ready, conduct a cross-hatch test to check for adhesion before the onset of the entire project.

Benefits Of Using Waterlox


Waterlox tung oil is the best way to preserve wood while revealing its stunning color and attracting luster. The formulation of Waterlox shuts out water and relies on the protective nature of the resins embedded in it with the penetrating sealing advantages of rung oil.

Due to its high permeability, Waterlox is able to become part of the wood itself to resist moisture, chemicals, dirt, heat, and cold to deliver a fantastic finish.


Waterlox is able to penetrate deep into the pores of the wood, thereby forming a bond within. This penetration gives the wood an “open pore” appearance desired by those looking for a natural-looking wood surface.

Waterlox is commonly the first choice for many artisans because of its distinctive effect and rich hand-rubbed patina that enhances the look of materials.

Easy To Use

Waterlox finishes are simple to maintain and pretty easy to apply. They have a longer open time than most oil-based urethane. Waterlox is self-leveling and hence makes lap marks, turns, and cuttings disappear.

If there are noticeable scratches on your Waterlox-finished surface, you have to clean the affected area with soap and water and then reapply the new coat easily.

Benefits Of Using Shellac

Water-Repellent Quality

Shellac has a high water resistancy that enables it to withstand water for a few hours before being wiped dry. If there is water on a shellac-coated wooden surface, it leaves a white stain that will fade off as the surface dries completely.

A shellac finish is effortless to repair compared to other wood finishes, which makes it a great choice in woodwork.

Penetration Ability

Shellac is a film-building finish, just like other water-based finishes, varnish, and lacquer. All wood finishes penetrate the wood to an extent, but Shellac goes the extra mile. The base coat of Shellac penetrates a plank of wood and lifts the grain slightly, and after subsequent coats, it forms a film on the surface of the wood.

Easy Repair

Shellac can be quickly scrapped off with alcohol. If you intend to apply a new coat of Shellac over an existing finish, you can go on with it since the new layer of Shellac dissolves and blends with the old layer to form a fresh coat.

Disadvantages of Using Shellac as a Wood Finish

Shellac is a good wood finish choice suited for most woodworking projects. But there are a couple of disadvantages associated with using it.

Shellac is not heat resistant. This wood finish cannot handle high degrees of heat. You certainly can’t put a hot pan or a hot cup of coffee on a wooden surface coated with Shellac.

It is not durable. Shellac can be damaged easily, and it is unfortunately not as durable as other wood finishes. Shellac will be more durable if over-coated with a more robust finish like Waterlox.

Shellac is not water resistant. This wood finish is devoid of waterproof properties. If water pours on a wooden surface coated with Shellac, it will create a whitish appearance that will dry up eventually.

Disadvantages of Using Waterlox as a Wood Finish


Using Waterlox on wooden surfaces, especially wooden floors, takes quite a long time. Each layer takes about 24 hours to dry before recoating, and a minimum of three coats are required to make a perfect finish. Just be patient to get a great result.

Surface Tackiness

Waterlox products are known to have low odor concentration, but in higher temperatures, the viscosity of the Waterlox spreads easily and dries quickly.

If the wooden surface dries out too quickly, it can lock out oxygen and seal in solvents. This tends to soften finishes, poor cure of the film, surface tackiness, and lingering odors.