How Long Does Shellac Take To Dry?

Wood with finish

Shellac is a popular choice among woodworkers since it’s a natural, non-toxic finishing solution that dries quickly and has a glossy sheen. If you’re working with wood, you might want to consider using shellac as a finish. There are several things to think about before applying it, including how long it takes to dry.

Shellac on wood takes about 30 minutes to dry, but it takes about one to four hours before it can be recoated. You’ll always want to give shellac enough time to dry because it’s soft and can pick up steel wool shreds or sandpaper grains when it’s not fully hardened.

Does Shellac Dry Hard?

That all depends on how long your shellac has been sitting. To explain this answer, I’ll have to get more technical: Lac bugs (Kerria lacca) are used to make shellac resin. This material is transformed into flakes and then combined with alcohol to form the liquid that is utilized in the wood finishing process.

This liquid degrades over time. The older it is, the less effective it will be at drying hard.

Can You Use Heat To Dry Shellac Faster?

Absolutely do not do this, unless your goal is to ruin your wood’s finish in five minutes flat. Shellac reacts very, very poorly to heat. Even heat as relatively tame as that of a hairdryer will ruin it in no time. Do not attempt to use heat to accelerate the drying process of shellac, regardless of the circumstances.

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Blow dryer
Don’t use a Blow Dryer

How Should You Sand Shellac?

When your final coat of shellac is dry, you can begin sanding it for the type of appearance you want. We recommend lightly sanding the surface with 400-grit sandpaper. If you’d prefer a more satin finish, you should buff out the shellac with non-silicon based paste wax and #0000 steel wool.

Be sure not to press down too hard on your sandpaper or steel wool. It’s very easy to take off too much material and remove some of the wood finish!

Also, it’s very important to remove residue from the sanding or steel wool. This can be done with an ordinary tack cloth.

How Many Coats Of Shellac Should You Use?

In most scenarios, three or four coats of shellac are enough to provide a full layer of protection to your wood. With the first coat sealing the wood, the subsequent coats give you enough to work with if you want to sand, recoat or level the finish without bothering that initial sealing coat.

You can sand between coats of shellac, but there’s no need to do this unless you spot finish imperfections that need to be taken care of. If you are going to sand between coats, make sure you allow them to dry fully before doing so, lest you cause damage to the finish. I wrote another article about sanding mistakes and how to fix them.

Does Temperature Affect The time It Takes Shellac To Dry?

The rate at which shellac dries depends on the temperature of the surface, so if you’re working quickly in a warm environment, it will dry more quickly. If you’re working in a room that’s on the colder side, it will take longer to dry.

You may need to check with the manufacturer to find the best temperature range.

Does Humidity Affect The Time It Takes Shellac To Dry?

The humidity level does affect how long it takes for shellac to dry. If the humidity is high, it will take longer for the shellac to dry. If the humidity is low, it will dry faster.

The shellac may not work properly in areas with high relative humidity. Check the specifications and look for the manufacturer’s recommendation regarding this value.

How Do You Know When Shellac Is Dry?

The main way of knowing if shellac is dry is by looking for a glossy sheen about three hours after application. The shellac will be dry to the touch within about 30 minutes. However, it may take from one to four hours before you can recoat with a new layer of shellac.

How Long Does It Take For Spray Shellac To Dry?

Spray shellac will dry within the same amount of time as regular shellac, but it’s best to wait at least one hour before you sand off imperfections.

Summary: How Long Does Shellac Take To Dry?

When correctly applying a layer of shellac to wood, you can expect it to dry in about thirty minutes, under normal circumstances. But if you plan to recoat shellac with more layers of the substance, you should allow it to rest for one to four hours before doing so. Do not use heat to accelerate the drying process, it will ruin the shellac.

Once it’s fully dry, you can sand the finish to achieve the desired appearance. Make sure it is fully dry before sanding or using steel wool. Otherwise, small pieces of residue might get caught in the sticky finish. This might ruin the project! You can clean off the residue with a tack cloth.

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