Protecting your furniture with beetle juice... aka Shellac.

posted 28 Apr 2009, 04:14 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 29 Apr 2009, 02:34 ]
Shellac is made from  the secretion of the lac beetle which lives in India and China. The female secretes a sticky dark resinous mass which is refined in various degrees to produce shellac, the basis of English and European furniture finishes from the early 1800's, although its use in China goes back 4000 years.
The flake-like shellac is mixed with methylated spirits to form a liquid which is applied with a 'rubber' or 'fad' to the surface of furniture. French polishing In the early 1800's was the new miracle finish that could quickly build up a 'shiny' surface. It superceded wax and linseed oil finishes which were much more time consuming to apply and not as resistant to wear.
After World War 1, another miracle finish superceded shellac: nitrocellulose laquer. This was sprayed on to furniture and quickly but crudely imitated the hand polished surface.
Unlike laquer, shellac can be revived or revitalised, leaving the timber beneath in its original, aged state. Although it may look shabby, most shellac and french polished furniture can be coaxed into life again, without stripping, sanding or refinishing.
If unsure, put down your weapon and consult Doctor Appleyard.

Lac beetle

Revived shellac finish