For lacquer finish users, good news: Shellac flakes have become more plentiful.

Shellac starts out as a crusty protective coating secreted on tree branches by the tiny lac bug (Laccifer lacca), which infests certain trees in India and Thailand.

The coated branches are harvested, and the seedlac is scraped off and processed.

After experiencing several years of weather-related shortages of the raw material used to make shellac, supplies are making a comeback, says Steve Krohmer, VP product marketing at Rockler, the woodshop tools and suppliers marketer. 

Bernie Bottens on Shellac
Why Shellac Finishes Matter
Shellac and the Female Lac Bug

Rockler sells Liberon Shellac Flakes. Liberon is based in France, doing business through its V33 Group. Liberon sells the pastes, waxes, paints, tints, lacquers, and other finishes, used to restore furniture or to replicate classic finishes on contemporary projects. A visit to its site is a quick briefing in things like:
Tinted wax gives paintwork an old-fashioned look with a soft or old-looking patina.
Metallic wax creates a reflection which is metallic or iridescent.
Glaze effect bring depth and luminosity to paint work.
Crackled effect recreates the cracked, scaled look of old country furniture

In the U.S., the master distributor for Liberon is Seppleaf, which sells through numerous local dealers, as well as big regional retailers like Woodcraft. Seppleaf has posted many technical sheets on shellac such as this one on dragonsblood tinting.

Rockler took the time to promote the availability of the addition of three new varieties of Liberon Shellac Flakes to its selection of finishing products.

"Shellac flakes have been hard to come by in recent years," says Rockler's Krohmer. "We are excited about the current upswing in production, which allows us to increase the availability of this versatile finish."

The Liberon Shellac Flakes from Rockler are available in Garnet, Lemon and Blonde Dewaxed varieties and come in 250-gram packs. Typically, the flakes are dissolved for 24 hours in methylated spirits and then brushed or sprayed onto wood surfaces for a durable, high-gloss finish. Bernie Bottens wrote about the lac bug

The adaptability and warm, rich look of shellac - a fast-drying, easily repairable, non-toxic approed for toys - makes it highly prized.

Rockler explains the production and application of the seedlac:

Raw seedlac naturally contains dyes, some of which are removed as the material is washed. But some dyes remain, and their color varies with the type of tree, the geographical area and even the time of year when the seedlac is harvested. These variations produce the different colors of shellac.

Raw seedlac also contains wax and bits of bark, twig wood and insect remains left over from scraping. To remove these impurities, the seedlac is melted or dissolved in alcohol and strained. It might then be filtered to lighten its color or undergo a process to remove the wax. The purified resin is dripped onto a sheet to cool into "buttons" or
is stretched or rolled into sheets, which dry and are broken into flakes. The wax-free "dewaxed" shellac works well for sealing stains, odors and knots and can be used under other finishes.

You can buy the Liberon products at dealers around the U.S.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.