Thursday, May 28, 2009

shellac for felt?

This week I've been playing around with shellacking (sp?) felt. I wish I could share with you that I'd found the right recipie, but I haven't figured it out yet! Here, anyway, is what I've learned so far!

Based on Lisa Klakulak's recommendation that varnishes from the hardware store not be used on felt and rather that the raw, unadulterated shellac be used, I purchased some blond, unwaxed shellac flakes ( and did some experimentation.

Lisa had suggested that some dilution greater than 6:1 be tried. I started with a 20:1 and couldn't even get the flakes completely into solution. So I added a little heat...I guess too much (I did a minute in the microwave) and ended up with a goo suspended in, rather than mixed with, water. Upon removing the goo from the water, it hardened on my measuring spoon. I was able to chip it off, with some effort, so at least my spoon is still accurate.

Then I remembered Lisa had mentioned using alcohol, not water, so I tried a 40:1 solution of flakes to alcohol. Still, they didn't disolve completely. 30 secs of heat, and they did not congeal into a goo, but they still did not completely dissolve... even after another 30 sec and stirring! Enough had dissolved tho', that I decided I'd apply some of what I had made to a scrap piece of felt.

Good thing I used a scrap piece!

I was shocked at how little it took to completely soak thru the felt, which was what I was trying to avoid. REally, I thought I was using so little and it came dripping out of the felt. I suppose that the type of fiber (this scrap happened to be corriedale), the density of the felt, etc impacts the amount of shellac, but really this was almost pouring out! So I did a second trial being extra careful to have a VERY little of the solution in my paintbrush.

Since the vessel I ultimately want to shellac has lots of ridges and grooves (see the shell above), I decided to try a stiffening spray by Manco, which a friend had lent me. The spray will certainly be easier to apply to my vessel's inside, even if it is not what Lisa suggested using, so I thought I'd try it.

At least in this experiment, I felt that the spray (I did 2 light coats like the can suggested) stayed too much on the surface of the felt and produced a surface residue I didn't care for. I haven't given up on it, and will try it again but with a heavier hand to see if I can get it to soak in more next time, hoping that it will produce a firmer fabric without the surface residue.

As for the shellac flakes, now that the alcohol has evaporated and the shellac dried, I find that it hasn't really stiffened the felt to the degree I wanted either, but at least I have no surface residue.
In this week's experiment I didn't feel like I had a concentrated enough solution of the shellac to stiffen it to the desired degree, and yet it was too concentrated to get it all into solution! So I guess I'll try even a little less concentration next week, hoping that I get it all into solution, but will instead apply more coats on the felt in order to achieve the degree of stiffening I want.

I'll let you know how it turns out, but in the meantime, has anyone else out there tried this yet with their felt and have any thoughts or suggestions to contribute?

1 comment:

  1. You are supposed to use denatured alcohol mixed with the flakes into a jar and allow the jar to sit closed for 2/3 days for the flakes to dissolve. Once dissolved, you can simply use a sponge brush and brush it on. It should be thick enough not to be runny.