alcohol and restoring bad shellac finishes?

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Victor III
Posts: 922
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:30 pm

Re: alcohol and restoring bad shellac finishes?

Post by martinola »

Lucius1958 wrote: Thu May 26, 2022 10:56 pm Did you touch up the decal by hand? If so, that is excellent work! :D

- Bill
After I stabilized the flaking shellac using alcohol and then a very thin flash coat of clear shellac, I used a very, very tiny brush with gold paint followed by the black outline. I had to work in the strongest light I could get using an optivisor and reading glasses. It took awhile to get the right balance of coffee so my hand wouldn't tremble too much. I don't know if I could do it today. I sure hope the old photos ca be rescued on this board, cause I'm realizing that it'll be a ton of work to fix my stuff. Thanks for the kind words!


Victor V
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Personal Text: I've got both kinds of music--classical & rag-time.
Location: Connecticut

Re: alcohol and restoring bad shellac finishes?

Post by VanEpsFan1914 »

Let me grab some alcohol to re-amalgamate this antique Internet thread from 2012, but this stuff does the trick, for sure.

I recently purchased a 1921 Sessions "American No. 1" mantel clock to go with my phonographs, and it arrived completely crushed in shipping. A quick refund for me, and a question of a restoration for the clock--before I reassembled the pieces I took denatured alcohol and let it flow over the flat surfaces, rubbing with my finger to swirl the old finish up into the solvent, and then wiped it off. A squilgee would have been handy for this, or an old credit card. I took fresh alcohol and did another light wipe-over as a rinse, which seemed to re-activate the shellac remaining. As this clock appeared to be mahogany (I am not certain, though; Sessions made a number of cheaper clocks) the finish had soaked well into the pores of the wood and ended up making a nice, smooth finish with a satin gloss shine.

This had me wondering why I'd had such bad luck with a vctrola I worked on, then I remembered--reamalgamating the victrola was done with it sitting upright on its four legs, because it was running & playing records while I was working on it as I am a lazy repairman. The thing I should've done was disassemble the machine & put it over on its side, then work with the alcohol directly over the wood where I would be able to move it around. If I'd had those skills then I would have built a nicer finish on my victrola, but hey. At least I had practice to learn the skills & the victrola still works.

Victor V
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Location: Jerome, Arizona

Re: alcohol and restoring bad shellac finishes?

Post by JohnM »

Retrograde wrote: Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:26 am when I first read the title of this thread I thought it was some sort of public service announcement :coffee:

re-amalgamation is what most people call the process. It works best to re-flow the existing shellac with some fresh shellac added to the denatured alcohol. The results are so-so, not exactly the factory look. This of course depends on the skill of the restorer.
Actually, it’s just ‘amalgamation’.
"All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds." Richard Brautigan

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