How To Apply Bulls Eye Shellac — A Step-by-Step Guide

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Thanks to its natural coloration, shellac is a popular choice for a wood finish. While there are numerous shellac options available, many professionals prefer Bulls Eye Shellac due to its consistent reliability and widespread availability.

If you’re just starting to explore the world of shellac and haven’t encountered this product before, don’t worry—I’ve got you! This guide will walk you through the process of applying Bulls Eye Shellac, providing you with a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial.

Best Strategies To Apply Bulls Eye Shellac

Bulls Eye Shellac imparts a warm-toned finish to wood, and its application is straightforward—whether you’re using a brush, cloth, or sprayer, you can achieve a remarkably smooth finish on any woodworking project.

One of the standout features of shellac is its non-toxic nature, ensuring that it won’t contribute to long-term wood degradation. On the contrary, it acts to repair damage, enhancing the wood’s overall condition.

Bulls Eye Shellac can be used in two ways:

Lifting bulls eye shellac

The most popular way woodworkers use Bulls Eye Shellac is by using a brush since it is quick, simple, and ideal for tight corners and edges. All you have to do is coat the wood’s surface with a brush covered with shellac.

You can begin in the center and work your way to the edge while following the direction of the wood grain. Although shellac dries rapidly, you must wait until it is entirely dry before touching up any missing areas to prevent blending touch-ups into the overall finish. 

Using a cloth or rag to spread Bulls Eye Shellac is another technique. It works well when you want to cover a substantial amount of wood with cotton fabric. 

Before beginning any woodworking projects, you must have these materials available, whatever the application technique you use for Bulls Eye Shellac.

preparing material before applying shellac

Step #1: Prep the surface.

Although it may appear straightforward, prepping the wood surface is crucial in any woodworking process. Eliminate any impurities like glue, dirt, dust, grease, and wax that could mix with the Bulls Eye Shellac. 

Dry cleaning is a very efficient approach to cleaning the wood surface. Press or roll a rubber sponge dipped in a little detergent into a piece of bare wood. 

Another option is to try combining water and dishwashing soap. Just dip a delicate cloth into the mixture, wring off the extra liquid, and clean the entire piece of wood.

However, be careful not to completely soak the wood and fully rinse the cloth since doing so can make the wood brittle, rot, and crumble. Additionally, avoid using TSP as a cleaning since it damages wood.

When learning how to apply Bulls Eye shellac, you should also know how to prevent issues like uneven finishes or blotches. You can achieve this by cleaning your wood surface properly.

applying shellac

For bare wood

For finished wood

Step #2: Mix shellac and alcohol

To get the optimal finish, denatured alcohol and Bulls Eye Shellac must be measured precisely. You may prevent blotches and streaks by spreading the mixture in thin layers and letting it dry fully.

To mix denatured alcohol with Bulls Eye Shellac, follow a 2:1 ratio, where you’ll need to combine 2 parts denatured alcohol with 1 part Bulls Eye Shellac in a glass container.

Step #3: Test on a small area.

It’s crucial to test the Bulls Eye Shellac and denatured alcohol mixture on a tiny piece of scrap wood before using it on your major project to prevent mistakes throughout the process. Apply a tiny bit of the mixture with a dry cloth to the wood, wait for it to dry, and then repeat.

applying shellac to outer layer

Add additional shellac if necessary before doing the test again if you believe the mixture is too thin. On the contrary, if the solution is excessively thick, add denatured alcohol before testing it again.

After testing the combination and making any necessary modifications, store it somewhere dust-free to prevent contamination. It is the ideal texture for your wood finishing application after the solution has dried and there are no flaws, bubbles, or color variances.

Step #4: Apply a thin layer with a brush, pad, or sprayer

While many woodworkers opt for a fine-bristled brush when applying Bulls Eye Shellac, it’s also possible to use a cotton cloth rag or a sprayer. 

For extensive wood surfaces, use a cloth to ensure even coverage. However, for hard-to-reach places, tight corners, and edges, a brush is your best bet.

Apply a thin coating of Bulls Eye Shellac to the wood by dipping a clean cotton rag into the mixture before beginning the application process. Ensure not to miss any spots along the way by following the grain of the wood.

Then, using a fine-bristled brush, evenly apply the Bulls Eye Shellac mixture to corners and tight edges. Thin applications help the wood dry more quickly and prevent streaks and blotches.

applying shellac using brush

When applying the mixture, if the wood surface looks sticky, wait until it has completely dried. You don’t need to worry because the mixture will eventually absorb on its own.

Step #5: Allow to dry completely

Before adding another coat, let the Bulls Eye Shellac mixture cure for at least 30 minutes after applying it to the wood using a brush or rag. Even if you can leave it for longer, 30 minutes is plenty to allow the mixture to dry.

Most shellac products dry up more quickly than other wood finishing treatments. Furthermore, the Bulls Eye Shellac and denatured alcohol combination dry quicker than Bulls Eye Shellac by itself.

Even though 30 minutes is a little waiting period, you can speed up the drying process. All you have to do is set up your woodworking projects in the sun or work in a hot, humid environment.

Since shellac dries quickly, you can apply several coats of the mixture. The mixture dries out rapidly. Therefore, you should apply it carefully to prevent errors.

drying the wood surface

Step #6: Lightly buff with sandpaper

The Bulls Eye Shellac mixture must be sanded before the next coat. Raised wood grain, blotches, and uneven shellac globes can be removed by buffing with sandpaper between Bulls Eye Shellac’s layers.

Sand the whole surface with 400-grit sandpaper after each layer, once the material has completely dried, to produce an incredibly smooth surface. You can sand the surface using superfine steel wool and 400-grit sandpaper.

Once you’ve finished sanding, vacuum the surface or remove the white residue with a cotton rag so you can see the parts that don’t reflect light. As a result, cover these areas during the subsequent layer as they are not properly covered.

Step #7: Apply a second coat and let it dry

Three to four coats of the Bulls Eye Shellac combination are the optimum quantity for an extremely smooth finish. If you don’t want to lose the glossy aspect of the wood once the white residue is gone, you can skip the sanding step on the last layer of the mixture.

Additionally, as you apply, you’ll find that the surface becomes less dry, so be careful not to put thick coats on the last layer because they dry rapidly. It is time to stop adding layers when the wood surface is completely smooth and free of bubbles, discolorations, drips, or streaks.

applying shellac 2nd coat

How To Fix the Shellac Finish That Got Damaged During Application

When you accidentally scratch or dent the shellac finish, there is a correct approach to fix it. By brushing, spraying, and wiping the wood surface with alcohol or by reapplying a fresh coat of the mixture, you may quickly fix these defects. 

First, carefully wipe the affected region with a clean cotton rag dipped in alcohol. After that, recoat the damaged area with a Bulls Eye Shellac mixture once or twice and sand it with 400-grit sandpaper.

To avoid any damage during shellac application, it’s important to properly prepare the surface by cleaning and sanding it beforehand.

Additionally, when learning how to apply Bulls Eye Shellac, it’s crucial to apply thin and even coats and to allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next one.

How Many Layers of Shellac Do I Need?

As was already said, 3 to 4 applications of shellac finish are required to preserve the wood and thoroughly provide an extremely smooth surface. However, it still depends on the kind of wood or the application.

preparing 2 shellac can

If the wood accepts it nicely, you will see a change immediately, even after applying the first layer of shellac finish. 

If not, you won’t see a change even after three or four treatments since some types of wood require several shellac finishes because of their fiber structure and porosity.

Typically, the wood should be able to seal and be protected by the first coat of shellac finish. The second coat allows the wood ample time to be sanded, leveled, and recoated, while the third and fourth coats provide complete protection.

Is Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac Dewaxed?

No, the regular Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac is not free from wax or dewaxed, while the dewaxed version, called Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac Sealcoat, is wax-free. The other has no wax since wax can react with water- and oil-based finishes, whereas the ordinary has natural wax components.

Zinsser Bulls Eye Seal is a dewaxed substance that serves as a base or final coat. Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac, on the other hand, includes wax and is only used as the last coat. 

Several wood finish manufacturing companies make shellac goods that contain wax and are without wax. To ensure that you obtain what you need, it is crucial to read the product label before making a purchase.

Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac

Is Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac Oil-Based?

Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac isn’t formulated with oil; instead, it is an alcohol-based shellac comprised of ethanol, water, and denatured alcohol. It’s essentially a denatured alcohol-thinned solution derived from a natural resin called lac.

When it dries, Bulls Eye Shellac leaves behind a translucent color and a notably paler golden hue compared to oil-based varnishes. 

This wood finish stands out from the rest due to its rapid drying time, ease of application, and the fact that it can be easily cleaned up with a mixture of ammonia and water. Moreover, once it has dried, it becomes non-toxic, ensuring safety in its use.

What is The Shelf Life of Bulls Eye Shellac?

Bulls Eye Shellac has an estimated storage lifespan of three years when maintained in a temperature-controlled setting. Although, it is only an estimate and relies on how well you preserve the shellac.

To maximize its shelf life, you must store the Bulls Eye Shellac in an atmosphere with constant heat and moisture. To keep the can’s flake shape so it may be mixed easily, ensure it is securely packed and stored.

Bulls Eye Shellac’s Drying Time

The initial layer of Bulls Eye Shellac can dry in as little as half an hour. The next coat must dry for around an hour, and the entire curing process must last at least 24 hours at a temperature of about 70F (210C).

wood with shellac coat

The figures are only approximations because actual values depend on temperature swings, environmental moisture level, and how thick your mixture is applied on the wood surface. 

Applying Bulls Eye Shellac correctly, consistently, and uniformly saves drying time. Before applying further coats, clean the wood surface, and let it completely dry before sanding.

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To maximize the potential of a shellac wood finish and obtain top-notch results, there are several key techniques that you should master. Once you have a firm grasp on how to proficiently apply Bulls Eye Shellac, you’ll find that these skills are easily transferable to other shellac products.

Pay close attention to the specific product’s drying time, the recommended number of layers, and ensure you’re equipped with the appropriate materials or tools. With these considerations in mind, you’ll be well on your way to completing your project both efficiently and to a high standard.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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