A reader is making an armoire. He’s using shellac on the inside, so the clothes don’t pick up the scent of the finish, and lacquer on the outside. Is he being too careful about the fumes? He’d like to have a consistent finish from outside to the inside and needs advice.
Michael Dresdner: Blond shellac and lacquer are almost identical in appearance, so there should be no visible problem with those two. Personally, I like to seal all wood with wax-free shellac first anyway. Hence, he could seal everything with shellac, leave the insides as is (one coat is sufficient) and simply add several coats of lacquer atop the shellac to the outside of the armoire.
Rob Johnstone: All clear finishes contain volatiles that release into the air as they cure. Some, like those in shellac are not particularly nasty (in fact, I like the alcohol smell of shellac). Lacquers have more harmful chemicals and to most folks nose’s, smellier fumes (OK, I actually like the smell of lacquer, too!). But when the volatiles are gone (the finish has completely cured), there will be no more smell. Like Michael, I am a big fan of shellac and prefer it for many reasons – but if sufficient time is allowed for the finish to cure, there should be little of smelly lacquer odor remaining.