Most advanced woodworkers realize that there are different types of shellac paints available. There are different types of shellac that come in flake kits and are mixed with an alcohol, usually ethanol. It is a natural substance found in many regions throughout the world where the type of tree and climate conditions – as well as the time of year it is harvested – will help determine the color and grade.
There are expensive varieties of shellac that are refined to remove rosins and wax creating flakes that are golden in color. These provide an excellent transparent gold-like finish when mixed with ethanol.
The most inexpensive grade of shellac paint is called “TN,” for “truly native.” It is processed from raw sticklac found in India. Another is #1 Lemon that naturally contains wax. Some other inexpensive grades include ones that need to be strained once mixed with ethanol to remove impurities.
At the upper end of graded shellacs are de-waxed varieties which provide greater transparency and moisture resistance. These contain less than one percent wax while less expensive varieties have between three to five percent wax content. However, a de-waxed shellac has a short shelf life – usually six months – therefore are used for only high-end purposes like finishing expensive furniture.