Traditional Finishes
with Tim Lawson

Place holder for slide show

Basics of Woodworking Series Level: Beginner


The traditional finishes - oil, wax and shellac are easy to apply and simple to repair when damaged. These are great virtues. The traditional  finishes can be a little more finicky to use than contemporary finishes but they reward you with a wonderful depth of grain and a sensous feel.

There are many varieties of Shellac - the most commonly used Shellac is dewaxed and has the amazing ability to bod and seal both wood and prior finishes. The raw, waxed shellacs are very underappreciated. Seed lac, button and many other varieties of Shellac have great colour, build well and can provide more protection then the dewaxed shellacs - you'll get a chance to use them and appreciate the differences.

The greater part of finishing is the surface preparation before applying the finish. We look at the traditional techniques for preparing the surface of the wood - planes and card scrapers which leave the grain in the wood cleanly cut. That is not to say that abrasives don't have a place in the workshop but abrasives should not dominate the surface preparation.

Shellac and oil finishes do need to be used with solvents but, we argue, the volume of solvents used in the average, well ventilated home shop does not pose a significant environmental risk compared to the quantities of solvents used in production finishing. We teach you how to minmize the use of and to recycle solvents.

These finishes are prepared in the volume needed for the work at hand and, if managed carefully small quantities can last several years.

In the final part of the course we'll look at techniques for working with varnishes.

Class Description

  • What are finishes and why do we need them?
  • Safety Procedures
  • Preparing Shellac
  • Wood preparation
  • Sharpening and preparing a card scraper (You'll leave with a card scraper)
  • Grain filling and sizing
  • Repairing dings
  • Managing solvents
  • Oil finishes
  • Oil / wax finishes and preparation
  • Working with Shellac
  • Properties of difference shellacs
  • Mixing finishing techniques
  • Developing and testing a finishing protocol


  • Please wear disposable clothing
  • If you already have a VOC mask please bring it along. We'll also have disposable VOC masks

More about this class

  • Class Notes
  • Blog Entries



Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read out registration policy.

Class size: 15
Cost: $250
Materials Charge: $25




Coming Classes:

We plan to offer this class in 2014. If you are interested, please let us know and we will notify you when the class is scheduled.


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200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Any donations made to the School are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.