Having trouble getting a brilliant finish with Shellawax or Shellawax Cream?

for Shellawax & Shellawax Cream
From the inventor Neil Ellis



Shellawax and Shellawax Cream were designed initially for use on high end, exhibition, museum, gallery and collectors quality, woodturned items. However, what they have also done, is for the first time in history, given woodturners across the board, a chance to get a quick, easy, finish that looks and feels far better than they ever imagined they would be able to get. All that is asked is that, the user is prepared to put in a little extra preparation work, and at least once, read and preferably take notice of, the instructions that come with the product.

Firstly, I would like to say that Shellawax & Shellawax Cream are the ultimate answer to all your finishing needs. However, I can not and will not. There is no such thing and I doubt there ever will be. There are those who would have you believe that this is the ultimate finish for woodturners. I wish it was, but believe me it isn’t. I cannot even guarantee that it will work on all timbers there are too many outside influences that may affect the final finish. All I can say with confidence is: “In most instances Shellawax and Shellawax Cream will give you a professional finish (in seconds) that is far better than you have ever had before.” 

 If you are not getting a brilliant finish, the problem lies, either with 
 the timber,
or your method of application


Shellawax IS NOT a plastic finish like polyurethane and many of the Tung and other oil finishes on the market which contain polyurethane or varnish. It is a shellac based finish which will react like a fine French polish. It will show a water mark and even dull off if it is wet and not dried immediately, especially if it is not applied correctly.

Shellawax & Shellawax Cream MAY dull off or look dull if.

§   It is applied to poorly sanded work. (more info)
§   It is applied over wet (green) timber, or wood that is only partly dry  (more info)
§   It is applied to some timbers that have a high natural oil content.
§   It is applied to some timbers that have a lot of spalting (patterns caused by fungus or rot) (more info)
§   Finished work is kept in damp / moist conditions (kitchen above sink or stove, bathroom, outside)
§   Handled by clammy hands with a high acid content (about 1 in every 10,000 people)
§   It is applied to a whitewood or any timber that has poor light refraction qualities. (more info)
These same conditions will make most shellac, wax and oil finishes dull off quite dramatically after a few days and may cause long term damage to many other finishes (lacquers, polyurethane, etc) .


Sanding: If you want a great result with Shellawax and Shellawax Cream you need to sand very finely. When I say sand I mean with abrasive grits. Avoid the use of abrasive filled sponges and NEVER USE Steel Wool, Scotchbrite or any of the other scouring pads These are really designed for use on metals and for cutting finishes, etc, not for use on wood and especially not on a revolving lathe.

The following will give you some idea as to the type of finish you will get from various degrees of sanding:
80 grit - forget it 120 grit - waste of time & polish
240 gritpretty ordinary - initial shine will dull quickly and show dramatic sanding marks 320 grit - average - initial shine will dull quickly and show sanding marks
400 grit - better than average - initial shine may dull to satin depending on timber will still show sanding marks  600 grit - good - Holds shine pretty well will still show some sanding marks on some timbers and may dull slightly.
800 grit - better - higher shine about 75% gloss may show slight sanding marks 1200 grit - best - shines to about 90% gloss looks great, feels great, no sanding marks

1500 - 2000 grit - brilliant - Highest shine 100% gloss. Looks and feels brilliant.

Alternative sanding procedures:

On spindle work: Sand to 400 - 600 then use our EEE-Ultra Shine followed by either Shellawax (liquid) or Shellawax Cream for an absolutely brilliant shine. (If not using EEE-Ultra Shine sand to 1200 grit or higher)

On Bowls: Sand with a hand held Rotary Sander up to 320 grit then use our EEE-Ultra Shine followed by Shellawax Cream for an absolutely brilliant shine.
Hand sand up to 600 grit then EEE-Ultra Shine followed by Shellawax Cream
Hand sand to between 1200 & 1500 grit or higher then use
Shellawax Cream

Sanding rules:
Always work your way through the grades120, 180, 240, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1200, 1500, 2000 do not skip any especially the courser grits eg: 80, 220, 320, 600 skipping grades like this will give a terrible end result

DO NOT use worn abrasive paper. ALWAYS use new abrasive paper which will cut the timber properly

 ALWAYS use good abrasive paper (Hermes, SIA, etc.) preferably aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. Don’t buy cheap stuff from the Sunday market, it is usually seconds and will wear out twice as quickly as well as give an inferior cut. The cheap purchase price is false economy.


 DO NOT burnish the work with shavings.

Some rules for using Shellawax & Shellawax Cream  (and reasons why)

Apply to raw timber.  Both Shellawax and Shellawax Cream are designed to be applied directly onto raw timber. Reason:  These are friction polishes designed to be applied with heat and pressure. This method of application creates a fuses the polish with the timber giving a unique finish that is in the wood rather than on it. If sanding sealer or another finish is applied first, the Shellawax cannot key itself to the timber, and will become a surface coating that is easily damaged.

There are those who use and actively promote the use of Shellawax over other finishes such as Organoil, sanding sealer and other oils etc. Reason:  In most instances this it to make the other product look good. (Then again there are some people just can't help themselves, always thinking they know a  better way)

Our products are stand alone, one coat polishes that are not designed to be used over other finishes. We take no responsibility for the use of Shellawax or Shellawax Cream over any other product except our own EEE-Ultra Shine and Non Toxic Water Dyes. Reason:  both these products are designed to be compatible with Shellawax & Shellawax Cream.

Use Shellawax (liquid) for pens and other small spindle turned items up to 50mm (2imches) diam. Ideal also for small lidded boxes and face plate work up to 50mm (2imches) diam.  Reason:  the liquid dries too quickly and soaks in to end grain almost immediately making it harder to work.
For bowls, lidded containers & all items over 50mm dia. I recommend Shellawax Cream which can also be used for everything the liquid can. Reason:  Shellawax Cream is designed to sit on the surface of the timber, rather than soak straight in. This gives you more working time for the polish allowing it to be burnt into the timber and work it up to  a brilliant finish more easily.
Shellawax must be burned into the surface of the timber under friction. To do this without burning your fingers you need to use a thick wad of soft, clean, rag for the application.

For all work over 1” (25mm) dia. Always apply with lathe stopped. Reason:  You will get an even coverage of polish on the timber with the lathe stopped.

Apply an initial rough application using enough to adequately cover the entire area you wish to polish.
eg.: The outside of a 10” bowl would use a dob of Shellawax Cream about the size of a 10 cent piece.
After initial rough application turn lathe on, then with the moistened portion of rag apply heavy pressure to the work and slowly run the rag across the entire surface to be polished. Reason:  This action supplies the heat, through friction, that the polish needs to work correctly.
Run the lathe as fast as it is safely possible for the size of timber you are using. A slower speed means you must run the rag across the surface to be polished at a slower rate & with more pressure to ensure it is properly burned into the surface of the wood. Reason:  Higher speed = more heat = faster application = better finish.

Never leave your rag in the jar with Shellawax Cream. Reason:  1/ The rag will soak up the shellac from the polish and will eventually make it go thick and hard to use.  2/  The rag should always be fresh and clean for the application of the polish and have a hard glazed face upon completion of application. This cannot be achieved with a moist rag without detrimentally effecting to the finish.

Stir Shellawax Cream occasionally to keep it in a cream form and stop it from going hard in the jar. Reason: Shellawax Cream will thicken with time as it is exposed to the air and the alcohol evaporates. However it has the unique ability to go creamy when stirred briskly, even if it is almost rock hard.

Always replace the lid tightly on a jar of Cream when it is not in use. Reason: See above.

Always shake Shellawax (liquid) vigorously before use. Reason: To ensure it is completely mixed.


Ideally every turner would have the following items:
For the best finish in almost all situations.

Shellawax Cream: for use on all types of turning especially anything over 50mm diameter including work that needs to be hand buffed off the lathe Shellawax: for pens and other small item under 50mm diam. Also used to thin the cream for easier application to flat surfaces for hand buffing etc. EEE– Ultra Shine: for fine abrading under the Shellawaxes, for plastic & stone finishes, for cutting other finishes, lacquers, polyurethane, etc.
Traditional Wax: as a final finish over Shellawax and as a maintenance polish Polish Reviver: used over the Shellawaxes it extends the time it takes to water mark the finish. Woodturners Waxtik: For a traditional wax finish. Brilliant when used over EEE-Ultra Shine. Can be used over Shellawax, etc.
Swansdown Mop: a beautifully soft buff for use with Shellawax or wax for buffing, etc. Rotary Sander: Sands bowls etc. without leaving any noticeable pattern of grit marks. Abrasive paper from 120 grit to 2500 grit 

An endless supply of soft clean rags (preferably old flannelette sheets). I have found old flannelette sheets to be the best rag by far, for use with these products. It is soft and easily obtained through the Salvo's and other such organizations. Best of all it only costs a few cents.



Q/ My Shellawax Cream has gone hard in the jar. How can I restore it? A/ Stirring it vigorously will bring it back to a creamy consistency. If it is still not thin enough add a little Shellawax (liquid). If you don’t have Shellawax add a LITTLE BIT of Methylated Spirits do not drown the mix and use this only as a LAST RESORT.
Q/ I am using Shellawax. I sand up to 1200 grit, but the finish on my bowl always has lines in it that look like sanding marks. Why? A/ You should be using Shellawax Cream. It is designed to stay on the surface of the timber during application so it can be worked into the wood with heat from friction. Shellawax, as a liquid, soaks in to a bowl too quickly meaning you have to apply a heavier coat which will in turn pick up the weave of the material it is being applied with and will create those sanding type lines.
Q/ The finish on my bowl with Shellawax Cream is blotchy and has shiny & some dull patches. A/ There are a number of causes and fixes for this. 
(a) TIMBER: if your timber is spalted (contains rot) this may draw the polish into the surface at different rates causing a patchy finish 
FIX: Apply a second coat of Cream after sanding with 1200 grit. If problem persists sand off the finish, apply a sanding sealer base and try a different finish. 
You may have a timber that just won't respond to this finish. This may be due to many causes, moisture, rot, oil, grain structure, etc. 
FIX: Try a second coat of Cream after sanding with 1200 grit. Then apply a thin coat of Traditional Wax and buff.  If problem persists sand off the finish, apply a sanding sealer base and try a different finish. 
You did not stop the lathe to apply the polish. In most instances this will result in uneven and blotchy or streaky finish.
FIX: Always apply the Cream to a bowl with the lathe stopped. Then follow the instructions
You are not applying the Cream correctly. 
FIX: Read the instructions then change your method of application.
Q/ The shine on my work dulls off after a week or so. A/ There are a number of causes and fixes for this. 
your timber was green or partly green. 
FIX 1: Apply a thin coat of Traditional Wax and buff either by hand or for preference using a Swansdown Mop. 
FIX 2: If work can be rechucked. Sand with 1200grit or finer then apply another coat of Shellawax or Shellawax Cream.
This too may dull after a few weeks but a buff with Traditional Wax should fix the problem giving a brilliant glow to the wood. It is almost impossible to get a full gloss finish over green timber. The best you can hope for is about 75% gloss.
The work was poorly sanded or not sanded to a high enough grit and the polish has settled back to the final grit’s finish. See sanding info, then follow the instructions.
The turned item is kept in an area that is susceptible to dampness or moisture eg. a kitchen near a stove or sink where steam is generated or a bathroom etc.
Q/ I have an identical finish on 2 bowls using Shellawax Cream. One was Supplejack a bark brown closed grain timber. The other was Jacaranda a creamy coloured wood.  The supplejack had a brilliant shine with lights flashing out from within like an opal. The Jacaranda looked dull and lifeless along side it.  Why? A/ Different timbers will finish to different degrees of shine.
Most dark close grained timbers, especially those with a really nice figuring like fiddle-back or quilting etc. Will refract the rays of the light creating an opalescence from within and will shine to a brilliant high gloss on the surface because of this refracted light.

Light coloured timbers tend to soak up the light and do not have the same ability to refract it, so they appear to be dull. If you hold them both up at eye level and look across the top of them you will find they both have the same shine. However if you look down on them from above they will have a completely different shines, the dark figured grain will be brilliant whilst the lighter coloured timer will look to have almost flat finish to it..........

Mother nature and the tricks she plays on us........  ya just gotta luv her.

NOTE: A dull white wood can get a lift in shine by applying a coat of Traditional wax and giving it a buff. Whilst timbers like Huon pine look best if finished with EEE-Ultra Shine then with our Woodturners Waxtik or Traditional Wax

Q/ I have just about finished applying Shellawax Cream to a bowl and all is looking fantastic when all of a sudden the polish begins to go streaky or develop lines. A/ Common problem. Easy answer.
You have a little too much Shellawax Cream on your rag. If you look at the face of the rag that has worked right it is glazed and hard. Look just below the glazed section and you may see a still damp section that may even have a small build up of the cream. What has happened is that this still damp section has been brought into contact with the spinning work and has begun to lay down a new section of polish. Because of this you will get streaks and lines in the work.

Fix: Use more care in the application to ensure that the overload doesn't come in contact with the surface once the bulk of the work has been done.
If you notice it happening stop the application immediately and with the lathe still running buff the work with a clean soft cloth using reasonably heavy pressure.




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This page was last modified: Monday, 24 March 2003