Making and Using a Shellac Pad
When padding shellac the first step is to construct the pad (also called a Fad, Rubber, or Tampon). I make my pads using a 6" to 8" square of linen wrapped around a bit of raw wool about the size of a large chicken egg when lightly compressed in my hand. If you can't find linen then medium weight muslin can be used. The advantage of Linen is its superior strength.
I prefer raw wool but the remnants of an old athletic sock or sweater will do nicely. Do not use cotton, cotton batting, or cotton rags. Cotton does not offer the resiliency of wool and will quickly compress into a mat that will not properly meter shellac from the pad to the surface being finished. Cotton lacks the "feed back" and uniform resiliency and absorbency of wool.
With reference to the above photos:
- (Photo 1) Assemble the necessary materials. You will need a yard or two of medium weight cotton muslin and some washed, raw wool.
- (Photo 2) Begin by putting a bit of wool about the size of a large chicken egg (when lightly compressed in your hand) on the cotton muslin square between the center and one corner.
- (Photo 3) Next, fold the top corner over the wool and then fold the two adjacent corners in over the folded top corner.
- (Photo 4) You will have made a "pocket" with one end open and the wool in the bottom of the pocket, toward the closed end.
- (Photo 5) Make a twist or two in the open end to form a "tail".
- (Photo 6) Then, with the "tail" held in the heel of your hand with your last two fingers.
- (Photo 7) Fold the "head" of the pad forward and hold it between your thumb and two remaining fingers.
Loading the Pad
Always load the pad by opening it and applying shellac and/or alcohol directly to the wool "reservoir". I use small plastic squeeze bottles for this purpose. This technique gives better control over the volume of shellac added to the pad than simply plunging the pad into a container of shellac. It also allows you to meter the liquid shellac onto the face of the pad more evenly than the "dip" method. Dipping the pad into shellac saturates the surface causing too much shellac to be discharged at the initial point of contact. This in turn leads to problems in getting a uniform coat of shellac.
When the pad is loaded with shellac, close it and hold it face up. There should be no liquid visible on the face of the pad (the liquid is all contained in the reservoir). When you gently squeeze the pad between your thumb and forefinger (again, held face up) liquid should "weep" onto the surface of the pad.
(NOTE: If you have gotten too much shellac in your pad just blot it on a paper shop towel or rag until you have removed enough material to present the pad as described above.)
With the pad properly loaded you can now apply a drop or two of lubricating oil to the face. I dip the tip of my finger in a small container of mineral oil and then touch my finger to the face of the pad. The traditional "lubricant" is raw linseed oil but today most prefer mineral oil since it is easier to find. Also, mineral oil is more easily removed from the finish. The purpose of the oil is to lubricate the pad so that it glides over the drying shellac finish without sticking. The oil does not become part of the finish.