I just finished building kitchen cabinets out of African mahogany. I am ready to finish the project and I would really like to not screw it up. I'm wanting to use an oil-base penetrating stain and follow that with a coat or two of amber shellac, which lends it a beautiful luster, and then clear shellac if it is becoming too dark. I love working with shellac, but my concern is whether it will be durable enough for kitchen cleanups. Another concern is whether it will stand up to the heat adjacent to the stove.

What my plan is is to use the shellac and then, if I have problems, cover the shellac with water-based polyurethane. (If It does not stand up to the heat, I can remove it easily enough with alcohol before the poly.) I know shellac works as a sealer for polyurethane and as a transition layer between poly and something with which it is not compatible. Does this sound like a viable plan?

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    This would have been a good question for woodworking.stackexchange.com Apr 24, 2016 at 17:56

2 Answers 2


Dewaxed shellac is unusual in being compatible with both water- and oil-based finishes, and in fact is sometimes used as an "adapter" layer between those. It can go over, or under, either.

(I'm not sure whether that wide compatibility also includes lacquer and catalysed finishes.)

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    Note that the above is true...but only for a "dewaxed" type of shellac. Shellac with wax in it is less compatible with other under/over finishes. Jul 27, 2015 at 10:56
  • Thanks for making that point. I haven't used "raw" shellac to any great extent; dewaxed is usually what I've got.
    – keshlam
    Jul 29, 2015 at 3:57

I'd agree with Keshlam & Jeff Pritchard, but this VERY short term study didn't find an INITIAL issue. The heat I would be concerned with as your Shellac thickness could bubble, slough or droop itself & the poly or even both right off.

But, since you're used to the work I don't really see any big deal if it doesn't last. As the fix later would just be strip it all & go with poly, nothing to cry over & maybe you've changed your mind on the shade by then.

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