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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Has anyone tried this? The idea would be to pour it in a mold and let the alcohol evaporate. Motivation: 3lbs of shellac in a sub $25 gallon of pre-mix shellac is cheap compared to buying sticks or shellac flakes.

I'm told that only dewaxed shellac should be used for instrument repair. Well, this can be achieved by letting the wax settle and decanting the rest, easy enough. But is dewaxed shellac really better? As far as I've been able to learn, a little wax may be a good thing. Dewaxed shellac is very brittle; it may be fine for connecting two hard surfaces and in an environment of stable temperature; but sax pads are soft, and bumps or temperature changes could crack the joint. A little wax in the shellac (<3% in amber shellac) should make the shellac less brittle, and should not affect adhesive qualities in any negative way. Am I missing something?

P.S. Just installed an oak wall railing which I finished with shellac to match the other wood. So, it was on my mind.
 

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On the evaporation: that’s a whole lot of solvent to dump into the air, and would be illegal in some places.

You might look at woodworker supply places - you can buy flake shellac and mix it, for example. If you’re wanting to experiment, look up “seedlac,” which is available at some of those places.
 

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I have never heard of anyone using brush-on forms of shellac for making sticks. Just flakes.....

Not saying it cannot be done....
 

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I tried dissolving shellac flakes in alcohol I purchased from Ferree's. After 3 or 4 days it still hadn't hardened so I gave up on that approach. Heating it didn't do the trick either. I ended up melting the flakes to a liquid state and then pouring it into molds. It was a messy task, but it worked. The photos below show the process and the results. I tried using the "homemade" shellac sticks but went back to the expensive Ferree's amber sticks I have used since I started doing repairs. The "homemade" sticks just didn't behave the way I was used to.

View attachment 221588 View attachment 221590 View attachment 221592 View attachment 221594
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for sharing your experience. Very interesting. Some thoughts: 1) A typical shellac finish on wood is very thin, and although it can be handled within an hour, it takes a few days to "fully" cure, and probably hardens somewhat more over a week, and so a stick of shellac might reasonably take a few weeks...hmm, gotta plan ahead; 2) I'm curious as to how your sticks behaved differently, and if it was because they were not fully cured?; 3) Is that conveniently shaped ice mold hard plastic or that flexible/rubber type, and did the sticks stick to it?
 

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The molds are silicone and the shellac does not stick. They are made to make ice "cubes" that fit into water bottles. It is hard to articulate the difference between the factory and the home made sticks. They just don't feel the same when melting and applying. For someone who has not used the original Ferree's amber sticks for over 20 years like I have, they would probably feel and work just fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
"The molds are silicone and the shellac does not stick." Ah, thanks for the info.

I wonder what the difference in shellac sticks from different vendors is? Despite being given the impression (from I don't remember where) that dewaxed shellac is most appropriate for instrument repair, I suspect the opposite is true. Shellac with it's natural amount of wax ~5% would be less brittle. Now consider this. The more wax is removed, the lighter/blonder the shellac becomes. Ferree's shellac sticks, which seem to be highly regarded, are dark (based on photos), suggesting they are natural "orange shellac" as opposed to, e.g., wax reduced "amber shellac" or dewaxed clear shellac. Perhaps Ferree's shellac sticks feel better to work with because they have the full natural wax content. Any thoughts?
 

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I would stick to the sticks.

The liquid stuff will be cheap because it is mostly solvent.
I think it would take a very, very long time to evaporate, and would probably be laced with "crevasses".

I once made sticks by melting flakes.
The end product was far to brittle for my liking. Not at all like the Ferrees or Allied sticks which I have used for decades.

I once bought almost clear sticks. Again, far too brittle. Same with black sticks.

So I agree, other components, be they wax or something else, seem to be important.
Now I just buy only from Ferrees because I don't want to run the risk of getting a formulation that I find unsatisfactory.
Music Medic sells stick shellac that is actually not shellac. I did not like that either.

I once spent quite a lot of time trying to track down a cheaper source of the Ferree stick, and failed.
Yes, they are expensive, but not much compared with the other expenses of repadding.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the info. So perhaps wax is desirable after all. A $25 gallon of 3lb cut shellac should have 2.5lbs or more of shellac. The alcohol can be evaporated more quickly by pouring the shellac into a large shallow pan (outside). As it thickens up, the gue can be poured into a desired shaped mold and left to dry fully---which I guesstimate may take a few weeks. Once dry, it must be the same as flake shellac (of the same wax content) UNLESS other additives were thrown into the particular product. The SDS of the common Zinsser can shellac just mentions shellac and alcohol. Well, proof is in the experiment, which I will attempt with the remnants of my can of shellac.

Does anyone know the weight of a stick of Ferree's shellac? Funny how sellers give stick dimensions (usually) but not stick weight.
 

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A box of 12 Ferrees sticks weighs 340 grams. That box is now listed at $129.60!
So repadding as sax would use perhaps $6 worth unless you used thick beds of the stuff.
The Ferrees label on the box says "Universal Photonics Incorporated". (All I can find on their site is "Pure Round Sticks", under "Optical Blocking" - no prices. I only bought round sticks once - didn't like the "formulation".)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
So, Ferree's sticks are 1oz each. Thanks.

My experiment, so far: Last night I poured ~8oz of 3lb cut amber shellac onto a shallow baking tray (~13" x 9", probably 30mm x 22mm), so that it was ~3/16 (~5mm) deep; with that much surface area exposed, it skinned over within 15min; I sturred it every 15min to keep the alcohol exposed; after ~2hrs, it had thickened up to the point that I could not stir it easily, so I poured it into a stick mold made of aluminum foil. This won't work because as it thickens and skins more the alcohol will take forever to escape (I did it to clean up a bit).

Next step?: I suspect that heating the remainder to evaporate the rest of the alcohol will not work well---i.e., completely---as per saxoclese's experience; it may require heat for a long time, and that may partially polymerize the shellac or do other such things I don't know much about; perhaps I'll try it anyway, since that may be the only manageable action I can take with the current gue state of the shellac.

In a fresh approach, it may be best to pour the shellac in a shallow pan as I did, with no more than 3mm of depth and let it dry completely (a few days?); then break it up into flakes (chips?) and use it that way; or, heat the pan gently to soften the shellac sheet in order to lift it, roll it and mold it to your preference. I'll try that next.
 

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It sounds as if it is costing zillions of $ in time.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Finally got around to doing more can shellac experiments. I succeeded in heating the shellac (just simmer heat) enough to keep it soft and allow the alcohol to evaporate. After the shellac thickened up (when much of the alcohol was gone), I chose to stir it regularly to help expose the rest of the alcohol and just to make sure no part of the shellac got too hot (I was concerned too much heat may alter the shellac in a negative way, I don't know). After about an hour, the shellac stopped thickening (must be done!) and so I poured it into to an silicone ice stick mold (turns out just like Saxoclese used). It hardened quickly, and after cooling down it popped out of the mold perfectly clean. The stick is glass hard---or at least plastic mouthpiece hard.

In the pic, you'll notice that the a significant amount of shellac stayed in the pan. That's because it cooled too quickly. It may help to put the pan in the oven to heat the shellac a bit more but mostly uniformly immediately before pouring. It doesn't really matter because the shellac will be recovered in the next batch if the pan is dedicated to that use. Alternatively, one might skip the pouring into a mold altogether: A friendly cook suggested laying parchment paper into the pan (shellac shouldn't stick to it); then when the shellac is ready, let it cool down a bit, and while it's still plastic, form it into sticks using the parchment paper as an aid. I'll try that next time.

"It sounds as if it is costing zillions of $ in time.", says Gordon (NZ). Ah, yes, all in the service of science, err well, let's say curiosity. Anyway, there is a practical side. I calculated that a gallon of Zinsser Amber Shellac contains 2.26lbs of shellac; at $23/gal, it comes out to $0.64/oz., or per typical size stick (vs $8-10/stick). As to time cost, working out a convenient process is part of this exploration. Anyway, the time should end up on par with forming sticks from flake shellac.

One last important point. I haven't tried using the stick yet (oh noooo). So I'm not making any claims yet. In fact, I should eventually compare the performance of my stick to a Ferree's stick. Well, that's all for now. T'll next time.
 

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After I made a batch of these sticks using flake shellac from Ferree's I found it just didn't perform and "feel" quite the same as Ferree's "regular" amber shellac sticks so I went back to using those. For someone who hasn't used the regular Ferree's sticks for 20 years doing professional repair, these "home made" ones may be totally acceptable, and certainly a lot less expensive.
 

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After I made a batch of these sticks using flake shellac from Ferree's I found it just didn't perform and "feel" quite the same as Ferree's "regular" amber shellac sticks so I went back to using those. For someone who hasn't used the regular Ferree's sticks for 20 years doing professional repair, these "home made" ones may be totally acceptable, and certainly a lot less expensive.
Yeah, but who's going to benefit from that "a lot less expensive"? The player who does home repairs (like me) and might re-pad an entire horn once every few years, won't get any measurable benefit on that $6.00 estimated total cost of shellac in a whole horn's worth of the stuff. The professional technician, I would suggest, would be better off spending the time repairing instruments at shop rate than trying to make sticks of shellac that might save a few dozen dollars a year. In the time it takes to save that few dozen dollars, you could have done two or three jobs that would earn a lot more.

There are good reasons why most professionals spend the majority of their time doing the work for which they earn the most money and leave other support activities to the professionals in that activity. Surgeons don't make their own scalpels, you know.
 

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Yeah, but who's going to benefit from that "a lot less expensive"? The player who does home repairs (like me) and might re-pad an entire horn once every few years, won't get any measurable benefit on that $6.00 estimated total cost of shellac in a whole horn's worth of the stuff. The professional technician, I would suggest, would be better off spending the time repairing instruments at shop rate than trying to make sticks of shellac that might save a few dozen dollars a year. In the time it takes to save that few dozen dollars, you could have done two or three jobs that would earn a lot more.

There are good reasons why most professionals spend the majority of their time doing the work for which they earn the most money and leave other support activities to the professionals in that activity. Surgeons don't make their own scalpels, you know.
On the other hand some professionals like myself enjoy the challenge and experience gained by making our own tools. I made my own magnetic dent removal tools which I called **** (Tool Utilized to Remove Dents) instead of MDRS which was the name of the commercially available ones (its a long story :) ). I also made my own Magnehelic leak testing machine and designed and manufactured a new tool to easily measure pads. Being a retired music teacher over age 65 I don't have to rely on my repair income to live on which gives me the freedom to do other things I enjoy in the shop.
 

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It'd be something I'd do after hours, maybe in the evening while watching something mindless on the tv.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
It'd be something I'd do after hours, maybe in the evening while watching something mindless on the tv.
Exactly. It's all in the spirit of investigation. One doesn't know beforehand if something useful will come out of the effort.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Just wanted to provide a long overdue followup. I put on some new pads with my homemade shellac sticks and found the stick to behave very well: it melted nicely; the viscosity was easily controlled with appropriate heat; and I was able to float and re-float the pads repeatedly. No problems. No stringiness. No weirdness or oddity of any kind. Just a smooth and viscous application.

To recap the cooking procedure: pour a shallow quantity of liquid shellac in a pan-shaped container (to help alcohol evaporate); heat it up to 190-200F (enough to melt); stir regularly until shellac thickens; keep stirring until you notice shellac is not thickening anymore (must be done). See above about ways to pour and mold the shellac.
 
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