A few words about Finishing
By the time a project is ready for finishing, most woodworkers are anxious to get it done. Many a fine project has been compromised by a shoddy finishing job precipitated by this enthusiasm. This rush can be especially devastating with modern finishes. The best modern finishes, such as sprayed on lacquers, can give exceptional results on a piece of modern furniture. To achieve these results requires great care and exceptional skill. Most amateur woodworkers have neither the patience, equipment, or skill to achieve these results with sprayed on lacquers. Less sophisticated modern finishes, such as brush on polyurethanes, can only provide passable results even in the most adept hands.
Good oldfashioned hand-mixed shellac on the other hand is quick to apply, requires no special equipment, and gives satisfying results with minimal training. While highly skilled finishers use shellac to create a French polish finish on high-style furniture, most traditional furniture is more correctly finished with a less sophisticated finish that is easily created by the novice using shellac. A beeswax finish can also be used on many traditional pieces; however, we prefer shellac for its durability. If more of a French polish finish is desired, this requires some practice, but it is not as hard as some would like to think. We recommend Frank Klauz's video on finishing for an excellent lesson in creating a French polish.
Many People like to knock shellac as not being durable. Compared to polyurethane, it is not as durable. However, it is actually quite durable, except against alcohol spills, and it is much easier to repair than modern finishes. Shellac is also less toxic to apply than many modern finishes, and when dry is non-toxic if ingested. (Not that we suggest getting it in your mouth.)