22 March, 2006

Applying Shellac

Shellacing handlebars is pretty darn simple, but I'll go through it step by step anyway.


I've spent countless hours varnishing wooden boats, and one thing I've learned is that it pays to have a good brush. Good brushes hold more shellac and so don't need to be 'dipped' as often. They leave a smoother finish, and they last almost forever. Now I don't suggest you buy a $50 varnishing brush, but a decent quality bristle brush is worth the investment. I use a semi-disposible brush called "The Fooler" that's popular in the marine trades. It's made in Indonesia from pure bristle, has a proper wooden handle and costs around $2.

In addition to a brush, you'll need a bit of masking tape and some alcohol to wipe up any spills and clean your brush.


If you use aero brake levers or brifters, secure the cables to the bars with electrical tape or metal foil tape. I like the foil-type duct tape because it doesn't show through cotton handlebar tape. Tape your bars and put a wrap of masking tape (or any type of tape) around the center section of the bar to keep shellac off. Spread a drop cloth under your bike, or roll it outside. I don't bother to mask-off the bike because any shellac I drip on it can easly be wiped off with a paper towel dipped in alcohol. Mix your shellac according to the instructions and off you go.

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I pour as much shellac as I think I'll need into a paper cup or old jar; that's about 7 or 8 ounces for 6 or 7 coats. If any is left over after the job is finished it will be discarded, not poured back into the original container. This ensures that the original shellac is not contaminated.

The first coat of shellac will fill the weave of the cloth and use up as much shellac as several susequent coats. Brush it on as evenly as possible and don't leave any dry spots. I like to wait at least a couple of hours after the first coat to allow this first thick layer to dry. The longer the better. The next coat will darken the tape and be easier to apply. It will also dry in less time. You can keep adding coats as soon as the previous one has dryed until you achive the desired color and texture. In between coats I wrap my brush in Saran wrap to keep it from drying out rather that washing it.


steve said...

I like a soft, gel touch on my top handlebar tape to eliminate fatigue. And too much shellac will make the bars hard. After abandoning Marsus foam tape beneath cloth Tresso because it creates an uncomfortable hump on the top of the bars, I settled on a base tape of synthetic gel overwrapped with yellow Tresso for the top bars. To keep it supple but also keep the shellacked look, I dyed the Tresso using a weak RIT Cocoa Brown solution, which gave the cloth tape a shellacked orange-brown appearance. Use about 1/8 teaspoon per 6 ounces of hot water. After it dried, I wrapped the bars from the brake hoods up, applied twine, and then put a coat of shellac on top. Works great: it matches the more heavily shellacked horizontal bars (where I like a firm and not squishy hold) but retains the softness of the gel undertape for placing one's hands on the bars while riding upright. The dying process had no effect on the Tresso adhesive.

George said...

I can't find a page to order shellac flakes on the VO site.

VeloOrange said...

@ George
We don't sell shellac flakes any longer. I'd recommend popping into any hardware store and getting them there.