Natural Shellac vs. Store-Bought Urethane: Unveiling the Benefits of Traditional Finishes for Luthiers

diy shellac standing acoustic guitar on black background - Culinary Solvent


As a luthier, choosing the right finish for your stringed instrument is a critical decision. Natural shellac and store-bought urethane are two popular options, each offering its own set of advantages and drawbacks. In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits of traditional shellac finishes for luthiers and why many artisans continue to favor this time-tested material over modern alternatives like urethane.

      1. Enhanced Acoustic Properties

One of the primary reasons luthiers prefer shellac is its ability to enhance the acoustic properties of a stringed instrument. Shellac's thin, flexible nature allows the wood to vibrate freely, producing a richer, more resonant sound. Urethane finishes, on the other hand, tend to be thicker and more rigid, which can dampen the instrument's natural vibrations and negatively impact its tonal quality.

      2. Visual Appeal

Natural shellac imparts a warm, rich, and glossy finish that brings out the beauty of the wood grain. This high-gloss finish is highly sought after by luthiers and musicians alike for its classic aesthetic appeal. Urethane finishes, while offering a range of gloss levels, often struggle to match the depth and warmth provided by traditional shellac.

      3. Easy Repair and Restoration

Shellac finishes are renowned for their ease of repair and restoration. Unlike urethane finishes, which typically require sanding or stripping to correct imperfections or touch up damage, shellac can be easily repaired by simply applying another layer or gently re-amalgamating the existing finish with a shellac solvent like 200 proof food grade alcohol from

      4. Non-toxic and Eco-friendly

Shellac is a natural, non-toxic material derived from the resin secreted by the lac bug, making it a more environmentally friendly option compared to synthetic urethane finishes. Additionally, shellac is dissolved using food-grade alcohol, such as Culinary Solvent, which is a safer choice than the harsh chemicals often required to work with urethane finishes.

      5. Historic Authenticity

For luthiers seeking to create historically accurate instruments or restore vintage pieces, shellac offers an authentic finish that has been used for centuries. This traditional finish not only provides a sense of historic authenticity but also contributes to the overall value and appeal of the instrument.

Experience the Benefits of Shellac with Culinary Solvent

Unlock the full potential of natural shellac for your stringed instruments by using 200 proof food grade alcohol from This high-quality solvent ensures a smooth, consistent mixture for a stunning finish, while also offering a safer, more eco-friendly alternative to harsh chemicals.

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