So, with much thanks to Gary over at This Old Crack House and Di at Life in the Prairie Box and commenter Paul and the good folks at NunkProTunk and countless other people who have become accidental shellac lovers, we have decided to give the old stuff a try.
This weekend, we bought a quart of Zinsser Amber shellac at the big box and little can of red mahogany stain for the kitchen floor. After we got the kitchen floor sanded, we chose a few spots that we knew would be covered up in the end and, really, lets face it-- that floor is already so screwed, what more damage could we possibly do? So we tried the mahogany stain first. After waiting 15 minutes we wiped it off and it looked, well...wrong. It showed the grain very well, but in kind of a fuzzy splotchy way. I've heard that heart pine doesn't always take stain very well...the dark color also showed every imperfection, and here is where we were introduced to the lip caused by the drum sander. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Much edging will be required. Lucky for us, these floors have probably never been refinished, so they have a lot of life before we hit tongue. The color was lovely-- very dark and rich and red. In fact, it was exactly what I had wanted on the cabinets before we found that we'd have to disguise some pretty deep black mastic stains in the kitchen floor. Anyway, I'm really not sure what to do here...More to come...
Then we tested some bleach on the gigantic water stain:
You can see it through all the dust floating in the air there on the left. It's about 2' or 3' X 10' and seems to have originated from a washing machine leak in the next room over. Anyway, we tried a few rounds of wood bleach on a slightly smaller stain that came from the sink, and it didn't seem to do much.
But while the bleach and stain were setting, we diluted some of the shellac from a 3 to a 1 lb cut and brushed it on a few boards. I thought it brought out some lovely pink tones in the wood, but Adam thought too light. We tried the 3lb cut on some other boards and applied a 2nd coat of 1lb...Maybe more orange than we'd like, but with wood that varies as much as this does, it's hard to tell on such a small area. The 3lb test area looked an awful lot like some spots of our original finish that remained around the edge of the rooms, and then again, it looked nothing like some of the other spots-- mainly it was a bit too orange and not dark enough.
Admittedly, we were a little frazzled, worn out and in a hurry when we did all this, and so we didn't really experiment like we should have. We didn't try more coats than that, or try different cuts, etc. I have a hunch that building up the layers will really darken the wood...And a little time for the light to hit the heart of the pine will redden it a bit as well; heart pine is photosensitive and gets darker and redder with exposure to light.
This evening, I plan to go to the big box and get as high quality a piece of yellow pine trim as I can get, with as much heart as you can find in modern cuts of wood, another small quart of shellac (I left the other one at the house) and I will diligently try a variety of cuts and layers and combinations thereof, and see if something looks even close to similar.
Truly, I think our real problem is the fact that we had to take up a finish that we loved that took 90 years worth of wear and tear to create. There weren't many gouges or anything like that, but there were a lot of paint splatters and stains and discolorations and bleaching and the carpet padding-- no, no, no, no, no. That carpet padding glue was stuck for real-- I was eventually able to get it off with a light scrubbing of Oops, but it had stained the wood, and if you scrub too hard, the Oops bleaches the finish (even though the label says it won't). At any rate, it meant we really needed to sand and I'm afraid we'll now have to wait 90 years to get something like what we had...but at the rate we've been going, I think we may be right on schedule!