I'm exploring water etching by painting designs on bone dry clay with amber shellac. I paint on 2 coats (wait 30 minutes between coats) and then wait overnight before I begin the water etching process.

My problem is before I've removed enough clay (cone 5, B-Mix) the shellac starts to peal up around the edges and I am forced to wait for everything to dry then add another (third coat) of shellac and wait another 24 hours. I've been using a small sponge that is semi wet.

What (if anything) am I doing wrong? I've heard this can be a finicky process (which is why I have always carved my pieces instead). Thanks!

  • 1
    Do you have any pictures of you project that we could add here? Specifically the peeling
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


With the first coat you should dissolve the crushed shellac flakes in denatured alcohol with a bit more shellac than usual, and stir in an emulsion of premixed marble dust, a touch of linseed oil and fresh egg yolk until you get the right consistency for painting. If it doesn’t dry fast enough for you, consider adding a few drops of saponifying ‘japan drier’.

I can’t give you mixture ratios because shellac comes in lots of grades, but as an explanation, the marble dust gives hardness, the linseed oil suspends the marble, the egg yolk binds the shellac with the oil.

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