Difference Between Shellac and Lacquer (With Table)

We often believe that a beautiful house or a workplace or any other such place becomes beautiful by its outer and inner aesthetics such as the plants, furniture, paint, and many more. But little do we realize that all of these things are available in numerous categories, and it is us who need to make suitable choices for or use. 

Furniture is a very crucial aspect of a place’s interior, being beautiful and eye-catching, and the furniture makers usually take the help of wood polishes and finish to make it look more intriguing. Shellac and Lacquer are two such wooden finishes used vastly all across the world. To know the most suitable one, it is important to be aware of the differences that lie between them. 

Shellac vs Lacquer 

The difference between Shellac and Lacquer is that the former happens to be a form of resin that is yielded from a species of lac bug known as Kerria Lacca and happens to be easier to use as a wooden finish, while the latter refers to colored coatings that get hard with the passage of time and get utilized as a wooden finish. 

Shellac is the word for shell and lac and refers to the thing layers of resin produced by a particular species of bugs known as the Kerra Lacca. It is majorly manufactured in countries like India and Thailand and has a very high demand in the wooden industry. After the proper chemical processing, it merges in the form of solid flakes and converts them into liquid by further processing. 

While on the other hand, Lacquer is derived from a word of Sanskrit language that is Laaksha. It refers to a gluey sort of substance found attached to certain species of trees. In modern times, it is mostly associated with the French word, lacer representing a form of wax that seals things together. A major advantage of this wooden finish over others is that the temperature on which it dries can be controlled by humans. 

Comparison Table Between Shellac and Lacquer 

Parameters of Comparison  Shellac  Lacquer  
Meaning  It is the word for shell and lac and refers to the thing layers of resin produced by a particular species of bugs known as the Kerra Lacca. It is derived from a word of Sanskrit language that is Laaksha. It refers to a gluey sort of substance found attached to certain species of trees. 
Originates from  Produced by certain insects called the lac bugs.  produced by a particular species of bugs known as the Kerra Lacca 
Color adaptation  It comes in many colors and produces a pigmentation of its own. It does not produce any pigmentation of its own and quietly adopts the color of the wood upon which it is being used.  
Temperature control It dries according to its own terms, and humans have almost negligible control over the same. Though it dries super-fast, this process can be controlled by humans.  
Types  It does not have any definite types, but it comes in multiple diversified colors.  It has three major types- Nitrocellulose lacquer, Water-based lacquer, Acrylic lacquer  

What is Shellac? 

When two words that are shell and lac join each other, the word Shellac comes into existence. It is a kind of organic chemical compound present in the form of wax and is yielded from a particular bug called Kerra Lacca. Majorly the people of Thailand and India cultivate these bugs for the commercial production of this substance. 

It emerged as a big sensation in the early 19th century and snatched the market from the biggest oil and wax substances. But soon in the 1930s, it was overshadowed by the newly invested Lacquer finish.  

It primarily exists in the form of a sticky substance on the tree, and with the help of heat, it is melted. After being melted, it is dried and given a form of squares or buttons. For end-user utilization, it is crushed into fine particles and then mixed with ethyl alcohol to produce the Shellac finish. 

What is Lacquer? 

Originally taken from a Sanskrit word, Lacquer happens to be another variety of wooden finishes widely used in the furniture industry. It can majorly be divided into two categories that are then processed and the unprocessed lacquer. 

In the unprocessed one, only some impurities are gotten rid of, and the rest of the product is used to finish the last layers of the furniture. While in the processed version, the substance is melted until the water available in it naturally evaporates all by itself. This helps to finish the primary and middle layers.  

It does not produce any pigmentation of its own and quietly adopts the color of the wood upon which it is being used. It has three major types- 

  • Nitrocellulose lacquer 
  • Water-based lacquer 
  • Acrylic lacquer 

In terms of ease of use, this substance outruns all other substances because it is very easy for one to use and gets evaporated at the rate one allows it to. Unlike Shellac, it has the ability to become both glossy and matte in finish.  

Main Differences Between Shellac and Lacquer 

  1. Shellac, on one side, is the word for shell and lac and refers to the thing layers of resin produced by a particular species of bugs known as the Kerra Lacca. While on the other hand, Lacquer is derived from a word of Sanskrit language that is Laaksha. It refers to a gluey sort of substance found attached to certain species of trees. 
  2. Shellac has this glossy touch to its texture, while Lacquer provides more of a wooden finish. 
  3. Lacquer has three major types that are Nitrocellulose lacquer, Water-based lacquer, and acrylic lacquer. But the Shellac, on her other hand, does not consist of any such definite categories.  
  4. Shellac is a kind of wood finish that comes in many colors and produces a pigmentation of its own. But talking about Lacquer, it never produces its own pigmentation and adapts that color of the area where it is being used. 
  5. Shellac, on one side, dries according to its own terms, and humans have almost negligible control over the same. But on the other side, the drying process of Lacquer can be controlled by humans and is more user-friendly.  

Conclusion  

Looking at all the comparisons and differences, it can be ascertained that both Shellac and Lacquer comprise their own unique properties and terms of use. While one may be suitable for some person, the other might be preferred by the other person.  

However, owing to the advancement of synthetic products everywhere, these two have been largely replaced by the polyurethan wooden finish. But this thing does not dim their light, and even today, there is a continuous demand for both of these finishes in casual as well as traditional furniture markets.  

References 

  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ie50191a007
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07366578608081978
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