Shellac is a resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 secreted by the female lac bug
Kerria lacca
Kerria lacca is a species of scale insect of the family Kerriidae. It is most well known for secreting lac, a scarlet substance that is used for dyeing wool and silk, as a cosmetic, and as a medicinal drug. Kerria lacca insects inhabit trees in colonies of thousands and secrete the resinous...

, on trees in the forests of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

. It is processed and sold as dry flakes (pictured at right), which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze
Glazing agent
Glazing agents, or polishing agents, are food additives providing shiny appearance or protective coating to foods. Mostly they are based on waxes.Examples are:* Stearic acid * Beeswax * Candelilla wax...

 and wood finish. Shellac functions as a tough natural primer
Primer (paint)
A primer is a preparatory coating put on materials before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted.-When primers are used:...

, sanding sealant
A sealant may be viscous material that has little or no flow characteristics and stay where they are applied or thin and runny so as to allow it to penetrate the substrate by means of capillary reaction...

, tannin
A tannin is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.The term tannin refers to the use of...

-blocker, odour-blocker, stain
Wood stain
A wood stain consists of a colorant suspended or dissolved in a 'vehicle' or solvent. The suspension agent can be water, alcohol, petroleum distillate, or the actual finishing agent...

, and high-gloss
Gloss (material appearance)
Gloss is an optical property, which is based on the interaction of light with physical characteristics of a surface. It is actually the ability of a surface to reflect light into the specular direction. The factors that affect gloss are the refractive index of the material, the angle of incident...

Varnish is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a thinner or solvent. Varnish finishes are usually glossy but may be designed to produce satin or semi-gloss...

. Shellac was once used in electrical applications as it possesses good insulation
Electrical insulation
thumb|250px|[[Coaxial Cable]] with dielectric insulator supporting a central coreThis article refers to electrical insulation. For insulation of heat, see Thermal insulation...

 qualities and it seals out moisture. Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

) records were also made of it during the pre-1950s, 78-rpm recording era.

Shellac is one of the few historically appropriate finishes (including casein paint, spar varnishes, boiled linseed oil and lacquer) for early 20th-century hardwood floors
Wood flooring
Wood flooring is any product manufactured from timber that is designed for use as flooring, either structural or aesthetic. Bamboo flooring is often considered a wood floor, although it is made from a grass rather than a timber....

, and wooden wall
A wall is a usually solid structure that defines and sometimes protects an area. Most commonly, a wall delineates a building and supports its superstructure, separates space in buildings into rooms, or protects or delineates a space in the open air...

 and ceiling
A ceiling is an overhead interior surface that covers the upper limit of a room. It is generally not a structural element, but a finished surface concealing the underside of the floor or roof structure above....


From the time it replaced oil and wax finishes in the 19th century, shellac was one of the dominant wood finishes in the western world until it was replaced by nitrocellulose lacquer in the 1920s and 1930s.


Shellac is scraped from the bark of the trees where the female lac bug, Kerria lacca
Kerria lacca
Kerria lacca is a species of scale insect of the family Kerriidae. It is most well known for secreting lac, a scarlet substance that is used for dyeing wool and silk, as a cosmetic, and as a medicinal drug. Kerria lacca insects inhabit trees in colonies of thousands and secrete the resinous...

(Order Hemiptera, Family Coccidae
The Coccidae are a family of scale insects belonging to the superfamily Coccoidea. They are commonly known as soft scales, wax scales or tortoise scales. The females are flat with elongated oval bodies and a smooth integument which may be covered with wax. In some genera they possess legs but in...

) secretes it to form a tunnel-like tube as it traverses the branches of tree. Though these tunnels are sometimes referred to as "cocoons", they are not literally cocoons in the entomological sense.
This insect is in the same family as the insect from which cochineal
The cochineal is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-colour dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, this insect lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on plant moisture and...

 is obtained. The insects suck the sap of the tree and excrete "stick-lac" almost constantly. The least coloured shellac is produced when the insects feed on the kursum tree, (Schleichera trijuga). It takes about 100,000 lac bugs to make 500 grams of shellac flakes. The raw shellac, which contains bark shavings and lac bug parts, is placed in canvas tubes (much like long socks) and heated over a fire. This causes the shellac to liquefy, and it seeps out of the canvas, leaving the bark and bug parts behind. The thick, sticky shellac is then dried into a flat sheet and broken into flakes, or dried into "buttons" (pucks/cakes), then bagged and sold. The end-user then crushes it into a fine powder, mixes it with ethyl alcohol prior to use to dissolve the flakes and make liquid shellac.

Liquid shellac has a limited shelf life (about 1 year), hence it is sold in dry form for dissolution prior to use. Liquid shellac sold in hardware stores is clearly marked with the production (mixing) date, so the consumer can know whether the shellac inside is still good. Alternatively, old shellac may be tested to see if it is still usable: a few drops on glass should quickly dry to a hard surface. Shellac that remains tacky for a long time is no longer usable. Storage life depends on peak temperature, so refrigeration extends shelf life.

The thickness (strength) of shellac is measured by the unit "pound cut", referring to the amount (in pounds) of shellac flakes dissolved in a gallon of denatured alcohol. For example: a 1-lb. cut of shellac is the strength obtained by dissolving one pound of shellac flakes in a gallon of alcohol. Most pre-mixed commercial preparations come at a 3-lb. cut. Multiple thin layers of shellac produce a significantly better end result than a few thick layers. Thick layers of shellac do not adhere to the substrate or to each other well, and thus can peel off with relative ease; in addition, thick shellac will obscure fine details in carved designs in wood and other substrates.

Shellac naturally dries to a high-gloss sheen. For applications where a flatter (less shiny) sheen is desired, products containing amorphous silica, such as "Shellac Flat," may be added to the dissolved shellac.

Shellac naturally contains a small amount of wax (3%-5% by volume), which comes from the lac bug. In some preparations, this wax is removed (the resulting product being called "dewaxed shellac"). This is done for applications where the shellac will be coated with something else (such as paint or varnish), so the topcoat will adhere. Waxy (non-dewaxed) shellac appears milky in liquid form, but dries clear.

Colors and availability

Shellac comes in many warm colors, ranging from a very light blond ("platina") to a very dark brown ("garnet"), with all shades of brown, yellow, orange and red in between. The colour is influenced by the sap of the tree the lac bug is living on, as well as the time of harvest. Historically, the most commonly-sold shellac is called "orange shellac", and was used extensively as a combination stain and protectant for wood paneling and cabinetry in the 20th century.

Shellac was once very common in any place paints or varnishes were sold (such as hardware stores). However, cheaper and more abrasion- and chemical-resistant finishes, such as polyurethane
A polyurethane is any polymer composed of a chain of organic units joined by carbamate links. Polyurethane polymers are formed through step-growth polymerization, by reacting a monomer with another monomer in the presence of a catalyst.Polyurethanes are...

, have almost completely replaced it in decorative residential wood finishing such as hardwood floors, wooden wainscoting plank paneling, and kitchen cabinets. These alternative products, however, must be applied over a stain if the user wants the wood coloured; clear or blond shellac may applied over a stain without affecting the tint of the finished piece, as a protective topcoat. "Wax over shellac" (an application of buffed-on paste wax over several coats of shellac) is often regarded as a beautiful, if fragile finish for hardwood floors. Many luthier
A luthier is someone who makes or repairs lutes and other string instruments. In the United States, the term is used interchangeably with a term for the specialty of each maker, such as violinmaker, guitar maker, lute maker, etc...

s still use shellac to French polish
French polish
French polishing is a wood finishing technique that results in a very high gloss surface, with a deep colour and chatoyancy. French polishing consists of applying many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil...

fine acoustic stringed instruments, but these purists are rare now, as shellac is replaced by synthetic plastic lacquers and varnishes in many workshops.


Shellac is a natural bioadhesive polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

 and is chemically similar to synthetic polymers, and thus can be considered a natural form of plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

. It can be turned into a moulding compound when mixed with wood flour
Wood flour
Wood flour is finely pulverized wood that has a consistency fairly equal to sand or sawdust, but can vary considerably, with particles ranging in size from a fine powder to roughly the size of a grain of rice. Most wood flour manufacturers are able to create batches of wood flour that have the...

 and moulded under heat and pressure methods, so it can also be classified as thermoplastic
Thermoplastic, also known as a thermosoftening plastic, is a polymer that turns to a liquid when heated and freezes to a very glassy state when cooled sufficiently...


Shellac scratches more easily than most lacquers and varnishes, and application is more labor-intensive, which is why they have replaced shellac in most areas. But damaged shellac can easily be touched-up with another coat of shellac (unlike polyurethane) because the new coat merges with and bonds to the existing coat(s). Shellac is much softer than Urushi lacquer for instance, which is far superior in regards to both chemical and mechanical resistance.

Shellac is soluble
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

 in alkaline solutions such as ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, sodium borate, sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate , Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well-known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the...

, and sodium hydroxide, and also in various organic solvents. When dissolved in alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

 blends containing ethanol or methanol, shellac yields a coating of good durability and hardness.

Upon mild hydrolysis
Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction during which molecules of water are split into hydrogen cations and hydroxide anions in the process of a chemical mechanism. It is the type of reaction that is used to break down certain polymers, especially those made by condensation polymerization...

 shellac gives a complex mix of aliphatic and alicyclic hydroxy acids and their polymers that varies in exact composition depending upon the source of the shellac and the season of collection. The major component of the aliphatic component is aleuritic acid
Aleuritic acid
Aleuritic acid, or α-aleuritic acid, is a major ingredient in shellac, constituting about 35% of it. Its used as a starting material in the perfume industry for the preparation of musk aroma....

, whereas the main alicyclic component is shellolic acid.

Shellac is UV-resistant, and does not darken as it ages (though the wood under it may do so, as in the case of pine).


The earliest record of shellac goes back 3000 years, but shellac is known to have been used earlier. According to the Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, an entire palace was built out of dried shellac.

Shellac was in rare use as a dyestuff for as long as there was a trade with the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. Merrifield cites 1220 for the introduction of shellac as an artist's pigment in Spain. This isn't unreasonable, given that lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

 as ultramarine
Ultramarine is a blue pigment consisting primarily of a double silicate of aluminium and sodium with some sulfides or sulfates, and occurring in nature as a proximate component of lapis lazuli...

 pigment from Afghanistan was already being imported long before this.

The use of overall paint or varnish decoration on large pieces of furniture was first popularised in Venice (then later throughout Italy). There are a number of 13th century references to painted or varnished cassone
Among furniture in Italy, a cassone or marriage chest is a rich and showy type of chest, which may be inlaid or carved, prepared with gesso ground then painted and gilded. The cassone was one of the trophy furnishings of rich merchants and aristocrats in Italian culture, from the Late Middle Ages...

, often dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 cassone that were made deliberately impressive as part of dynastic marriages. The definition of varnish is not always clear, but it seems to have been a spirit varnish based on gum benjamin
Benzoin resin
Benzoin resin or styrax resin is a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of several species of trees in the genus Styrax. It is used in perfumes, some kinds of incense, as a flavoring, and medicine . Its principal component is benzoic acid...

 or mastic
Mastic (plant resin)
Mastic is a resin obtained from the mastic tree . In pharmacies and Nature shops it is called "arabic gum" and "Yemen gum". In Greece it is known as the "tears of Chios," being traditionally produced on that Greek island, and, like other natural resins is produced in "tears" or droplets...

, both traded around the Mediterranean. At some time, shellac began to be used as well. An article from the Journal of the American Institute of Conservation describes the use of infrared spectroscopy
Infrared spectroscopy
Infrared spectroscopy is the spectroscopy that deals with the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, that is light with a longer wavelength and lower frequency than visible light. It covers a range of techniques, mostly based on absorption spectroscopy. As with all spectroscopic...

 to identify a shellac coating on a 16th century cassone. This is also the period in history where "varnisher" was identified as a distinct trade, separate from both carpenter and artist.

Another use for shellac is sealing wax
Sealing wax
Sealing wax is a wax material of a seal which, after melting, quickly hardens forming a bond that is difficult to separate without noticeable tampering. Wax is used to verify something such as a document is unopened, to verify the sender's identity, for example with a signet ring, and as decoration...

. Woods's The Nature and Treatment of Wax and Shellac Seals discusses the various formulations, and the period when shellac started to be added to the previous beeswax recipes.

The "period of widespread introduction" would seem to be around 1550 to 1650, when it moves from being a rarity on highly decorated pieces to being a substance described in the standard texts of the day.


In the early- and mid-20th century, orange shellac was used as a one-product finish (combination stain and varnish-like topcoat) on decorative wood paneling used on walls and ceilings in homes, particularly in America. In the American South, use of knotty pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

 plank paneling covered with orange shellac was once as common in new construction as drywall
Drywall, also known as plasterboard, wallboard or gypsum board is a panel made of gypsum plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper...

 is today. It was also often used on kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors, prior to the advent of polyurethane
A polyurethane is any polymer composed of a chain of organic units joined by carbamate links. Polyurethane polymers are formed through step-growth polymerization, by reacting a monomer with another monomer in the presence of a catalyst.Polyurethanes are...


It is the central element of the traditional "French polish
French polish
French polishing is a wood finishing technique that results in a very high gloss surface, with a deep colour and chatoyancy. French polishing consists of applying many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil...

" method of finishing
Wood finishing
Wood finishing refers to the process of embellishing and/or protecting the surface of a wooden material. The process starts with surface preparation, either by sanding by hand , scraping, or planing. Imperfections or nail holes on the surface may be filled using wood putty or pores may be filled...

 furniture and fine viol
The viol is any one of a family of bowed, fretted and stringed musical instruments developed in the mid-late 15th century and used primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The family is related to and descends primarily from the Renaissance vihuela, a plucked instrument that preceded the...

s, guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

s and piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...


Shellac was used from mid-19th century to produce small moulded goods like picture frames, boxes, toilet articles, jewelry, inkwells and even dentures
Dentures are prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth, and which are supported by surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Conventional dentures are removable, however there are many different denture designs, some which rely on bonding or clasping onto teeth or dental...

. Although advances in plastics have rendered shellac obsolete as a moulding compound, it remains popular for a number of other uses. In dental technology
Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...

, it is still occasionally used in the production of custom impression trays and (partial) denture production.

Shellac is used by many cyclists as a protective and decorative coating for their handlebar
Bicycle handlebar
Bicycle handlebar or often bicycle handlebars refers to the steering mechanism for bicycles; the equivalent of a steering wheel. Besides steering, handlebars also often support a portion of the rider's weight, depending on their riding position, and provide a convenient mounting place for brake...

 tape. Shellac is used as a hard-drying adhesive for tubular cycle tires, particularly for track racing.

Orange shellac is also the preferred adhesive for reattaching ink sacs when restoring vintage fountain pen
Fountain pen
A fountain pen is a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor the dip pen, contains an internal reservoir of water-based liquid ink. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits it on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action...

s. It has always been the preferred hot-melt adhesive for fixing leather saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

 pads into their metal key-cups.

Until the advent of vinyl
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 around the 1940s, most gramophone records were pressed from shellac compounds. This use was common until the 1950s, and continued into the 1970s in some non-Western countries.

Sheets of Braille
The Braille system is a method that is widely used by blind people to read and write, and was the first digital form of writing.Braille was devised in 1825 by Louis Braille, a blind Frenchman. Each Braille character, or cell, is made up of six dot positions, arranged in a rectangle containing two...

 were coated with shellac to help protect them from wear
In materials science, wear is erosion or sideways displacement of material from its "derivative" and original position on a solid surface performed by the action of another surface....

 due to being read by hand.

Shellac is used as a binder in India ink
India ink
India ink is a simple black ink once widely used for writing and printing and now more commonly used for drawing, especially when inking comic books and comic strips.-Composition:...


Shellac was historically used as a protective coating on paintings.

Shellac is edible and it is used as a glazing agent
Glazing agent
Glazing agents, or polishing agents, are food additives providing shiny appearance or protective coating to foods. Mostly they are based on waxes.Examples are:* Stearic acid * Beeswax * Candelilla wax...

 on pills (see excipients) and candies in the form of pharmaceutical glaze
Pharmaceutical glaze
Pharmaceutical glaze is an alcohol based solution of various types of food grade shellac. When used in food and confections, it is also known as confectioner's glaze, resinous glaze, pure food glaze and natural glaze...

(or, confectioner's glaze). Because of its alkaline properties, shellac-coated pills may be used for a timed enteric or colonic release. It is also used to replace the natural wax of the apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

, which is removed during the cleaning process. When used for this purpose, it has the food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

 E number
E number
E numbers are number codes for food additives that have been assessed for use within the European Union . They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union. Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority...


Because it is compatible with most other finishes, shellac is also used as a barrier or primer coat on wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 to prevent the bleeding of resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 or pigments into the final finish, or to prevent wood stain
Wood stain
A wood stain consists of a colorant suspended or dissolved in a 'vehicle' or solvent. The suspension agent can be water, alcohol, petroleum distillate, or the actual finishing agent...

 from blotching.

Shellac is an odour and stain blocker and so is often used as the base of "solves all problems" primers. Although its durability against abrasives and many common solvents is not very good, shellac provides an excellent barrier against water vapour penetration. Shellac-based primers are an effective sealant to control odours associated with fire damage.

Shellac was once used for fixing inductor
An inductor is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in a magnetic field. An inductor's ability to store magnetic energy is measured by its inductance, in units of henries...

, motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

, generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

 and transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

 windings, where it was applied directly to single layer windings in an alcohol solution. For multilayer windings, the whole coil was submerged in shellac solution, then drained and placed in a warm place to allow the alcohol to evaporate. The shellac then locks the wire turns in place, provides extra insulation and prevents movement and vibration, reducing buzz and hum. In motors and generators it also helps transfer force generated by magnetic attraction and repulsion from the windings to the rotor or armature
Armature (electrical engineering)
In electrical engineering, an armature generally refers to one of the two principal electrical components of an electromechanical machine–generally in a motor or generator, but it may also mean the pole piece of a permanent magnet or electromagnet, or the moving iron part of a solenoid or relay....

. In more recent times, synthetic resins, such as glyptol, (Glyptal), have been substituted for the shellac. Some applications use shellac mixed with other natural or synthetic resins, such as pine resin or phenol-formaldehyde resin, of which Bakelite is the best known, for electrical use. Mixed with other resins, barium sulfate
Barium sulfate
Barium sulfate is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula BaSO4. It is a white crystalline solid that is odorless and insoluble in water. It occurs as the mineral barite, which is the main commercial source of barium and materials prepared from it...

, calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

, zinc sulfide
Zinc sulfide
Zinc sulfide is a inorganic compound with the formula ZnS. ZnS is the main form of zinc in nature, where it mainly occurs as the mineral sphalerite...

, aluminum oxide and/or cuprous carbonate (malachite
Malachite is a copper carbonate mineral, with the formula Cu2CO32. This green-colored mineral crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system, and most often forms botryoidal, fibrous, or stalagmitic masses. Individual crystals are rare but do occur as slender to acicular prisms...

), shellac forms a component of heat-cured capping cement used to fasten the caps or bases to the bulbs of electric lamps.

Shellac is used to make felt hats more stiff and water-resistant.

As a natural resin, shellac has some similarities to other natural resins such as myrrh
Myrrh is the aromatic oleoresin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which grow in dry, stony soil. An oleoresin is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum....

 and frankincense
Frankincense, also called olibanum , is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra, B. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana...

, although frankincense is only partially soluble in alcohol.

A gel can be made by boiling shellac while adding 75% ethyl alcohol. Shellac gel is used in insect collections as a glue to stick small specimens at the tip of small points of thick paper pinned, or glued directly along the pin. This technique is known as mounting.

Shellac finds a use in pyrotechnic compositions as a low-temperature fuel, where it allows the creation of pure 'greens' and 'blues', colours difficult to achieve with other fuel mixes in fireworks formulae.


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