Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in India and Thailand. It is processed as dry flakes and it is dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac. Shellac is scraped from the bark where the female lac bug secretes it to form a tube as it moves around the branches of trees. Though these tubes are sometimes referred to as cocoons they are not. The insects eat the sap and excrete sticklac almost constantly. The color of the shellac is derived from the type of tree it lives on. It is estimated to produce one kilogram of shellac flakes requires sticklac from 50,000 to 300,000 lacs. Lacs swarm on trees, up to 150 of them per square inch.
Shellac is great to use on wood because of its functionality as a primer, sealant, tannin-blocker, odor-blocker, stain, and high-gloss varnish. Repeated coats applied strengthen these functions. Shellac also makes a great undercoat to stains, as it stops stains from blotching and assists in preventing resin and pigments from bleeding. Shellac scratches easily, but can be re-applied to restore it. Other finishes often do not have this merging and bonding capability. Due to its sealant properties, shellac is great for cleaning up accidental spills as well.
Shellac is all natural and is safe to touch and consume. It is often used on food products as a glaze on fruits and candy; it is used on pills to produce a slow dissolving effect. It is safe to apply, requiring no breathing restrictions. Shellac has had other numerous applications, as a moisture sealant on electronics, producing gramophone records, hardening ballet pointe shoes, coatings on Braille sheets, gluing dinosaur bones, dyes for cotton, and sealing tied fishing flies. There are many other applications of shellac.