Trying to establish a "best" method of applying shellac is a difficult task. Shellac has a relatively thin consistency, and can be applied using most methods of painting, depending on what it is being used for. It can be applied using a brush, paint roller or sprayer, and commercial shellac applications actually use a dipping process in which the object is immersed in a vat of shellac and then hanged it to drip off the excess.
Using a brush is often combined with other application methods. A brush is better suited for small or confined areas, and to achieve an even coating in hard-to-reach places. For large projects, brushing is probably the least popular method, because it can be a very labor intensive way to achieve a shellac finish. This method is not suitable for large projects.
Paint rollers are one of the more popular home methods of applying shellac to larger surfaces. The problem with paint rollers is common across all types of hard finishes, though, and that is the tendency of a roller to introduce tiny bubbles in the coat. These bubbles do not always escape the layer, and must be sanded out using a fine grit sandpaper and then another coat must be applied.
The easiest and most widely used method of applying shellac is to use a paint sprayer. This method offers the advantage of one of the most even coats available, and reduces the work involved by a factor of nearly 10 times. Be sure to use a small spray tip, though, as shellac is thinner than most paints, and must be applied through a fine misting spray.
How the Methods Compare
None of the three basic method of applying shellac are necessarily better than the others. Each one has a high level of usefulness for different applications, such as the brush method being used for small projects and the sprayer being well-suited for large endeavors. For home users, hand brushing and a paint roller are the easiest and most readily available methods
Shellac Is Dependable
In the long run, shellac is an exceptional finish, regardless of how it is applied. As long as it is not exposed to extremely high heat or exposed to a lot of water, a chair finished with shellac could realistically last for well over a hundred years without ever needing to be refinished. Shellac has a longer reputation as a dependable wood sealant, and is more familiar to woodworkers from all over the world than other mainstream finishes.
The Bottom Line
Shellac is not perfect for every application, and no one application method is perfect for shellac. Depending on the task at hand, using only a brush may be the most efficient method, while applying shellac to a beadboard wall could best be done using a paint sprayer.