Asian Bugs Help Revive a Kitchen

It took me a day to cover all of the pinewood knots with a special primer and sand them down gently

It took me a day to cover all of the pinewood knots with a special primer and sand them down gently

Have you heard of the lac bug? It lives in India and parts of southeast Asia. As a larva, it crawls along branches, excreting a waxy substance.

If you paint your nails, you might be wearing some lac bug excretion on your hands right now. It’s the main ingredient in shellac nail polish.

Shellac is also used in the French polish finish of furniture and instruments.

And ever wondered why your apples are waxy on the outside? That’s food additive E904, aka… yes indeed: shellac. That’s right… bug excretion.

Just how bored was the first person who started looking for uses for lac bug excretion? And what did their parents think?

I’m grateful they did, though. Shellac helps me tackle one of the kitchen painter’s worst enemies: pine.

Painting a pinewood kitchen

Pine kitchens are dotted with knots, where branches grew from the tree trunk. They might give the wood character, but they give me a major headache. If you paint over a pinewood knot with regular paint, the resin in the knot it will gradually seep through the paint and stain it.

The resin is relentless. It’s like a British MP talking about Brexit—regardless of whether they are Remain or Leave. You can’t reason with it. You can’t negotiate with it. You can’t change it.

What you can do is apply a special shellac-based undercoat. It’s probably not legal to do that to a UK MP, but you can do it to a knot in pinewood.

I was recently asked to transform a pine kitchen. It had yellowed over time and needed a refresh. I spent a day covering every single knot in the wood with special undercoat and then sanding it down ever so lightly so that I got a perfectly flat surface. It was painstaking work, but vital.

As you can see here, the final Hardwick White finish looks spectacular, but only because of hardworking bugs in Asia.

The finished kitchen.

The finished kitchen.