The shellac finish has been around longer than any modern woodworking finish. It has proven itself to be a reliable finish for centuries.
Shellac comes from the secretions of the lac bug. The secrections are harvested from the twigs and then processed to become shellac.
Shellac has many advantages as a wood finish. First, the finish itself is extremely safe. However, mixing it with denatured alcohol makes the finish toxic until all the alcohol has evaporated. Second, the finish is an excellent wood sealer and is often used under varnish or lacquer as a sealer coat. Third, it is a extremely fast drying finish. Fourth, it is a very attractive finish. Shellac comes in colors such as orange, blonde or garnet. These colors can warm up a wood to enhance its apprearance. The french polishing technique uses shellac to create the famous appearance.