I spent as much time as I could the last few weeks finishing the altar. As I said I would, I decided to use shellac, my favourite finish. Shellac has the advantage that it is beautiful, and bestows upon would a lovely amber finish which grows richer over time. The drawbacks are that it takes many coats to build up a finish, that it is water resistant but not water proof- meaning if any water is spilled on it it must be wiped up very quickly. Soapy water and alcohol are both shellac strippers. Back to the upside, it is easily cleanable and takes wax finishes, which give it extra protection. Back to the downside, when it is being applied it is hygroscopic, meaning that it picks up moisture out of the air. Too much moisture in the air and the finish becomes milky and cloudy. The last few weeks have been terribly humid, thus stretching out the amount of time it took to finally finish the piece.
I decided to go with a french polish- which is mostly just a method of applying the shellac- on the table. It came out very nicely in the end. Here is an attempted photograph of me trying to measure the depth of shine.
I had to dismantle the piece into its two main components to finish it. Here's the reredos, receiving its finish.
So tonight, I decided it would be pointless to put on any more coats of shellac, on account of A. I had put on enough, and B. I was out of shellac, and don't have the money to replace it. Although I might if someone buy a kids bike. Failing that, I have reassembled the finished pieces. The altar is now done.
And so, the price is now $1800.00. Anyone interested, say so.