Dry weather in southeast Asia the past couple of years has caused a shortage in seedlac, the raw material for the creation of shellac, but woodworkers needn’t worry. Tim O’Reilly, senior brand manager of wood care at Rustoleum Corporation, whose Zinsser division is the sole supplier of shellac products in the U.S., says the company keeps enough supply on hand to deal with fluctuations in the crop.
While declining to provide specifics on how much is kept on hand, Tim noted that, since seedlac is a natural crop influenced by weather, the company expects fluctuations. And, although the price of the raw material was up over 500 percent in mid-April 2011 from the same time last year, Zinsser was also not recouping that price increase from consumers. “We know it will come down as soon as we get a good crop,” Tim said.
In general, seedlac is not a plantation-grown crop, although Tim said China’s burgeoning furniture industry has led them to cultivate the trees which attract the beetles and can survive being encrusted in the secretions.
Zinsser’s supply comes from India as a spring crop and from Thailand as a fall crop. Due to the time required for freight and other factors, the current shortage in raw material actually reflects weather patterns from 2009, Tim said. “It has to do with the migration pattern of the beetle. If it’s really dry, they don’t do what they need to do to produce secretions on the tree,” he said.
Those secretions then become the various shellac products, including the patented de-waxed versions offered by Zinsser. “An awful lot of shellac goes into the primer product Zinsser BIN used by professional contractors,” who might buy thousands of gallons a year, Tim said. For them, and for the woodworkers who buy a quart at a time, “We want to let them know what’s going on with the supply of the product.”