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It came into him life; [25] it went out from him truth. It came to him short-lived actions; it went out from him immortal thoughts. It came to him business; it went from him poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process had gone, of transmuting life into truth.

In proportion to the completeness of the distillation, so will the purity and imperishableness of the product be. But none is quite perfect. As no air-pump can by any means make a perfect vacuum, [16] so neither can any artist entirely exclude the conventional, the local, the perishable from his book, or write a book of pure thought, that shall be as efficient, in all respects, to a remote posterity, as to contemporaries, or rather to the second age.

Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this. Yet hence arises a grave mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation, the act of thought, is instantly transferred to the record. The poet chanting was felt to be a divine man. Henceforth the chant is divine also.

The writer was a just and wise spirit. Henceforward it is settled the book is perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly the book becomes noxious. We sought a brother, and lo, a governor. The sluggish and perverted mind of the multitude, always slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened, having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry if it is disparaged.

Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not by Man Thinking, by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, [18] which Bacon, [19] have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.

Hence, instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm. Hence the book-learned class, who value books, as such; not as related to nature and the human constitution, but as making a sort of Third Estate [20] with the world and soul.

Hence the restorers of readings, [21] the emendators, [22] the bibliomaniacs [23] of all degrees. This is bad; this is worse than it seems. Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use?

What is the one end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. The one thing in the world of value is the [27] active soul,—the soul, free, sovereign, active. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although in almost all men obstructed, and as yet unborn.

The soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth, or creates. In this action it is genius; not the privilege of here and there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they,—let us hold by this. They pin me down. But genius always looks forward.

The eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead. Man hopes. Genius creates. To create,—to create,—is the proof of a divine presence. Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not his; [27] —cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet flame. There are creative manners, there are creative actions, and creative words; manners, actions, words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority, but springing spontaneous from the mind's own sense of good and fair.

On the other part, instead of being its own seer, let it receive always from another mind its truth, though it were in torrents of light, without periods of solitude, inquest, and self-recovery; and a fatal disservice [28] is done. Genius is always sufficiently the enemy of genius by over-influence. The English dramatic poets have Shakespearized now for two hundred years. Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be sternly subordinated. Man Thinking must not be subdued by his instruments.

Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. The Arabian proverb says, "A fig-tree, looking on a fig-tree, becometh fruitful. It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best books. They impress us ever with the conviction that one nature wrote and the same reads. We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, [33] of Marvell, [34] of Dryden, [35] with the most modern joy,—with a pleasure, I mean, which is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their verses.

There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had well-nigh thought and said. But for the evidence thence afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of all minds, we should [29] suppose some pre-established harmony, some foresight of souls that were to be, and some preparation of stores for their future wants, like the fact observed in insects, who lay up food before death for the young grub they shall never see.

I would not be hurried by any love of system, by any exaggeration of instincts, to underrate the Book. We all know that as the human body can be nourished on any food, though it were boiled grass and the broth of shoes, so the human mind can be fed by any knowledge.

And great and heroic men have existed who had almost no other information than by the printed page. I only would say that it needs a strong head to bear that diet. One must be an inventor to read well. As the proverb says, "He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry out the wealth of the Indies.

When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world. We then see, what is always true, that as the seer's hour of vision is short and rare among heavy days and months, so is its record, perchance, the least part of his volume.

The discerning will read, in his Plato [36] or Shakespeare, only that least part,—only the authentic utterances of the oracle;—all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato's and Shakespeare's.

Of course there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in like manner, have their indispensable office,—to teach elements. But they can only highly serve us when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and by the concentrated fires set the hearts of their youth on flame.

Thought and knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns [37] and pecuniary foundations, [38] though of towns of gold, can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit.

There goes in the world a notion that the scholar should be a recluse, a valetudinarian, [40] —as unfit for any handiwork or public labor as a penknife for an axe. The so-called "practical men" sneer at speculative men, as if, because they speculate or see , they could do nothing.

I have heard it said that the clergy—who are always, more universally than any other class, the scholars of their day—are addressed as women; that the rough, spontaneous conversation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing [41] and diluted speech. They are often virtually disfranchised; and indeed there are advocates for their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just and wise.

Action is [31] with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it he is not yet man. Without it thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble [42] of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know, as I have lived.

Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not. The world—this shadow of the soul, or other me , lies wide around. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself. I launch eagerly into this resounding tumult. I grasp the hands of those next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, taught by an instinct that so shall the dumb abyss [43] be vocal with speech.

I pierce its order; I dissipate its fear; [44] I dispose of it within the circuit of my expanding life. So much only of life as I know by experience, so much of the wilderness have I vanquished and planted, or so far have I extended my being, my dominion. I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructors in eloquence and wisdom.

The true scholar grudges every opportunity of action passed by, as a loss of power. It is the raw material out of which the intellect molds her splendid products. A strange process too, this by which experience is converted into thought, as a mulberry-leaf is converted into satin.

The actions and events of our childhood and youth are now matters of calmest observation. They lie like fair pictures in the air. Not so with our recent actions,—with the business which we now have in hand. On this we are quite unable to speculate. Our affections as yet circulate through it. We no more feel or know it than we feel the feet, or the hand, or the brain of our body. The new deed is yet a part of life,—remains for a time immersed in our unconscious life.

In some contemplative hour it detaches itself from the life like a ripe fruit, [46] to become a thought of the mind. Instantly it is raised, transfigured; the corruptible has put on incorruption. Observe, too, the impossibility of antedating this act. In its grub state it cannot fly, it cannot shine, it is a dull grub. But suddenly, without observation, the selfsame thing unfurls beautiful wings, and is an angel of wisdom. So is there no fact, no event, in our private history, which shall not, sooner or later, lose its adhesive, inert form, and astonish us by soaring from our body into the empyrean.

Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions has the richest return of wisdom. I will not shut myself out of this globe of action, and transplant an oak into a flower-pot, there to hunger and pine; nor trust the revenue of some single faculty, and exhaust one vein of thought, much like those Savoyards, [51] who, getting their livelihood by carving shepherds, shepherdesses, and smoking Dutchmen, for all Europe, went out one day to the mountain to find stock, and discovered that they had whittled up the last of their pine-trees.

Authors we have, in numbers, who have written out their vein, and who, moved by a commendable prudence, sail for Greece or Palestine, follow the trapper into the prairie, or ramble round Algiers, to replenish their merchantable stock. If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary. I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech.

Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and copestones [34] for the masonry of to-day. This is the way to learn grammar. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made. But the final value of action, like that of books, and better than books, is that it is a resource.

That great principle of Undulation in nature, that shows itself in the inspiring and expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in the ebb and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and, as yet more deeply ingrained in every atom and every fluid, is known to us under the name of Polarity,—these "fits of easy transmission and reflection," as Newton [53] called them, are the law of nature because they are the law of spirit.

The mind now thinks, now acts, and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended and books are a weariness,—he has always the resource to live.

Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or medium to impart his truth? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of justice shine in his affairs.

Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof. Those "far from fame," who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his constitution in the doings and passages of the day [35] better than it can be measured by any public and designed display. Time shall teach him that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of his instinct, screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in strength. Not out of those on whom systems of education have exhausted their culture comes the helpful giant to destroy the old or to build the new, but out of unhandselled [54] savage nature; out of terrible Druids [55] and Berserkers [56] come at last Alfred [57] and Shakespeare.

I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, [58] for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgments and modes of action.

I have now spoken of the education of the scholar by nature, by books, and by action. It remains to say somewhat of his duties. They are such as become Man Thinking. They may all be comprised in self-trust. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances.

He plies the slow, unhonored, and unpaid task of observation. Flamsteed [59] and Herschel, [60] in their glazed observatories, may catalogue the stars with the praise of all [36] men, and, the results being splendid and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing obscure and nebulous [61] stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought of as such,—watching days and months sometimes for a few facts; correcting still his old records,—must relinquish display and immediate fame.

In the long period of his preparation he must betray often an ignorance and shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder him aside.

Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the dead. Worse yet, he must accept—how often! For the ease and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and, of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty and loss of time, which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society.

For all this loss and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is one who raises himself from private considerations and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of [37] history.

Whatsoever oracles the human heart, in all emergencies, in all solemn hours, has uttered as its commentary on the world of actions,—these he shall receive and impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and events of to-day,—this he shall hear and promulgate. These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world.

The world of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetich [62] of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up [63] by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening to the controversy. Let him not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable [64] of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom.

In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time,—happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly. Success treads on every right step. For the instinct is sure that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.

He learns that he who [38] has mastered any law in his private thoughts is master to that extent of all men whose language he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be translated. The poet, in utter solitude remembering his spontaneous thoughts and recording them, is found to have recorded that which men in cities vast find true for them also.

The orator distrusts at first the fitness of his frank confessions, his want of knowledge of the persons he addresses, until he finds that he is the complement [65] of his hearers;—that they drink his words because he fulfills for them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his privatest, secretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds this is the most acceptable, most public and universally true.

The people delight in it; the better part of every man feels—This is my music; this is myself. In self-trust all the virtues are comprehended.

Free should the scholar be,—free and brave. Free even to the definition of freedom, "without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution. Fear always springs from ignorance. It is a shame to him if his tranquility, amid dangerous times, arise from the presumption that like children and women his is a protected class; or if he seek a temporary peace by the diversion of his thoughts from politics or vexed questions, hiding his head like an ostrich in the flowering bushes, peeping into microscopes, and turning rhymes, as a boy whistles to keep his courage up.

Manlike let him turn and face it. Let him look into its eye and search its nature, inspect its origin,—see the whelping of this lion,—which lies no great way back; he will then find in himself a perfect comprehension of its nature and extent; he will have made his hands meet on the other side, and can henceforth defy it and pass on superior.

The world is his who can see through its pretension. What deafness, what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you behold is there only by sufferance,—by your sufferance.

See it to be a lie, and you have already dealt it its mortal blow. Yes, we are the cowed,—we the trustless.

It is a mischievous notion that we are come late into nature; that the world was finished a long time ago. As the world was plastic and fluid in the hands of God, so it is ever to so much of his attributes as we bring to it. To ignorance and sin it is flint. They adapt themselves to it as they may; but in proportion as a man has any thing in him divine, the firmament flows before him and takes his signet [66] and form. Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.

They are the kings of the world who give the color of their present thought to all nature and all art, and persuade men, by the cheerful serenity of their carrying the matter, that this thing which they do is the apple which the ages have desired to pluck, now at last ripe, and inviting nations to the harvest.

The great man makes the great thing. The day is always his who works in it with serenity and great aims. The unstable estimates of men crowd to him whose mind is filled with a truth, as the heaped waves of the Atlantic follow the moon. For this self-trust, the reason is deeper than can be fathomed,—darker than can be enlightened. I might not carry with me the feeling of my audience in stating my own belief. But I have already shown the ground of my hope, in adverting to the doctrine that man is one.

I believe man has been wronged; he has wronged himself. He has almost lost the light that can lead him back to his prerogatives. Men are become of no account. Men in history, men in the world of to-day, are bugs, are spawn, and are called "the mass" and "the herd. All the rest behold in the hero or the poet their own green and crude being,—ripened; yes, and are content to be less, so that may attain to its full stature.

What a testimony, full of grandeur, full of pity, is borne to the demands of his own nature, by the poor clansman, the poor partisan, who rejoices in the glory of his chief! The poor and the low find some amends to their immense moral capacity, for their acquiescence in a political and social inferiority. They sun themselves in the great man's light, and feel it to be their own element. They cast the dignity of man from their downtrod selves upon the shoulders of a hero, and will perish to add one drop of blood to make that great heart beat, those giant sinews combat and conquer.

He lives for us, and we live in him. Men such as they [74] are very naturally seek money or power; and power because it is as good as money,—the "spoils," so called, "of office. For they aspire to the highest, and this, in their sleep-walking, they dream is highest. Wake them and they shall quit the false good and leap to the true, and leave governments to clerks and desks. This revolution is to be wrought by the gradual domestication of the idea of Culture.

The main enterprise of the world for splendor, for extent, is the upbuilding of a man. Here are the materials strewn along the ground. The private life of one man shall be a more illustrious monarchy, more formidable to its enemy, more sweet and serene in its influence to its friend, than any kingdom in history. For a man, rightly viewed, comprehendeth [75] the particular natures of all men. Each philosopher, each bard, each actor has only done for me, as by a delegate, what one day I can do for myself.

The books which once we valued [42] more than the apple of the eye, we have quite exhausted. What is that but saying that we have come up with the point of view which the universal mind took through the eyes of one scribe; we have been that man, and have passed on. First, one, then another, we drain all cisterns, and waxing greater by all these supplies, we crave a better and a more abundant food.

The man has never lived that can feed us ever. The human mind cannot be enshrined in a person who shall set a barrier on any one side to this unbounded, unboundable empire. It is one central fire, which, flaming now out of the lips of Etna, lightens the capes of Sicily, and now out of the throat of Vesuvius, illuminates the towers and vineyards of Naples.

It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men. But I have dwelt perhaps tediously upon this abstraction of the Scholar. I ought not to delay longer to add what I have to say of nearer reference to the time and to this country. Historically, there is thought to be a difference in the ideas which predominate over successive epochs, and there are data for marking the genius of the Classic, of the Romantic, and now of the Reflective or Philosophical age.

In fact, I believe each individual passes through all three. The boy is a Greek; the youth, [43] romantic; the adult, reflective. I deny not, however, that a revolution in the leading idea may be distinctly enough traced.

Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. We, it seems, are critical. We are embarrassed with second thoughts. We are lined with eyes. We see with our feet. The time is infected with Hamlet's unhappiness,—. Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied.

Would we be blind? Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look upon the discontent of the literary class as a mere announcement of the fact that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned that he can swim. If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era?

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. I read with some joy of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through [44] poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state.

One of these signs is the fact that the same movement [80] which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in the state assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect.

Instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized. That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found to be richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time.

It is a great stride. It is a sign—is it not? Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body;—show me the ultimate reason of these matters; show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities [45] of nature; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; [81] and the shop, the plow, and the ledger referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing;—and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order: there is no trifle, there is no puzzle, but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.

This idea has inspired the genius of Goldsmith, [82] Burns, [83] Cowper, [84] and, in a newer time, of Goethe, [85] Wordsworth, [86] and Carlyle. In contrast with their writing, the style of Pope, [88] of Johnson, [89] of Gibbon, [90] looks cold and pedantic. This writing is blood-warm. Man is surprised to find that things near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote. The near explains the far. The drop is a small ocean. A man is related to all nature. This perception of the worth of the vulgar is fruitful in discoveries.

Goethe, in this very thing the most modern of the moderns, has shown us, as none ever did, the genius of the ancients. There is one man of genius who has done much for this philosophy of life, whose literary value has never yet been rightly estimated:—I mean Emanuel Swedenborg. Such an attempt of [46] course must have difficulty which no genius could surmount.

But he saw and showed the connexion between nature and the affections of the soul. He pierced the emblematic or spiritual character of the visible, audible, tangible world.

Especially did his shade-loving muse hover over and interpret the lower parts of nature; he showed the mysterious bond that allies moral evil to the foul material forms, and has given in epical parables a theory of insanity, of beasts, of unclean and fearful things.

Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement, is the new importance given to the single person. Everything that tends to insulate the individual—to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state—tends to true union as well as greatness.

The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another that should pierce his ear, it is—The world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all; it is for you to [47] dare all.

President and Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame.

Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for any one but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not Salad Bowl Finish Menards Name in unison with these, but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die of disgust, some of them suicides.

What is the remedy? They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience,—patience; with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace the perspective of your own infinite life; and for work the study and the communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion of the world.

Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be an [48] unit; not to be reckoned one character; not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear, but to be reckoned in the gross, in the hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our opinion predicted geographically, as the north, or the south?

Not so, brothers and friends,—please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds. Then shall man be no longer a name for pity, for doubt, and for sensual indulgence.

The dread of man and the love of man shall be a wall of defense and a wreath of joy around all. A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men. Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a discourse on Compensation: for it seemed to me when very young, that on this subject life was ahead of theology, and the people knew more than the preachers taught.

Branded and canned shellac finish has many additives that are used for various purposes. And unlike a consumable food product, canned shellac manufacturers do not need to spell out all the effects of those ingredients. If you already have one of these canned shellacs, you might want to pour a little into a clear container and check its clarity.

When you get done with this article and make your own shellac, you will see a dramatic difference! Part of the reason all those chemicals are mixed into that branded and canned shellac cocktail is to make it last longer on the shelf.

The manufacturers naturally must balance between selling an acceptable product and time. The longer that product can sit on the shelf, the less waste and loss the company will have. Once you know how to make your own shellac, you can make smaller fresh batches as needed and use the best shellac possibly available for your wooden bowls.

I mix enough shellac to last for a while, but not too long. It is advised to not use mixed shellac after it is three months old or older. The first purpose for using shellac for wood bowls is to seal and shore up loose end-grain and trouble areas. Wood end grains on a wooden bowl can sometimes become problematic and punky. Frail fibers can resist being cut clean when turning problematic end-grain bowls. One technique for dealing with troubled end grain is to lightly coat the bowl with a thin layer of shellac.

The shellac coats the weak, floppy end grain fibers and stands them up, which presents them with much better success to a sharpen bowl gouge. Some say sanding sealer accomplishes the same thing. If you are having issues with end-grain tear out, read this article I have explicitly prepared about the end-grain tear out topic. The other purpose for using shellac is to create an initial base coat for a wood bowl that will have a high-gloss final finish.

High-gloss finishes are essentially created by making the wood surface smooth and more reflective. A thin layer of shellac applied to a wood bowl after the final sanding usually at least to grit is complete is a great start to a high-gloss finish. Once the base coat of shellac finish, which I merely brush on smooth and evenly, is dry, I lightly sand the surface with steel wool.

With the shellac dried and smoothed with the steel wool, I begin applying thin layers of lacquer to make a beautiful final gloss finish. You might be surprised how easy it is to set up a lacquer spray system in your shop. Check out this article to learn exactly how to set a lacquer spray system.

If you only saw all the cans of shellac finish on the shelves of a hardware store, you might assume that shellac is some kind of toxic liquid chemical. Natural shellac is not toxic at all. Those cans on the shelf at the store may contain additional toxic elements, but the base ingredient, shellac, comes from nature.

If you do a little investigating, you will discover that shellac is used to add a shiny coat to everything from medicine to candy. Shellac is edible and safe to consume.

It can be used on wood bowls that will be in contact with food without any worries of toxicity or health safety. Read this article to learn about food safe salad bowl finish.

The shellac we are referring to here is a spreadable and applicable mix of natural shellac dissolved in denatured alcohol. That mixed shellac we are all familiar with starts out far away in a different form. OK, here comes the cool and crazy part. Shellac comes from the excretions of the lac bug. The female lac bug which resides in a variety of trees in India and Southern Asia consumes and processes tree resin.

As the bugs, which can swarm trees in mass, process the resin of the tree, they form tube-like trails behind them on the outside of the tree bark. These lac bug trails are the raw form of shellac. The lac bug is the only, currently known, animal to create a commercially usable resin. This shellac resin is actually a natural polymer.

The long resin trails left behind by the lac bug are gathered and processed. Heat is used to liquefy the resin and filter out the bark and other impurities. Once the shellac has been filtered, it is spread out to cool in sheets, which are then turned into sugar crystal-like flakes or beaded into pellets for easy distribution. In the flake or bead form, shellac, especially sealed and refrigerated, can last a very long time.

The color of the shellac depends on which tree the lac bug is munching on for lunch. I use the clearer shellac for my wood bowls. I find it does not change the color of most woods dramatically. Some woods will appear a bit more golden with an application of even the clearest shellac. Again, it all depends on the particular type of wood species at play. Only a few components are needed to create shellac. I prefer to use shellac flakes because they are easy to handle, store and dissolve quickly.

I have several options for shellac flakes listed in my recommended source guide for wood finishes, check them out. Denatured alcohol is essentially ethanol that has been treated to make it non-consumable.



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