"You could paint a meatball if you painted it with Zinsser first."
quote found on painting forums, attributed to "an old painter."
The shelves are looking pretty good already. I can barely see the places I patched. I am using Zinsser B.I.N. Primer, the shellac-based product that is the subject of the quote at the top of the page.
Two reasons I chose this primer were a) it has great adhesion without having to sand the surface and b) it blocks stains and prevents wood tannin from seeping through. I'm hoping to eventually paint the stained wood and particle board cabinets and the wood paneled wall in my kitchen, and this seems to be the most appropriate product. It was either this or an oil-based product.
I'm using a 4" wide high density foam roller for the flat surfaces inside the cabinet, and a 2 1/2" synthetic bristle angle brush for the corners. The primer is so thin it's almost like painting with water, so it takes some getting used to.
Now for the "noxious & toxic" part.
B.I.N. isn't low VOC. According to The Fun Times Guide this stuff has 550 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds compared to about 100 g/l for a low VOC Valspar primer. Because it's high VOC it stinks to high heaven. I wear gloves, goggles and a respirator whenever I open the can.
Cleanup is also noxious. You can use denatured alcohol or ammonia. Ammonia's a lot cheaper so that's what I use. I make a solution of half ammonia and half water and add a few drops of dishwashing detergent. I have used this formula with good results on both my brush and roller. After using the ammonia solution I rinse them in water.
More experiments await.