Stinking Finishes?

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Forum topic by Walnut_Weasel posted 12-10-2009 06:24 PM 1084 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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360 posts in 3220 days

12-10-2009 06:24 PM

Due to winter, I am now stuck unable to apply finish to a project…I don’t want to smell danish oil and varnish for weeks inside my house! I was wondering, how bad does shellac smell? I assume the alcohol smell goes away rather quickly, but what about the shellac itself? Any other suggestions for a stinkless/non-toxic finish?

-- James -

10 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 12-10-2009 06:31 PM

Water base dyes and finishes have far less smell than oil or alcohol finishes.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4216 days

#2 posted 12-10-2009 06:32 PM

I don’t have a ton of experience with shellac, but I’ve found it to be pretty much odorless once the alcohol dries, which is very quickly.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3819 days

#3 posted 12-10-2009 08:50 PM

To me at least, shellac does not have any appreciable odor. THe alcohol, as Charlie says, will flash off in 15 to 30 minutes and you are left with a topcoat that protects the surface of the wood. Its biggest drawback are exposure to water or alcohol will damage the finish.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dragonsrite's profile


136 posts in 3394 days

#4 posted 12-10-2009 09:19 PM

I recently finished a smallish project in the basement using shellac. There wasn’t any significant odor at all. My wife didn’t even notice anything.

-- Dragonsrite, Minnesota

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3128 days

#5 posted 12-10-2009 11:05 PM

If it’s a large project, you can expect a lot of alcohol odor. Not sure how long it’ll take to dissipate from the air, but the finished piece should be odor free in a day or so.

-- Gerry,

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3524 days

#6 posted 12-10-2009 11:08 PM

Bathrooms with exhaust fans work well… Some even have infarred heaters…

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View WoodshopJoe's profile


99 posts in 3257 days

#7 posted 12-11-2009 09:41 AM

I use shellac a ton, love it…The smell is strong at first but dissipates within the hour. It dries pretty fast and is fairly durable aside from the water and alcohol damage susceptibility. It can also be repaired relatively easily. If you can get your shop to 50 degrees or just a bit warmer you can apply it without problems. If you are still concerned with the smell of shellac, you could always hand apply it with a ball of cotton in a rag made from an old sheet. Just applying very very thin layers. Add a drop of veggie oil to the pad for lubrication when the pad starts to stick and you build up a glass like finish. You have to thin the shellac to at least a 2# cut with alcohol. This really cuts down on the smell because the shellac will dry almost instantaneously. Beware though it takes a lot of elbow grease to get it right. If you want more info on more of the particulars shoot me an email.

-- Joe Truehart - The Craftsmans Woodshop

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 3220 days

#8 posted 12-12-2009 04:17 AM

Thanks for the feedback. I have been interested in shellac for awhile. Looks like I will have to give it a try one of these days soon.

-- James -

View Richard's profile


113 posts in 3413 days

#9 posted 12-15-2009 02:39 AM

I haven’t tried it inside but I kinda like the smell of General finishes Gel stain and Gel urethane. But many people have serious questions about my taste, and my sanity for that matter.

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 3197 days

#10 posted 12-15-2009 03:15 AM

yeah, jeez, I always thought the fumes were the best part of finishing.

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

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