Shellac solvents question

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Forum topic by TheGuardner posted 02-17-2008 06:56 PM 6196 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 3715 days

02-17-2008 06:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac solvents denatured alcohol safe question

Hi all I need to work with a non-poisonous form of alcohol solvent for my shellac. Can anyone tell me what kind of alcohol to buy and where to look for it, that is not my usual denatured alcohol?


13 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3784 days

#1 posted 02-17-2008 07:21 PM

If you have to have this type of alcohol then I think your only remedy is to to a liquor store and buy some grain alcohol (190 proof). Denatured alcohol is simply ethanol (grain alcohol) to which methanol, acetone, jet fuel or other solvent has been added so that it can’t be consumed.

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

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6 posts in 3715 days

#2 posted 02-18-2008 12:02 AM

Wow, thats exactly what I needed to know. Thanks a whole!

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 3850 days

#3 posted 02-18-2008 12:20 AM


The reason they tint the industrial alcohol is to avoid paying taxes on it (which are quite a lot in US). The vapors of the alcohol are not poisonous at all. Drinking the methanol can blind you, though. Out of all finishes, shellac is probably the most smell friendly.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View GMoney's profile


158 posts in 3765 days

#4 posted 02-18-2008 12:40 AM

woodcraft sells a solvent that is not denatured alcohol, but i don’t know if it’s poisonous or not.

i’ve been told that isopropel alcohol has too much water in it to be used as a solvent for shellac and that is poisonous anyway. i don’t know if grain alcohol has water in it or not.

-- Greg, CT

View TheGuardner's profile


6 posts in 3715 days

#5 posted 02-18-2008 01:22 AM

I’m sure it will be considerably more expensive with the alcohol tax. But just out of curiosity, does anyone know how they apply shellac on candy and fruit, perhaps there is a better mixture than grain alcohol.


View Suz's profile


51 posts in 3718 days

#6 posted 02-18-2008 03:57 AM

I guess I have to ask why do you need a non-poisonous shellac solvent? Are you concerned that someone might drink your shellac? Once shellac is dry it is totally safe.

-- Jim

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6 posts in 3715 days

#7 posted 02-18-2008 05:27 AM

I have a condition that makes me very chemical sensitive and my health gets bad around chemicals and other toxins. I am sick of wearing long gloves and an apron to apply finishes. I just want to know all my options, even though I may not be able to afford it right away. I also have a little one in the house, and that is not really a concern that they would drink it, but it would help to know that if anyone spills it or otherwise gets it on thier skin it wont hurt them, including me really.


View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3924 days

#8 posted 02-18-2008 07:25 PM

I think de-natured alcohol is pretty benign. It drys so fast that a spill is gone before anyone could get in it. It is also pretty natural. As far as I know it is the only solvent for shellac. The alcohol is totally gone in less than a few minutes.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3857 days

#9 posted 02-18-2008 07:53 PM

From what I have read, there are a couple processes that are used when using shellac for candy, etc. The shellac is processed such that it is almost pure with no contaminants. In one process, it is simply mixed with confectioners candy, etc. In another process, ethyl alcohol is the solvent used. Apparently the biggest problme is not using the ethyl alcohol, it is the VOC issue when evaporating the ethyl alcohol during the process.

-- Sam

View Suz's profile


51 posts in 3718 days

#10 posted 02-18-2008 09:30 PM

Okay MJ that explains a lot and sheds some additional light on the problem.
I found the following info on the Internet that explains a little more about using alcohol to cut shellac. But, it’s not much help with your problems or concerns:
Pure grain alcohol is considered better than denatured or wood for cutting shellac gum, but that is not to be had in the United States, except under license. The best denatured alcohol for cutting shellac is the U. S. Government Formula No. 1. It calls for the use of 190 proof grain alcohol denatured by adding 5 gallons of wood alcohol (poison) to 100 gallons of grain alcohol. It is practically as good as pure grain alcohol for this purpose. Manufacturers using it are kept under bond to prevent the sale of this denatured alcohol unless mixed with at least 2 pounds of shellac gum per gallon. The denatured alcohol sold on the open market to painters contains more wood alcohol or other poison. For this reason a little better shellac can be purchased in the liquid form from manufacturers than the painter can mix by cutting shellac gum with the denatured alcohol which he can get, but on the other hand what he can mix is good enough for many purposes if he thinks it is wise to spend the time required to do the mixing.

-- Jim

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3733 days

#11 posted 02-18-2008 09:42 PM

Remember that just because it is not poisionous does not mean that it will not be an irritant. Using pure grain alcohol with shelac and not using gloves will severly dry out your skin at the very least. Oh, and if you have a nick or cut on your hand… You’ll wish you had the gloves on.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View Rich_S's profile


53 posts in 3827 days

#12 posted 02-19-2008 01:15 AM

Very interesting…I always learn something new when I least expect it…thanks for asking this question!

-- Rich, Madison WI

View TheGuardner's profile


6 posts in 3715 days

#13 posted 03-01-2008 07:17 PM

Thanks for all the replies folks. Happy Sanding!

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