Speed up shellac dissolving?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by JesseTutt posted 01-28-2013 04:50 PM 1349 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JesseTutt's profile


853 posts in 1535 days

01-28-2013 04:50 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac dissolving shellac

I am in the middle of applying shellac as a finish I just realized that I will need more shellac. Color match is not a major consideration since each item is a separate craft item and color can vary between them.

Is it possible to speed up the dissolving of shellac flakes in alcohol? I was wondering about placing the glass jar in warm water would work. If so, how warm can I make it?

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

11 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


15492 posts in 2431 days

#1 posted 01-28-2013 04:52 PM

Warm water ought to do the trick. Just make sure its not around an open flame, that alcohol could make a real firey mess.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3851 posts in 1918 days

#2 posted 01-28-2013 04:58 PM

You can get the water as hot as you like….realize that the warmth will evaporate some of the alcohol if your jar isn’t closed. But it’s a good way to speed things up.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2238 days

#3 posted 01-28-2013 05:01 PM

Speed to your local hardware store and buy some Zinssner pre-made shellac.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Swyftfeet's profile


170 posts in 1596 days

#4 posted 01-28-2013 05:03 PM

5 things speed up any chemical processes ( I hesitate to call this a chemical process because
I don’t believe dissolving shellac fundamentally changes any of its properties) concentration, catalysts, surface area, heat and agitation. This is more of a physical process so we can eliminate the catalyst, and we are trying to have a specific concentration so we can eliminate that as well.

The problem with heating the alcohol will be its low evaporation temp. You’re fundamentally changing your ratios to decrease dissolve time. I don’t think this would work out unless you had a very controlled environment. If I were you, I would grind the shellac flakes into smaller pieces and then agitate the mixture…

-- Brian

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2583 days

#5 posted 01-28-2013 05:40 PM

I agree with Willie. I haven’t seen a real reason to purchase flakes. Compared to the dewaxed Sealcoat, flakes gets a little too expensive…and justs requires more work. That’s two lbs. of flakes and a gallon of DNA to equate to one gallon can of ready-to-go Sealcoat. Mixing your own with flakes costs about twice as much money as either the Sealcoat or regular Bullseye shellac.

I think shelf life issues with shellac are somewhat overblown, but I’ve never had a problem with any shellac I purchase in a can and often use it pretty quickly anyway.

I can think of one reason why I’d want shellac flakes, and that is when I want something finished entirely in shellac with the color that naturally comes from the flakes themselves. Then, I could mix only what I needed…but even so, I still keep it at a 2 lbs. cut or less so I could apply it more easily, which means that I could have just used a dye-tinted Zinsser Sealcoat in the first place and saved a bunch of money.

Maybe I just don’t get it.

-- jay,

View Purrmaster's profile


914 posts in 1517 days

#6 posted 01-28-2013 07:37 PM

Warmth will speed up the dissolving process. What I’ve done is grind up the shellac flakes in a coffee grinder prior to mixing them with alcohol. You can shake/stir the shellac/alcohol mixture as well to speed things up a bit.

View shampeon's profile


1705 posts in 1608 days

#7 posted 01-28-2013 09:00 PM

I have had problems with non-Sealcoat Zinnser canned shellac going bad after about 8 months or so.

I usually just shake the jar a bunch to help dissolve the flakes when I’m in more of a hurry. Not exactly the most fun thing to do, but it works.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2583 days

#8 posted 01-28-2013 09:09 PM

I can see that, Ian. But I think my point was that the expiration dates on the cans in the stores are well beyond what people deem acceptable, however, I haven’t had those products go bad prematurely because of that. In other woods, if they seal the can well without an ability to oxidize, I think there isn’t really an advantage in flakes once those flakes are mixed. Of course, the flakes keep a long time in flake form, which is certainly an advantage.

-- jay,

View Purrmaster's profile


914 posts in 1517 days

#9 posted 01-28-2013 09:19 PM

The advantage of mixing your own shellac from flakes is flexibility. You can choose your cut and color. I haven’t personally used Zinnser but everything I’ve read indicates that it’s perfectly adequate.

Some alcohols dissolve shellac more quickly than others. I used the “green” Kleen Strip denatured alcohol. In the summertime it took almost 2 weeks for the shellac to fully dissolve. Then I used their regular SLX denatured alcohol and it took a day.

Now I’ve switched over to using 190 proof Everclear liquor and that dissolved the flakes in about a day.

View shampeon's profile


1705 posts in 1608 days

#10 posted 01-28-2013 09:22 PM

The flakes keep forever, and you can mix exactly how much you need, and at what cut, for a project. That’s their main advantage over canned shellac, which is much more convenient. I use both Sealcoat and from-flake shellac.

The thing that sucks about shellac that goes bad is that you can’t tell until you’ve applied a coat that just stays gummy. It’s not much fun to remove.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View bhog's profile


2234 posts in 2114 days

#11 posted 01-29-2013 03:24 AM

I write the date mixed etc on the jar.If its over 3 months I will test it by blotting some on a piece of glass ,wood or whatever to double check its going to dry ,fast insurance.

I have had the best results with startex brand alcohol sold by Sherwin Williams .The other brands I have tried(many) suck.

-- I don't drive a Prius.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics