My Shellac Flakes Won't Dissolve?

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Forum topic by jmos posted 01-12-2014 02:33 PM 2912 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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823 posts in 2333 days

01-12-2014 02:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shellac solvent

I’ve been using shellac for a while, and have some experience, but I’m having a really strange experience, and could use some advice.

I had a still sealed bag of BT&C blonde Tiger shellac flakes. Mixed 1 oz of flakes into 8oz of Kleenstrip Green DNA; for a 1lb cut. It’s been about 5 days and it has not dissolved. There is still a slurry at the bottom of the glass jar; it has not melted together, as I’ve had happen sometimes if I forget to shake, but it doesn’t seem to want to dissolve further. It’s in my 67degree kitchen; so it shouldn’t be too cold. I’ve used the KS Green before and it has worked; usually takes about 24 hours and a lot of shaking, but works.

According to the MSDS, the Kleenstrip Green is 90% ethanol, with about 10% methanol and some of MIBK and ethyl acetate. The regular Kleenstrip stuff is about 50% ethanol, 50% methanol, and smaller traces of MIBK and ethyl acetate.

What brand solvent are others using with success? Anyone using the regular KS stuff?

Could a closed can of DNA actually pull enough moisture out of the air to make it ineffective? Could the higher levels of MIBK and ethyl acetate be causing problems?

Can a factory sealed bag of flakes (not even a year since I bought them) with desiccant packs go bad?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

-- John

10 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4949 posts in 2456 days

#1 posted 01-12-2014 03:23 PM

If the flakes aren’t stored properly, they can go bad. I keep mine in a freezer, though in reality you just need a cool, dry place. Warmth will hasten the process, but safe warmth in the winter may be tough to ad. I usually put mine in the sun, sometimes inside the truck interior or our mailbox (black with complete exposure to the sun, just don’t leave for the mailman). I’ve never tried any of the “green” solvents, but I’m guessing it might be part of the problem. Youu might try another can of alcohol, the regular stuff if it’s available. If it works, the green stuff is the problem, if it doesn’t the flakes may be bad. I use the Sunnyside brand of DNA. Not because I know it’s better, but because Menard’s carries it and it’s cheaper than the other stuff.

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

View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 3996 days

#2 posted 01-12-2014 03:40 PM

The flakes are easily stored per Fred’s advice. I have had problems with store bought DNA.

The reason is not what is in it, but the moisture the alcohol absorbs over time. If you really want to make the best shellac, (I do French Polish) buy Ever Clear at the liquor store. It’s about 30 bucks per half gallon.

The results are worth the price, the flakes dissolve well, the finish dries hard and fast.

View RussellAP's profile


3103 posts in 2250 days

#3 posted 01-12-2014 03:43 PM

I’ve never had a problem using denatured alcohol.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10248 posts in 3611 days

#4 posted 01-12-2014 04:05 PM

I stir it from the bottom with a stick. It can take several
days of stirring to get the gunk at the bottom to dissolve.

Strain the solids out and put them in another container
with solvent if it annoys you.

View jmos's profile


823 posts in 2333 days

#5 posted 01-12-2014 09:59 PM

Thanks guys, maybe I’ll try a new can of DNA (denatured alcohol) first. The alcohol has been around for a while; hopefully that’s it.

I have used the Kleenstrip Green before and it worked fine. I’ve read you want ethanol, and since the regular stuff is only half ethanol I thought the green stuff, being 90% ethanol would be better. Maybe it has just absorbed moisture over time.

Flakes stored in basement; cool, dry, and out of sunlight. The package was actually still sealed, so it’s hard to imagine moisture got into it.

The material left in the bottom is the majority of the flakes, not impurities. The liquid mixture looks like maybe a 1/2lb cut, or thinner. When I shake it all starts moving well; it just is not dissolving.

Thanks for the suggestions.

-- John

View patcollins's profile


1683 posts in 2828 days

#6 posted 01-12-2014 10:15 PM

Ethyl Alcohol is very hydroscopic, so much so that 200 proof liquor is impossible to make.

I think I remember someone else on here having a problem with a DNA that was labeled green.

View rustynails's profile


744 posts in 2492 days

#7 posted 01-13-2014 12:21 AM

Try some moon shine. :)

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1813 days

#8 posted 01-13-2014 12:58 AM

I’m with the other people here who are suggesting that the shellac flakes may have gone bad. Are the flakes in the bag clumpy at all? This phenomenon is known as “blocking” or “bricking” and can indicate a bad batch of dry flakes. Examines the flakes for any evidence of crazing on their surfaces. It’s also possible that your alcohol absorbed a lot of water and is too diluted to work well. I’d try a fresh batch of alcohol or a fresh bag of flakes, whichever is cheaper. I’ve had good luck dissolving the flakes in either Mohawk shellac reducer or methanol, sold as methyl hydrate in Canada. Storing the flakes in the fridge or freezer is a good plan, especially once summer heat returns.

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2362 days

#9 posted 01-13-2014 01:39 AM

I believe that you will find that shellac dissolves in methyl alcohol. Therefore the higher percentage of methyl alcohol solutions are preferred for dissolving shellac.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View jmos's profile


823 posts in 2333 days

#10 posted 01-13-2014 12:58 PM

Thank guys. The flakes look fine. I’m going to stop and get some fresh alcohol today and try again; hopefully that’s it. I’ll be pretty peeved if the flakes are bad.

The biggest barrier to making really pure ethanol is that it forms an azeotrope with water at about 95% EtOH; that manes you can’t purify it any further through distillation and have to use a more expensive method. Not impossible, just more expensive to process.

-- John

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