Thinning toluene/spirits based varnish

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Forum topic by Murdnunoc posted 09-07-2014 04:55 PM 1301 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Murdnunoc's profile


5 posts in 1326 days

09-07-2014 04:55 PM

Hi folks,
Been hacking at wood projects for a while, but just getting into a forum about it. So HI!!

First question to launch is about a Sherwin Williams fast dry oil varnish. Its straight form is for brushing, but I want to cut it for wiping application.
I got the fast dry since I’m in a dusty environment.
The varnish has what looks like a combo of toluene/mineral spirits as its carrier. I’m sure I could add mineral spirits to cut it, but would thinning with toluene/xylene give a faster dry time? Or would that break it down?

Thoughts are appreciated!!

Pic of the varnish can is below, till I figure to how to embed them…

10 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10276 posts in 3615 days

#1 posted 09-07-2014 05:00 PM

I think I have thinned toluene containing contact
cement with lacquer thinner but that’s all I know.

Toluene containing product access is highly restricted
in my state. It’s nasty stuff.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2461 days

#2 posted 09-07-2014 06:08 PM

Toluene and xylene are some of the strong solvents used in NC lacquers, so I suspect they might work well in the varnish. But I wouldn’t recommend it (with no first hand experience). I’ve used a lot the SW Fast Dry Oil Varnish (one of my 2 favorites) and have only thinned it with mineral spirits…..but if I wanted a faster evaporating solvent, I’d choose naphtha. I have used naphtha in other varnishes, and it works well. Just remember the SW product does seem to tack up a little faster (to me) than other varnishes…although complete curing seems to be a little slower.

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

View Murdnunoc's profile


5 posts in 1326 days

#3 posted 09-07-2014 07:52 PM

Thanks for the input fellas,
Looking at the label again, I do see naptha in it. So maybe that’s a third carrier? Or maybe the toluene serves a different purpose.

Even here in Texas, national capital of “You can’t tell me what to do” toluene has still been replaced by xylene for retail sales.
But from what I hear, they can be swapped for each other for most purposes.

I don’t have any naptha on hand, but will get some to test it out.

While waiting for LJ to approve my first post, I tried a head to head test on a set of mesquite book ends. 50% MS on one, 50% Xylene on the other.
After the first coat soaks in to seal, I’ll compare the dry times between the MS and the Xylene.

On one of the subsequent coats, I’ll add the Naptha combo in to see how it does.

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1619 days

#4 posted 09-07-2014 08:06 PM

Toluene will dry faster than naphtha, which will dry faster than xylene, though naphtha isn’t really a chemical so it’s boiling point varies.

Any of these will work, but I suspect the naphtha will have the least overall affect on how the varnish dries and forms a film.

-- -Dan

View Murdnunoc's profile


5 posts in 1326 days

#5 posted 09-07-2014 10:25 PM

Thanks for putting the dry times of the different solvents in order, Dan.

When I tried the MS compared to Xylene on the small test project, they both dried tack-free in about 30 minutes.
Think there should have been a bigger difference between the Xylene and MS?
It was a pretty unscientific test. :)
If MS and Xylene are pretty close in dry times, I’ll go with the MS since it’s more friendly.

I’m pretty satisfied with a 30 minute dry time, especially for those first couple coats that will affect the grain appearance.
If it starts looking like I need a quicker dry time, I’ll go with the Naptha.

View CharlesA's profile


3312 posts in 1765 days

#6 posted 09-07-2014 10:32 PM

Quicker than 30 min? That’s pretty dang short.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Murdnunoc's profile


5 posts in 1326 days

#7 posted 09-07-2014 11:30 PM

Yep, I think I’ll be happy with the 30 minutes the MS brings.
Only reason I’d want a faster cure would be if I intended to spray it like a lacquer AND lay it on thicker to get the build thickness done faster with the same dry time.
But that’s in the “if needed for the future” category now.

I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it now. Really appreciate the advice!

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1619 days

#8 posted 09-08-2014 01:00 AM

Mineral spirits and xylene have very similar boiling points. It makes sense that they would be about the same. I personally like the sweet smell of xylene over mineral spirits, lol.

-- -Dan

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2658 days

#9 posted 09-08-2014 01:48 AM

I would stick with the MS. If you spray, it will dry even faster. I spray straight Spar on my chairs and it dries to the touch (not cured) in minutes.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1817 days

#10 posted 09-08-2014 02:22 AM

Personally, I’d opt for VM&P naphtha over toluene or xylene. Having said that, I think that you could probably get away with using either one. I’ve thinned varnish with acetone in the past and been successful. Do a test on a piece of scrap before you commit yourself.

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