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Shellac--how dangerous is denaturated alcohol?

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Forum topic by DrTebi posted 07-29-2009 12:55 PM 11206 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DrTebi

264 posts in 2840 days


07-29-2009 12:55 PM

Hello,

I have just mixed my first shellac from shellac flakes and denaturated alcohol tonight. Before I get back to my project and start using it, I am wondering how dangerous the fumes of the shellac mix are? The denaturated alcohol itself has quite some scary warnings on the can, I suppose these all apply the same once the shellac is mixed? Should I wear a “serious” respiratory mask? I have seen a couple of videos on applying shellac, the persons applying it wear gloves (which I will certainly do too) but no masks whatsoever.

BTW, my room is fairly well ventilated, and I am planning on using the “Padding Shellac” method described in Jeff Jewitt’s book.

Thanks,

DrTebi


10 replies so far

View Kindlingmaker's profile

Kindlingmaker

2656 posts in 3100 days


#1 posted 07-29-2009 01:57 PM

Fumes are strong and will ignite with flame. Basicly its pretty safe but always use the best saftey gear that you have and are comfortable with. Some saftey gear to pricey but lungs, eyes, ears and fingers are even more costly and really hard to replace. Always work to the safe side!

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

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Julian

880 posts in 3099 days


#2 posted 07-29-2009 01:58 PM

Alcohol isn’t that bad. You should wear a respirator IF you spray it, but you are fine if your just brushing it.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View Waldschrat's profile

Waldschrat

505 posts in 3009 days


#3 posted 07-29-2009 01:59 PM

DrTebi

I do not think you need to make serious thoughts on the fumes… as long as your shop/work area well vented is and you gloves you have, it should not be a problem. I think it is typical for american products to have “idiot” warnings and what not… one time I have een saw a garbage can with a huge list of warnings on it. One pictogram had a person head first with water as a sort of drowning warning! Which I found pretty funny.

But seriously, you should not have any problems… excecpt for the alcohol, the schellack is about as natural as you can get for a finishing product.

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View moshel's profile

moshel

865 posts in 3257 days


#4 posted 07-29-2009 02:03 PM

As everyone said, its not too bad unless you try to drink it…. its an acquired taste :-) (DONT TRY TO DRINK IT)

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View Matt's profile

Matt

119 posts in 3990 days


#5 posted 07-29-2009 02:41 PM

I’ve worked with denatured alcohol for the past 13 years at my day job and as has been mentioned already, short of drinking it or exposing it to an open flame your only concern will be it evaporating before it’s completely applied (I wouldn’t worry about that either).

The great thing about the denatured alcohol and shellac is it dries quickly and there’s practically zero smell. I use it all the time in my basement shop.

-- Straight grains & sharp blades

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4014 posts in 3637 days


#6 posted 07-29-2009 03:18 PM

I pad shellac at the kitchen counter unit all the time. Just don’t smoke around it or drink it. They add the wood alcohol so it won’t be a temptation for drinking.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3595 days


#7 posted 07-29-2009 03:48 PM

wikis are agood place to start getting specific information on various things.
They are not always right but then again, what is?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denatured_alcohol

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View tom123's profile

tom123

1 post in 96 days


#8 posted 12-20-2016 05:34 PM

Everclear grain alcohol is a safe alternative to denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol, also called methylated spirits or denatured rectified spirit, is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption and to avoid taxation as a drinking alcohol. Everclear is an ethanol without the additives, however it is much more expensive as a result of the liquor tax. Everclear comes in two proofs 190 and 151. I use the 190 proof and transfer it to a collapsable container where I can keep a tight lid on it and minimize the headspace. This will help to keep the moisture level as low as possible. The higher the proof the lower the moisture level which will affect the quality of a finished french polished project. In addition to high cost another disadvantage is that 190 proof Everclear is not sold in many states because of its high proof, however most states sell the 151 proof version.
Hope this helps

View DrTebi's profile

DrTebi

264 posts in 2840 days


#9 posted 12-21-2016 12:44 AM



Everclear grain alcohol is a safe alternative to denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol, also called methylated spirits or denatured rectified spirit, is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption and to avoid taxation as a drinking alcohol. Everclear is an ethanol without the additives, however it is much more expensive as a result of the liquor tax. Everclear comes in two proofs 190 and 151. I use the 190 proof and transfer it to a collapsable container where I can keep a tight lid on it and minimize the headspace. This will help to keep the moisture level as low as possible. The higher the proof the lower the moisture level which will affect the quality of a finished french polished project. In addition to high cost another disadvantage is that 190 proof Everclear is not sold in many states because of its high proof, however most states sell the 151 proof version.
Hope this helps

- tom123


Thanks Tom. I hope you realize that this post is more than five years old… I have been using shellac extensively on pretty much anything that I built, and have been wearing gloves and also a respirator if my shellacin’ sessions were longer than a couple of minutes. I also kept the shellac away from open flames, and certainly didn’t try to drink it…

Regarding the Everclear grain alcohol: If I am not mistaken, it is not the poison in the denatured alcohol that one should worry about under normal use, but the fumes from the ethanol. Those can be harmful, and a well vented work area, or better yet, an organic vapor mask, should be used during longer exposure to the fumes. This should apply equally to the Everclear grain alcohol.

View bbasiaga's profile

bbasiaga

866 posts in 1569 days


#10 posted 12-21-2016 01:04 AM

It is indeed the methanol vapor you need to be worried about. Methane il, the denatured agent, is poisonous and can lead to blindness if enough is ingested. You aren’t very likely to hit that by breathing shellac vapors. It can also be absorbed in to the skin, so wear gloves and use something else to wash your hands.

Ethanol vapor is not particularly bad for you. High doses would irritate your lungs and get you drunk (literally, getting drunk off the fumes). Again not very likely in a well ventilated area.

Wear a respirator when spraying, where vapor concentration is high. Even then though, the main risk is breathing the shellac itself.

Use it responsibly and you’ll be fine.

Brian

-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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