Shellac--how dangerous is denaturated alcohol?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Safety in the Woodworking Shop forum

Forum topic by DrTebi posted 07-29-2009 12:55 PM 10081 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DrTebi's profile


248 posts in 2726 days

07-29-2009 12:55 PM


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.



7 replies so far

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2986 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

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 2985 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


505 posts in 2895 days

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


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


865 posts in 3143 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


119 posts in 3876 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

4012 posts in 3523 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 3481 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?

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

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