Shellac solvent

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    Sam Downs

    Was about to reply about the Denatonium as well 🙂
    It didn’t smell bad and dissolved my Liberon flakes in a couple of hours with regular shaking. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet but hopefully tomorrow. That particular Amazon item is also in sale at the moment for $9.99. Unfortunately I payed almost twice that.

    Larry Geib

    Here is the SDS sheet for denatonium benzoate.

    It appears to be 80% ethylene glycol, so it’s not entirely benign. It has all the ethylene glycol toxicity issues. And the second ingredient may be the actual denaturant.
    The hazards listed are central nervous system, liver, kidney, and blood damage.

    William Nenna

    From my understanding “Everclear” is the purist alcohol obtainable. It’s pricey though. I could use it since I only mix very small batches so it never sits mixed on the shelf very long. I have used Behlen Behkol (denatured) for years with NO complaints. I save a little by using cheaper hardware store alcohol for cleaning brushes etc. Behkol is supposed to give a little longer open time and I have had no problems at all dissolving shellac in it. My own test is when I sand and only get fine white dust with NO build up on sandpaper or steel wool tells me ALL I need to know!! By the way, you can use a cheap “blade-type” coffee grinder to grind shellac flakes to fine grain that will dissolve almost instantly!


    I have used denatured alcohol without problem.

    There are really heavy taxes on drinkable ethanol here in Belgium, so it is not an option.

    I have also used without detectable problems. I have recently bought 190 proof drinkable alcohol because I hadn’t been aware of the toxicity of methanol and the amounts used in denatured alcohol. The cost is far less than my insurance deductible so I’m OK with the cost. Even without the deductible, I’ll pay to save my liver.

    The green KleenStrip has less methanol than other formulas when I checked but I don’t have to worry about gloves and respirators working in my basement with the Everclear.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by Cunha.
    Barry B

    if you can get everclear, look around or ask for polish rectified spirits…195 proof at a similar price to everclear.
    it was pretty scarce at the start of the pandemic but has returned to my local mega liquor store


    The liquor store that I bought it from showed stock on the internet. After looking around the store for a long time I decided to ask about it. They kept it in the back room and I had to fill out a form about what I was planning to do with it and if I hurt myself drinking it I wouldn’t hold them liable.

    This was at a state liquor store in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire! They had been selling it for hand sanitizer use but they hadn’t had anyone mention shellac.

    I had never heard of the Polish spirits. Thanks

    Sven-Olof Jansson

    Just to come back to iso-propyl alcohol as dissolvent for a 2# cut of dewaxed shellac. When used on a black walnut desktop organiser, the result was quite depressing (please see photo). The surface became quite too shiny, I think. There were build-ups along the edges, and “lumps”, even when applied very thinly, and I had to wait more than ten minutes between layers. To add insult to injury, there was residual not fully dissolved flakes at the bottom of the jar.

    Desktop organiser

    Six months later, I now have finished a small chest (modelled from the tool chest project). The shellac flakes were at last fully dissolved, and using methylated 190-proof ethanol I brought the cut down, first to 1.5 and then to somewhat above 1. The former still gave a distinct shine, less build up, and both seemed “lumpy”. A 125µ lacquer filter removed the lumps, and using the around 1# cut I had a pleasant time applying a rapid drying shellac mix to the chest (a thanks for being vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2).


    To sum up: methylated alcohol and thin cuts, and get som 99% ethanol for a 2# cut, should French polishing be called for.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA


    I’ve spend a lot of time dissolving my own shellac flakes.

    My preference is to use 190 proof drinkable alcohol. I think this solution of shellac dries the most quickly but they all dry fairly fast so this is relaly a minor point. Mostly drive by my thoughts if I could drink it, breathing some of it is likely better than breathing the alternatives. Can’t legally purchase it in California. As such, when I am in in Oregon, Washington State, or Nevada, I buy a few bottles ($20-$30 per bottle depending on the states sin tax). I use at most two bottles a year. If I couldn’t get it that way, I would try the 190 proof alcohol that they sell at around $100 a gallon on Amazon for making your own plant extracts. Spendy but would likely last me two years. Speaking of Amazon, I would NOT order the 200 proof ethanol for shellac. Due to the azeotrope ethanol forms with water, you can’t easily get past 190 proof from “simple” distillation. A way to go from 190 to 200 proof (I am a chemist so I speak from experience) is to add some benzene to the 190 proof ethanol and then distill. It removes the water. For chemistry, water often competes with ethanol in organic reactions. Trace benzene does not. However, benzene is a carcinogen and I wouldn’t want to breath it. Since I don’t know if the 200 proof ethanol on amazon contains trace benzene in it, I simply would stay away from it. There are other ways to remove the last little bits of water from 190 proof ethanol as well.

    I have used 90 or 95% isopropanol and dissolved up 1.5 lb cut shellac flakes. It works. I ended up purchasing a bunch of this isopropanol in Jan 2020 just as I was hearing about the upcomming pandemic as a means to disinfect. Didn’t use much of for disinfecting so repurposing it. Mostly use it to clean shellac brush. Reasonably inexpensive.

    Mohawak/Bektol make something I think called “Shellac Reducer” that I can get in CA at Woodcraft that is ethanol cut with isopropanol and n-butanol so it’s not drinkable. It works well and you can get many coats on in a day. It’s my second choice if I can’t get 190 proof drinkable ethanol. The only thing I don’t like and this is a very minor point, the n-butanol has a much higher boiling point relative to ethanol or isopropanol and if I want it to be really dry to denib I wait overnight. I can still apply coats every 30 minutes.

    I no longer will use hardware store denature alcohol. I just don’t want to breath in methanol vapors. Plenty of folks are ok with this but we all have to draw our line somewhere. If I were to use denatured alcohol, I would probably do so outside.


    Behkol was what I used to use. It has since been purchased by Mohawk (I think??). Mohawk sells “Shellac Reducer” which I believe is the old Behkol denatured alcohol. You can sometimes find it on the shelf at Woodcraft. If they don’t have it, they can order it. The MSDS lists 75 to 100% ethanol and then butanol and isopropanol as denaturants. One of my teachers taught me to dissolve the shellac with Behkol, but then thin with “the cheaper stuff.” If you want to do more experiments, you might be interested in looking for testing protocols that involve applying shellac to glass. Don’t act in reliance upon the info I gave for the MSDS. The MSDS can change and maybe what I’m looking at doesn’t match what you buy….always look it up yourself.

    Jan Khmelnytsky

    I concur with joeleonetti that anything that is sold for human consumption is probably safer than something not sold for human consumption, particularly for those of use that work in small enclosed spaces (like myself). I intend to switch to high proof alcohol once I’ve gone through my current tin of denatured alcohol. Anecdotally, I’ve head that Everclear, a 190 proof consumption-grade alcohol sold in parts of the US, produces a clearer shellac finish, less prone to fogging.

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