Shellac over poly to mask smell?

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Forum topic by spamfilterman posted 01-14-2011 05:32 AM 4135 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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149 posts in 3289 days

01-14-2011 05:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

I have bookcases that I finished with Arm-r-Seal weeks ago, but they still smell. It’s been at least a month.

I’ve been running a space heater in that room to try to help speed it up, but it’s just making me more frustrated. I want to throw them away, but my wife won’t let me.

Two questions:
- If I can still smell the poly, am I getting brain damage? :-)

- Shellac is supposed to seal odors in, so could I give the whole thing a light coat of shellac on top of the Arm-r-Seal to trap the smell? Or would that do more harm than good (would never let the poly fully cure properly)?

8 replies so far

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3318 days

#1 posted 01-14-2011 06:39 AM

Nah, you like woodworking, so you’re allready brain damaged. Seriously, I wouldn’t try to cover the poly with shellac. It would hide the smell, but the smell is a sign that it hasn’t cured yet. To cover ity with shellac would prevent the last of the solvents to evaporate, and would leave a soft, sticky mess. 1) are you making a bigger deal of this because you’re frustrated, or 2) is it really THAT smelly? If it is #2, can you put them outside in the garage, or basement where you won’t bee around it? How many coats did you use and how long between coats? If your wife isn’t objecting, are you sure it’s that bad? Personally, I’d leave it to dry and forget it. Arm-r-seal is supposed to be good. I use Ace poly, or MInwax, or whatever I can find. They all work well and I’ve never noticed a real odor problem. But then I have a 18 month old grsnddaughter. Have you smelled a poopy diaper lately? Being accustomed to that, perhaps I’m not as sensitive to odors. If it doesn’t start to fade in a week, contact general finishes and see what they recommend.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Luke's profile


545 posts in 3561 days

#2 posted 01-14-2011 07:48 AM

They usually smell for a while with poly’s. It’s normal. And that kind of finish is great! Personally I like the smell but I can see how it would drive you nuts if you just don’t like the smell. It won’t cause any harm except to your mentality.

-- LAS,

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149 posts in 3289 days

#3 posted 01-14-2011 03:37 PM

Steve, I don’t want to put them back in the garage because it’s too cold right now.
I think that’s part of my problem – I applied the finish when it was starting to get cold out, so I’m wondering if that really slowed down the curing process. So I brought them inside, put them in a room, closed the door, and run a space heater in there when I’m home.

I used about 3 coats, giving it at least a day between coats. It was always dry to the touch when applying.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3318 days

#4 posted 01-14-2011 07:05 PM

Sounds like you need more cure time, for whatever reason (temperature, humidity, etc.)

How long has it been inside? When the heater is not on, how cold is the room? You also might need more ventilation/fresh air exchange than what you’re getting in a closed room. If you’ve got an unused bathroom with an exhaust fan in it, you might want to try sticking it in there and running the exhaust fan (but not continuously, or you risk burning up the motor,) to get the needed air exchange.

Just some ideas.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3915 days

#5 posted 01-14-2011 07:10 PM

I’ve never heard or read about a way to stop out-gassing. You just have
to let it run its course in my experience.

I wouldn’t, however, be afraid to lay shellac over poly. It may slow
the out-gassing a little, but it will just spread it over a longer period
of time. There’s an off-chance that there may be some “blushing”
under (or in) the shellac layer, but it should dissipate over time.

Poly cures by oxidation – so leaving the piece in the garage it should
cure. Moving air over it may help.

View CampD's profile


1747 posts in 3753 days

#6 posted 01-14-2011 07:46 PM

Did you change the air in the room?
I know its winter but you could open the window for awhile

-- Doug...

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1162 posts in 2958 days

#7 posted 01-14-2011 11:44 PM

Heated air is the oppisite of what you want. It would be better to leave it in a neutral room with a fan blowing over it. Cool, dry air is what you want. Now, if you applied it when the air was colder than recommended it will take longer to cure because the cold slows the chemical reaction.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

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149 posts in 3289 days

#8 posted 01-15-2011 06:58 AM

Thanks for the advice. I’ll try to keep the air moving.

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