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safety of curing (not drying) varnish smell?

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Forum topic by jamsomito posted 02-27-2019 08:08 PM 692 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


02-27-2019 08:08 PM

On my wife’s request, I made some name signs for my boys to hang in their room now that two of them are sharing a room. They look cool, I think. One is cherry, one is stained red oak, one is clear maple. The maple is finished with water-based poly to keep as white as possible, and that’s more or less done doing what it’s going to do. The oak was stained with minwax oil stain and the oak and cherry pieces were then finished with a few coats of Arm-R-Seal. I put the last coat on about a week ago, and they’ve been kept in a bathroom with the exhaust fan on where it’s about 63-65 degrees. They still stink every time I go in there to check on them.

The finish is definitely dry to the touch and hard at this point, but they’re releasing a very noticeable odor. It’s definitely not pungent anymore like when applying though. Is this ok to put in a kids room, one of them an infant? Kind of bummed if I need to wait months for this to fully cure before hanging them, but I don’t want to gas the little ones out either. Is this just a smell, or is this part of the harmful vapors you read about on the can?


21 replies so far

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Rich

5011 posts in 1155 days


#1 posted 02-27-2019 09:03 PM

If you can smell it, it’s releasing VOCs. How strong is your call. Figure on at least 4 to 6 weeks for it to fully cure where there is no more odor. Still, after another week or two it should be pretty weak to where you have to put your nose right at the surface to smell much. Also, if you can, get it into a warmer location so it’ll cure a little faster.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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Fred Hargis

5842 posts in 3059 days


#2 posted 02-28-2019 11:46 AM

Like Rich said, varnish takes a very long time to cure. While ‘m not sure what the answer to yoru question is, I guess my suggestion would be :why take a chance? the kids probably won’t care if it sits a little longer.

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

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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


#3 posted 02-28-2019 01:50 PM

Yeah, you guys are probably right. Not the answer I was hoping for but better safe than sorry.

It’s making me reconsider my finish of choice for most of my interior projects now. I have other things planned like a coffee table, blanket rack, etc. Although most of my finishing is done in the summer and in the garage where it’s a lot warmer. That water based poly has been great in the past, but I like the look of oils and ease of application of the wipe-on variety much more. Guess there’s always going to be trade offs.

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Rich

5011 posts in 1155 days


#4 posted 02-28-2019 03:06 PM


It s making me reconsider my finish of choice for most of my interior projects now.

- jamsomito

Lacquer. It’ll be ready to bring in the house in a couple of days.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


#5 posted 02-28-2019 03:09 PM


It s making me reconsider my finish of choice for most of my interior projects now.

- jamsomito

Lacquer. It ll be ready to bring in the house in a couple of days.

- Rich

That seems like a whole new world of finishing I’m a little afraid to take on, but you might be on to something. I’ll look into it.

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ArtMann

1448 posts in 1382 days


#6 posted 02-28-2019 03:10 PM

You are making the assumption that if you can smell a chemical odor, then it must be harmful. I don’t believe that is true in most cases.

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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


#7 posted 02-28-2019 03:12 PM



You are making the assumption that if you can smell a chemical odor, then it must be harmful. I don t believe that is true in most cases.

- ArtMann

Well that was essentially my question. The current stance is – if it’s in question, err on the side of caution, founded or not. I don’t WANT it to be true, but in the grand scheme of things a few weeks is much shorter than the use duration and not a big deal.

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Blindhog

139 posts in 1615 days


#8 posted 02-28-2019 03:46 PM

Straight off the spec sheet from general finishes….......

I switched from Waterlox ( a VERY good product) to Arm-R-Seal because of the cure time and VOC release. When using Arm-R-Seal, I haven’t noticed the fumes after 4-5 days, but that is just me. I’ll wait 8-10 days before rubbing out table tops and have never had any problems with the finish or fumes.
When dealing with kiddos and VOC, I’d certainly err on the side of caution.

-- Don't let perfection get in the way of plenty good enough

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Rich

5011 posts in 1155 days


#9 posted 02-28-2019 03:55 PM

I completely agree with Art. My answer was based on the fact that there are small children involved.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


#10 posted 02-28-2019 04:04 PM

Yep. If we’re speculating anyway, I’m in agreement with all of you.

Thanks for the thoughts.

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ArtMann

1448 posts in 1382 days


#11 posted 02-28-2019 07:20 PM

A lot of commercial cabinet shops that smell like varnish all the time and those guys manage to survive it.


Well that was essentially my question. The current stance is – if it s in question, err on the side of caution, founded or not. I don t WANT it to be true, but in the grand scheme of things a few weeks is much shorter than the use duration and not a big deal.

- jamsomito


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CaptainKlutz

2062 posts in 2060 days


#12 posted 03-02-2019 05:24 AM

Challenge with ‘smell’ time on oil based finishes (like Arm-R-Seal) is vapor pressure of some of the hydrocarbon solvents in mineral spirits blend. Getting these out of the finish is different than curing time for moisture based alkaloid polyurethane curing reaction. Solvent vaporation rate is best controlled with temperature.

So best solution would be to bump temp to between 100-120F and drive the solvents out more quickly.
Here in AZ summer, between low humidity and high outdoor temperatures; Arm-R-Seal is smell free in couple days in my non air conditioned shop. Takes about 2 weeks indoors at 73-78F.

Reference(s) that might help:
https://www.woodshopnews.com/columns-blogs/understanding-solvents-is-family-affair
http://ws.eastman.com/Wizards/Esolvents/ESolvProperty.asp?Solvent=-1&Property=288

Cheers!

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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jamsomito

443 posts in 992 days


#13 posted 03-03-2019 01:33 AM

Interesting, thanks for the detailed response!

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Dark_Lightning

3680 posts in 3675 days


#14 posted 03-04-2019 02:36 AM

Pre-catalyzed lacquer cures in a very short time, since it has a catalyst. You need breathing protection for it, though. If the project isn’t going to be exposed to liquids or a lot of handling, shellac is my go-to. It dries so fast that I always spray for most acceptable results.

Also, prolonged exposure to solvents does have its consequences. One other thing- it wasn’t addressed yet- exposure to some solvents can cause sensitization and later, allergies. I’d err to the side of caution, as well.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

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jonah

2092 posts in 3865 days


#15 posted 03-04-2019 03:32 AM



Straight off the spec sheet from general finishes….......

I switched from Waterlox ( a VERY good product) to Arm-R-Seal because of the cure time and VOC release. When using Arm-R-Seal, I haven t noticed the fumes after 4-5 days, but that is just me. I ll wait 8-10 days before rubbing out table tops and have never had any problems with the finish or fumes.
When dealing with kiddos and VOC, I d certainly err on the side of caution.

- Blindhog


What do you rub out with? Just curious because I’ve never rubbed out a finish before but just built a table I’d like to amp up the finish on. It’s finished with three coats of Arm R Seal and has been drying for about ten days now.

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