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Isopropyl alc and shellac flakes?

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Forum topic by jklingel posted 11-08-2020 06:17 AM 819 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jklingel

194 posts in 2172 days


11-08-2020 06:17 AM

I’m just starting to experiment with shellac and have a quick question eventually. FWIW….Not wanting to deal w/ methanol, I got some 99% isopropyl alcohol and mixed some shellac flakes in, approx at a 1 1/2 lb cut. It was evening, so I shook the mixture what I could and went to bed. The next morning the shellac was globbed heavily at the bottom of the jar, but a mixing stick, additional isopropyl and shaking periodically during the day fixed that. I now have about a 1-lb cut. (If I like what shellac looks like, I will get a scale and mix more accurately.) I applied a coat of this shellac, then several hours later did a 320 sand and applied another coat. It seems to be making a “shine” and is sure easy to apply. My question, then, is this: Is there anything wrong with using isopropyl? I figure the alc is just a carrier, and I’d rather use rubbing alc than meth. Thanks for any info. j


19 replies so far

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therealSteveN

7254 posts in 1589 days


#1 posted 11-08-2020 07:45 AM

A friend of mine was gifted a bottle of Everclear. He doesn’t drink so he used it, worked fine. From there he went around checking what would work, and Isopropyl did fine too. He has issues with any alcohol, and it tends to make his hair fall out, so he was looking for a replacement for Denatured, Ended up everything gave him Alopecia if it melted the Shellac flakes, it took off his hair too.

He’s pretty finicky too, and doesn’t use things that don’t work.

-- Think safe, be safe

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jacww

75 posts in 2023 days


#2 posted 11-08-2020 01:47 PM

jklingel,

Isopropyl alcohol is fine for mixing shellac.

I believe that your mistake was not shaking/stirring from the beginning.

Christopher Schwarz has a blog post where he describes using a magnetic stirrer to get the flakes to dissolve. In the comments to that post, Willard Anderson said he uses 99% isopropyl alcohol. It is less expensive than Everclear and is slightly slower to evaporate, making the mix a bit easier to apply.

The blog post can be found here: https://blog.lostartpress.com/2020/07/13/how-i-mix-shellac/

I hope this helps.

TonyC

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Axis39

438 posts in 612 days


#3 posted 11-08-2020 02:31 PM

I use 99% iso for my shellac… I live in SoCal and can’t get Everclear or Denatured.

Only thing different is that it evaporates a little quicker than alcohols with more water in them. But, I think that helps with making it cure quicker and harden up so nice.

From what I’ve read, anything above 80% should work fine. I’ve used 70% in a pinch, but was nervous about it. It turned out okay, but taking the advice of those who’ve gone before, I will stick with higher percentage stuff.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

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shipwright

8678 posts in 3813 days


#4 posted 11-08-2020 03:53 PM

FWIW the chemistry of alcohols determines their rate of evaporation.
Methanol (methyl hydrate, methyl alcohol) is the fastest and is pretty useless for shellac as it just dries too fast.
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, Everclear, vodka) is slower than methanol and generally accepted as the go-to solvent for shellac.
Isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol) is a little slower yet and will give just a little longer for brush marks to fade. It is also a good solvent for shellac.

I’ve used isopropanol for French polish and find it is at least as good as ethanol, maybe a little more forgiving.

It must however be at least 99% pure.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese! http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

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Bob5103

194 posts in 1849 days


#5 posted 11-08-2020 03:58 PM

To avoid the clumps I use an old coffee/spice grinder that I borrowed from my wife. After I weigh the flakes I grind them and and then mix. It dissolves immediately with very little residue at the bottom. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of alcohol.

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jklingel

194 posts in 2172 days


#6 posted 11-08-2020 04:52 PM

Many thanks for all the replies! I have read of the coffee grinder, but am not going to go whole-hog until I see if I like shellac. I have the feeling I will, as it seems easy to apply and I really don’t like fighting dust nibs, etc.That is why I like tung oil. PS: Sorry to hear about the guy with the hair problem. That is weird. j

View iminmyshop's profile

iminmyshop

371 posts in 3009 days


#7 posted 11-09-2020 04:16 AM

I use Shellac with isopropyl alcohol and grind the flakes before mixing. I shake frequently but it still gels by the next morning at the bottom. No problem. Keep shaking. It just takes a day or two to fully mix.
As an aside, if you are just starting out with shellac, get the right kind of brush. It will make a world of difference. I use a Taklon.
Good luck

-- http://www.alansfinewoodworking.com/

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shipwright

8678 posts in 3813 days


#8 posted 11-09-2020 04:24 AM

+1 on Taklon brushes. They cost a couple of bucks but last a very long time and are just amazing to use!

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese! http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

6902 posts in 1597 days


#9 posted 11-09-2020 04:42 AM

I’m still using DNA, mostly from the hardware store. It’s easier to get then isopropyl, at least during COVID times. And I move pretty fast when finishing with shellac. Fast drying is one of the big reasons it’s my favorite finish.

But then I also use a chip-brush for applying most of my shellac (at least when using it as a bulk finish, such as on my bookcases), and find that works fine, too. I get about 20 cases per chip brush. Not amazing, but I haven’t found anything better either…

I use a magnetic stirrer. Each bookcase takes about a salsa jar of shellac (12-14 oz capacity, 2oz of flakes, so about a 1.5# cut), so I have two jars going at all times. One that I’m using and one that’s on the stirrer getting mixed up for the next case in line.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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jklingel

194 posts in 2172 days


#10 posted 11-09-2020 04:53 AM

OK. I will check on the Taklon brush. As for isopropyl being hard to get, we just ordered a gallon of 99.9% from Amazon two days ago. I was surprised they would ship it here, but we have not heard anything to negate my belief that it is “in the mail”. I will Google “chip brush”, too.

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Rich

6609 posts in 1605 days


#11 posted 11-09-2020 05:55 AM

.

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

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Andre

4308 posts in 2821 days


#12 posted 11-09-2020 06:41 AM

For the little I use, the Shellac thinner that Lee Valley sells has worked fantastic. I usually just apply with white cotton rag.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

7254 posts in 1589 days


#13 posted 11-09-2020 09:52 AM


Sorry to hear about the guy with the hair problem. That is weird. j

- jklingel

He’s a bit out there as is. But he did quit using Shellac to trial other finishes, and darned if he didn’t get hair back, little patches anyway. He decided to go back to Shellac, poof, bald again. :-)

I’m with Andre, lint free cotton rag to apply, you’re gonna knock it down with some fine sandpaper/steel wool anyhow, if you do get a nub, it’ll be gone.

-- Think safe, be safe

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splintergroup

4715 posts in 2238 days


#14 posted 11-09-2020 03:46 PM

I love shellac, but I mostly spray it. Gallon cans of isopropyl for me. You can use the quart bottles from the pharmacy, but get the “pure” stuff (99%), the lower grades are thinned with glycerine which will cause all sorts of issues.

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jklingel

194 posts in 2172 days


#15 posted 11-09-2020 04:25 PM


He s a bit out there as is. But he did quit using Shellac to trial other finishes, and darned if he didn t get hair back, little patches anyway. He decided to go back to Shellac, poof, bald again. :-)

I m with Andre, lint free cotton rag to apply, you re gonna knock it down with some fine sandpaper/steel wool anyhow, if you do get a nub, it ll be gone.

- therealSteveN

I wonder if it was the methanol. It is hard to believe rubbing alc would be that effective, but who knows?

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