Clear finish with low fumes.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by bdresch posted 03-29-2014 09:46 PM 1602 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View bdresch's profile


155 posts in 2141 days

03-29-2014 09:46 PM

I am building some shelving units out of birch ply that I wanted to finish in clear. It’s too cold out to finish it outside, so I’m looking for sonething that doesn’t give off a ton of fumes. I’ve only ever used oil based poly so I don’t really know what else is out there.

20 replies so far

View Chris208's profile


246 posts in 2803 days

#1 posted 03-29-2014 09:53 PM

Shellac or water based poly.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1908 posts in 2503 days

#2 posted 03-29-2014 11:13 PM

Poly acrylic. Dries fast, very low odor

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4181 days

#3 posted 03-29-2014 11:15 PM

I do not think water based poly works well at less than 65
degrees or so. I’ve been reading up about finishes a bit
lately considering new options since VOC regulations in
my state have become a bit tricky. Shellac works great –
it’s my favorite finish and it will hold up real well on something
like a shelf unit. Topcoat with paste wax.

Shellac has been maligned as lacking durability. Meh. It’s not
as tough as poly for sure, but I shellacked some craftsman
sofas with wide armrests over 10 years ago and in all that
time of people setting drinks on them the finish has some
rings and a bit of raised grain but it’s very minor and only
visible up close. From a few feet away the finish still looks
great all over.

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 3204 days

#4 posted 03-30-2014 01:09 AM

I’ve used water based poly in my shop in the winter when I only keep the temp at 10 degrees (celsius), dries very fast and I like that it leaves a natural look to birch plywood (no yellowing).

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View NiteWalker's profile


2739 posts in 3110 days

#5 posted 03-30-2014 01:19 AM

+1 on water based poly.
I like crystalac from mcfeely’s.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Richard's profile


11307 posts in 3566 days

#6 posted 03-31-2014 06:00 AM

Just like everyone else. Water Based poly. You can even thin it with water if you want it to “Lay Down” better.

They sell it as “Wipe On Poly” for More Bucks. Same thing.

I did one small piece yesterday about 25/30% water. I’ve gone as high as 50%. Worked fine.

One tip if you’ve never used Water based before. DON”T SHAKE IT To Mix. Stir Only.

Otherwise you’ll be trying to apply a “Vanilla Milkshake” with a LOT of Bubbles.

I use Minwax and it dries REALLY FAST. So put it on and do not over brush.

Recoatable in a couple of Hours.

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View Woodknack's profile


12924 posts in 2913 days

#7 posted 03-31-2014 06:13 AM

Blonde shellac if you want to live in the house after, dries in minutes, recoat in minutes. You can be done in the time it takes for one coat of poly to dry.

-- Rick M,

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2980 days

#8 posted 03-31-2014 11:26 AM

I tried to use something different from w/b poly or shellac on a small table so I decided to use an old recipe which is a mixture of tung oil / spar varnish/mineral spirits (25%,25%,50%) plus a capful of Japan dryer.the whole house smelled so bad I had to put the table back in the garage for a week .

I’m back using shellac or w/b poly over fully cured and sanded shellac.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View eruby's profile


79 posts in 3308 days

#9 posted 03-31-2014 11:58 AM

You may want to check out the stuff for sale at target coatings. I have used their EM6000 before and sprayed it on in my basement (with no complaints from anyone upstairs).

-- Eric - Baltimore MD

View bdresch's profile


155 posts in 2141 days

#10 posted 03-31-2014 12:06 PM

I think I am going to go with the water based poly. Since I’ve never used shellac, I don’t want to try it first on something this large. I will probably use the Minwax because I have to stop at Lowes tonight anyways. Thanks for the help.

I am going to build a couple smaller projects this month, maybe I will get my feet wet with shellac on those.

View oldnovice's profile


7504 posts in 3901 days

#11 posted 03-31-2014 05:11 PM

Watch out for shellaced feet as they tend to itch with time!

I used Carver-Tripp water based poly to do two bedroom floors as they had a additive that increased the durability so it could be used on floors and other heavy use items. Virtually no odor, four coats with light sanding and tacking in one morning, applied with a pad, and looked good even after 8 years (we moved at that time)! It looks like skim milk and at first I thought it was a mistake as that is how it looked when first applied but as it dries it turns clear.

Unfortunately Carver-Tripp (a sponser of the New Yankee Workshop) no longer exists as I thought their products were outstanding … maybe that’s why they are no longer around, the competition didn’t want them in the market!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View bdresch's profile


155 posts in 2141 days

#12 posted 04-04-2014 03:18 AM

Ok, I ended up trying shellac. I got a can of the Zinsser Bullseye. Directions on the can said not to thin so for the first coat I didn’t thing, and now I think I may be regretting it. I have a couple runs and some splotchiness after 1 coat. Since reading a bit I think I should have thinned it to a 2# cut. Does it pay to thin it for the second coat? Should I sand in between? My shelving wasn’t that smooth to begin with, I only sanded to 150.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 2383 days

#13 posted 04-04-2014 04:38 AM

The reason that the label tells you not to thin the shellac has everything to do with VOC regulations. Thinning the shellac will take it out of compliance. Having said that, thin the finish with denatured alcohol until you’re happy with how it lays out. The “green police” won’t arrest you (hopefully). A two pound cut would work well, although thinning it even a little more than that, say to a 1.5 pound cut might make application even easier. I recommend that you experiment on scrap to find out what works best for you.

View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 4012 days

#14 posted 04-04-2014 12:10 PM

You will have to thin the Bullseye or it will go on thick and sticky.

I thinned some down about 50/50 with denatured alcohol, use a foam brush and sanded with 400 lightly between coats and got good results.

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View bdresch's profile


155 posts in 2141 days

#15 posted 04-07-2014 11:10 PM

I sanded the first thick coat with 220 and did 4 thin coats (2.0-1.5 cut) wiped on. It still feels a bit rough, should I sand lightly again and try another coat? How many coats should it take at a 2# cut to get a good finish on plywood?

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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