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Thread: Shellac containers?

  1. #1
    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Shellac containers?

    I was thinking the other day... what do you all use for shellac containers?

    I've had trouble getting something that seals well at times. I know that sounds silly (just close the jar, right?) but many jars have got gunked up with shellac residue and no longer close properly, leading to potential poisoning of the air in my workshop with some fumes. I also tried using a jar which had a rubber seal but that degraded and was even worse.

    For shape, the best jars I've found which I have to hand are pickle jars (not pickles as in pickled cucumbers, we call those gherkins!). These jars have a wider bottom which makes it much harder to accidentally knock over whilst still having easy access to rags, brushes etc. (this post not sponsored by Branston!):
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusepo View Post
    I was thinking the other day... what do you all use for shellac containers?

    I've had trouble getting something that seals well at times. I know that sounds silly (just close the jar, right?) but many jars have got gunked up with shellac residue and no longer close properly, leading to potential poisoning of the air in my workshop with some fumes.
    :
    Does that mean you’re using denatured (methanol containing) alcohol to mix shellac, or are buying pre-mixed? That would be poisonous. I’ve read many times here that it also isn’t best for finish, and the folks here use (taxable, therefore expensive) high-proof ethanol.
    I think that where you are, methanol commercially goes by ‘spirits’, and also don’t know the laws on ingredient disclosures. Things are remarkably lax in the US.

  3. #3
    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Does that mean you’re using denatured (methanol containing) alcohol to mix shellac, or are buying pre-mixed? That would be poisonous. I’ve read many times here that it also isn’t best for finish, and the folks here use (taxable, therefore expensive) high-proof ethanol.
    I think that where you are, methanol commercially goes by ‘spirits’, and also don’t know the laws on ingredient disclosures. Things are remarkably lax in the US.
    I use 'methylated spirits' - it's a denatured alcohol mixed with some other additives including a bright purple dye to prevent people drinking it, It's sold for industrial uses and camping stoves. According to https://www.chemicals.co.uk/blog/wha...ylated-spirits , the additives are methanol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone and isobutyl ketone.

    As for it being poisonous, I regard any alcohol in the air in my workshop as poisonous, and make sure to keep the area well ventilated when shallacking or do it outside when weather permits. I don't want to be breathing in those fumes! Does regular alcohol give off the same fumes? I don't know, I don't drink alcohol, but judging from the smell it does?
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Yikes! As best I recall from building fiberglass kayaks in the '70s & '80, methyl ethyl ketone ("MEK") was an accelerator/hardener mixed into the liquid resin, and VERY nasty stuff. The few times that I accidentally got it on my fingers, the outer layer of skin would turn to white ash pretty quickly. By comparison, my best recollection is that alcohol, of whatever type, is relatively friendly!
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Please, please, please: at least look at wikipedia on methanol toxicity, and also the other ingredients. If that isn’t compelling, ask a doctor.
    You don’t want to breathe those vapors, or get the liquid on your skin, even small amounts, and you’re obviously consistently working.
    One brand I checked here was over 50% methanol.
    Pure ethanol: fumes yes, and flammable too, but it isn’t going to blind you, even if you drink some.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    My wife uses urine specimen cups for her leather edge paints. They keep things well sealed, and if you mix up a lot of different colors it's handy for that. Something like these:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hemoton-Dis...6252183&sr=8-3

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Yikes! As best I recall from building fiberglass kayaks in the '70s & '80, methyl ethyl ketone ("MEK") was an accelerator/hardener mixed into the liquid resin, and VERY nasty stuff. The few times that I accidentally got it on my fingers, the outer layer of skin would turn to white ash pretty quickly. By comparison, my best recollection is that alcohol, of whatever type, is relatively friendly!
    You confuse the MEK the solvent with MEK-peroxide which was used as catalyst for polymerization. MEK is similar to acetone in it's functions and level of nastiness.
    I prefer bioethanol used as fuel for fireplaces. Mine is 99.9+% ethanol and trace amount of bitrex (denatonium benzoate) and MEK (something like 20 grams per 1000 liters of pure ethanol)
    Back to OP. I also use similar canning jars for varnishes shellac etc. We have unlimited supply (so much food is bought in these) of many sizes and shapes.
    Adrian

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  10. #8
    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    My wife uses urine specimen cups for her leather edge paints. They keep things well sealed, and if you mix up a lot of different colors it's handy for that. Something like these:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hemoton-Dis...6252183&sr=8-3
    Interesting, thanks! I thought I'd read somewhere that it has to be glass because plastic would degrade with the alcohol?

    P.S. At first I read that as 'My wife uses urine specimen cups for her leather edge pants' and was very confused
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    I would think canning jars would work well. I worked in the hazardous materials cleanup business for twenty five years and have experience learning about the toxicity of chemicals. All of the chemicals used should have a materials safety data sheet (MSDS). They are available on the web. If you can get it ethyl alcohol is much less toxic than what you are using.
    Also, how does the purple dye effect the color of the shellac?

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    I would think canning jars would work well. I worked in the hazardous materials cleanup business for twenty five years and have experience learning about the toxicity of chemicals. All of the chemicals used should have a materials safety data sheet (MSDS). They are available on the web. If you can get it ethyl alcohol is much less toxic than what you are using.
    Also, how does the purple dye effect the color of the shellac?
    Thanks for the idea. The purple dye doesn't affect the colour (if it did that'd be a huge issue of course).
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    I swiped a few canning jars from my wife and they seem to work well. THey are the kind with the 2 piece lids so if a lid gets gunked up they are easily replaced. THey can only be used once for canning so we have several laying around.
    Thanks a lot
    Bob Schmidt

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    You confuse the MEK the solvent with MEK-peroxide which was used as catalyst for polymerization.
    Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, it's no longer a likely thing for me!
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    In my state, I can buy the good Everclear. Never had a problem with it. And if I want I can spill a bit in my cup and not worry about poisoning. Am I the only one who uses drinkable alcohol?
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    Jo Dusepo, luthier Dusepo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    In my state, I can buy the good Everclear. Never had a problem with it. And if I want I can spill a bit in my cup and not worry about poisoning. Am I the only one who uses drinkable alcohol?
    I've never seen Everclear for sale in the UK (though can't say I've looked for it) but I think we might have equivalent strength Polish Wodka and Russian Vodka here.
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusepo View Post
    I've never seen Everclear for sale in the UK (though can't say I've looked for it) but I think we might have equivalent strength Polish Wodka and Russian Vodka here.
    Could be. I went to find my bottle of Everclear but it is missing. I doubt anyone in the house drank it but probably put it away somewhere and I have no idea where. What I do know is I have to keep it away from an open flame because it will go boom! 190 proof 95% alcohol. I have been told by some that it isn't good for finish work because the alcohol isn't high enough. I haven't had an issue and I know others that have used it with no issue but most of my work is not instruments, just general woodworking. I certainly don't see why it wouldn't work if it works on other stuff. I am sure someone here will set me straight. At least I hope so! I would say the bigger concern would be how long it is open and how much moisture it takes up. My understanding is other non-consumable alcohols for finishing have additives that help prevent the take up of moisture. The strongest Vodak I have isn't nearly 95% alcohol. Everyone, don't get the wrong idea. I really don't drink much at all but I do cook with a lot of different alcohols. Vodka is some sauces, tequila for some chillis, rum for some deserts, Guinness draught for some stews, JD for some BBQ! Doggone now I'm hungry!

    You could probably get Spirytus over there. 96% alcohol I think.
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Start with cooking up a quart of 2lb cut in a quart spaghetti sauce jar. I let the 2lb cut settle in the fridge. Decant clearest top pours into new Smuckers jelly jars, blending in sandarac and other voodoo. Another two weeks settling before use.

    As with wine and other spirits, storing in the fridge slows oxidation and other chemical reactions and extends usable life span. Also sediments any last traces of wax to the bottom of the jars really well.

    I make a new batch as every build-set approaches finishing and use the old batch for sanding sealer and post-sunburst sealer spray coats.

    Steve

  21. #17

    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    This thread makes me think of an old boss that liked using minced garlic jars for mixing retouch varnish. He didnít wash them out well so his varnish always reeked of old garlic. Most of us thought he did it so no one would use his varnish.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Just to settle any differences in terminology between folks living in different places:

    Everclear is 190 proof [or 95%] pure grain ethyl alcohol [ethanol]. It is not available in all states in the US.
    Golden Grain is the same thing.

    In the US, denatured alcohol is usually methyl alcohol [methanol] with various additives. The additives vary from brand to brand.

    In my old 19th century British book on violin making, the alcohol used in varnish making is referred to as "spirits of wine." I suspect that at that time, they were referring to ethyl alcohol similar in grade to Everclear or Golden Grain.

    MEK in any form is pretty toxic stuff. So is acetone. Yes, there are other things that are much worse, but I suggest avoiding regular exposure to either MEK or acetone.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-21-2021 at 10:28pm.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    A question. Isn't nail polish remover acetone? Am I missing something there?

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    A question. Isn't nail polish remover acetone? Am I missing something there?
    Yep it is!
    I am a luthier specialising in historical and world stringed instruments. You can see more info at my website.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    A question. Isn't nail polish remover acetone? Am I missing something there?
    Yes, and it alco contains traces amount of MEK :-) (at least what I have here) because it is contains acetone and ethanol (probably denatured)

    Many things are toxic and you shuold look also how much of the bad stuff your chemicals contain. I've seen some US denatured alcoholds that were mostly methanol and other nasty stuff.
    What I buy is 99.9+% pure anhydrous ethanol and trace amounts of MEK and Denatonium benzoate (confirmed from producer MSDS and personal questions) .
    I can say that I have not seen shelac go bad since I started using this stuff. I have bottles I mixed 3-4 years ago that still work like new. This alcohol is DIRT CHEAP! I paid less than 2 EUR per liter last time I bought some.
    I used to use 95% alcohol from pharmacy (drinkable and expensive like everclear in US), 95% denatured alcohol from pharmacy (95% ethanol plus added gasoline, no MEK or Denatonium) less expensive, hard to get these days (they mostly stock 60% stuff)... All this stuff contained water and perhaps that's the reason why shellac does bad afer some time.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    I'm liking my TrueOil more and more.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    A Bulleit rye whisky bottle with a cork. Cork seals very well. The small neck is the perfect diameter to dispense the right amount on the muneca. I just pour out what I need from the bottle if I'm using it for spraying or other non FP applications.

  31. #24

    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    A question. Isn't nail polish remover acetone? Am I missing something there?
    Historically, it has been acetone. Although I wouldn’t drink it, and it really dries out the skin, it’s nothing like methanol in terms of toxicity. In my career, which involved building and using very ‘clean’ scientific equipment, wallowing in acetone to the point of passing out was standard practice. Some of the other solvents, however, were really bad actors, and industry notably shifted from one to another every few years. As a car guy, I have great respect for gasoline, and the huge benzene content, and really try to avoid contact. Even today, I tend to look for an MSDS on new products, because government oversight is laughable. If the MSDS reads ‘proprietary’, that is, undisclosed, I’m especially wary.
    My unscientific notiion is that if something can dissolve grease, it can dissolve me.

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    Default Re: Shellac containers?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Yes, and it alco contains traces amount of MEK :-) (at least what I have here) because it is contains acetone and ethanol (probably denatured)

    Many things are toxic and you shuold look also how much of the bad stuff your chemicals contain. I've seen some US denatured alcoholds that were mostly methanol and other nasty stuff.
    What I buy is 99.9+% pure anhydrous ethanol and trace amounts of MEK and Denatonium benzoate (confirmed from producer MSDS and personal questions) .
    I can say that I have not seen shelac go bad since I started using this stuff. I have bottles I mixed 3-4 years ago that still work like new. This alcohol is DIRT CHEAP! I paid less than 2 EUR per liter last time I bought some.
    I used to use 95% alcohol from pharmacy (drinkable and expensive like everclear in US), 95% denatured alcohol from pharmacy (95% ethanol plus added gasoline, no MEK or Denatonium) less expensive, hard to get these days (they mostly stock 60% stuff)... All this stuff contained water and perhaps that's the reason why shellac does bad afer some time.
    Just what went bad using the 95%? Solidified l, went rancid smelling, wouldn’t dry? I haven’t ever kept any long enough see the affects? I do now wonder where I could get some 99.9!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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