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JOEL Joel's Blog

Brooklyn Tool & Craft Shellac


Brooklyn Tool & Craft Shellac 4After the fiasco last year with shellac that would not dissolve we changed our packaging and things are much better. However we are still tossing some bags of shellac over the summer - because we don't have cold storage. We do test what we have, and I haven't heard any complaints lately but we are out of stock on Blond and Super Blond and we won't get more of that until the fall when it's cooler.

The best place to get flake shellac right now might be at along with a few other dealers. We have introduced a new brand Brooklyn Tool & Craft for all our products we regularly wholesale and Woodcraft is our largest shellac retailer. As we run out of shellac we will be restocking with BT&C Tiger flakes, which, along with the rest of the BT&C shellac have our latest innovations on preserving shelf life of the flakes. We are using better bags and desiccants to help with longevity. Also, most importantly, our shellac is shipped from either Germany or India is refrigerated containers. It seems to work, but experiments and improvements will continue. Woodcraft's main warehouse is storing the shellac in an air conditioned room. Incidentally, waxed shellac seems to last forever in the bag. Dewaxed shellac, which is what we sell, is far more sensitive to moisture. A little clumping doesn't seem to be a problem but at some point your shellac won't dissolve. To aid dissolving the flakes always break them up to smaller bits. Right now I can't tell you any meaningful way to distinguish between a clump of shellac that when broken up won't dissolve versus a clump of shellac that when broken up will dissolve. We are running experiments to understand this better.

Which brings me to our alcohol. The only reason we added alcohol to the BT&C lineup is to complete the line of products. All we really wanted to do was offer an anhydrous denatured alcohol. Anhydrous - or water free alcohol dissolves the shellac marginally faster, leaves a harder finish, and dries faster. However when we started doing tests we also realized that other alcohols for shellac on the market are a mixture of (mostly)Ethanol, Methanol, Isopropal alcohol, along with a denaturant. The latter is a trace chemical so that if you drink the stuff you get sick and that lowers the tax rate on the stuff. However if your alcohol contains anything other than Ethanol the denaturant is the least of your problems. Drinking any methanol can be deadly and breathing the fumes isn't a great idea. Remember however for all alcohol products to wear gloves, avoid breathing the vapor, and work in a well ventilated area. (see the SDS label for more information)
In the literature we could find on alcohol for shellac, pure denatured ethanol of at least 190 proof was recommended. When we discussed this with our alcohol supplier they gave us a sample of what they call 200 proof denatured, anhydrous ethanol. Actually it has a 1/2 percent of denaturant in it so technically it's 199 proof but it's called 200 proof. Anyway, I figured it would be a wash in performance but worth selling just to get rid of the 5 or 10 percent of methanol that most denatured alcohols contain. BUT on tests we were shocked to discover that the literature is right!!!! Speed of dissolve was about the same but the finish dried harder, dried faster, had a better sheen, and seemed "less fussy". So it was a no-brainer to offer it. I know a lot of you will say that since our quarts of alcohol are too expensive compared to a gallon from the store - which seems to work fine - there is no point in using pure ethanol. All I suggest is that if you get a chance you should try it. Update - After this entry was written we were informed by our insurance company that stocking large quantities of alcohol in Brooklyn was not permitted. We currently recommend 190 proof Everclear.

In other news another great new product line for BT&C will be reprinting some very valuable classic texts on woodworking. More on that next time....

Join the conversation
07/28/2010 Steve Spear

I don't mix my own shellac, but I do cut the standard 3 lbs mix to about 1 lbs.
I have always used what ever is available at the big box store. Assuming the
benefits of this new stronger mix would be min for me. Do you agree? Thanks.

I don't know on the specific case but it might be worth a test. If you get better results you might be able to use a 2 pound cut, get a little more shellac down faster, and save some time building up finish.

07/29/2010 Andy
Thanks for the update! Sounds like things are looking up. I
work in a biology lab, so when I mix shellac, I use lab grade
"200 proof" ethanol. Actually sounds like the same (199
proof) stuff you described... I can affirm that it works VERY
well! Highly recommended!
07/30/2010 David Gendron
Joel, you never stop surprising me with all the efforts you put into getting the best products into the woodworkers hands!!
Thank you!
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