Recipe for Sanding Sealer?

This week’s question comes from a viewer who writes: “I’ve really enjoyed your podcasts, they are all very informative. I recently found myself more exited about woodworking. Though I’ve had an interest since childhood, I never really had the resources, till now (my wife also supports my dream). Anyway, I was watching one of your podcasts and you mentioned a recipe for making your own sanding sealer. Would you mind repeating that on an e-mail, or even easier, remind me what episode I’ll find it. Thank you so much for the added inspiration, though I’m starting later in life than you (36, I know this is going to be a lifelong passion. Once again thanx Marc keep it up!!”

And this was my response:
“You just can’t underestimate the importance of spousal support in something like this. I know far too many people who have to work against the grain just to get a new tool. That doesn’t seem like much fun, lol.”

“As for a sanding sealer, I usually just use shellac. Typically a 1 lb cut. There are two ways to do this. I either buy pre-mixed shellac (Bullseye SealCoat), and dilute it from 2lb cut to 1lb cut. Or I simply but dry shellac flakes and mix my own using denatured alcohol. So its not a true sanding sealer by definition, but it accomplishes the same thing. Oh and just a word about true sanding sealers. In general, they contain material that can interfere with finish adhesion to a small extent. The stuff that makes it easy to sand is the same stuff that can weaken the bond of the finish to the surface. So in general, I stay away from commercial sanding sealers. Shellac on the other hand, provides a great base for just about any finish. Hope that helps.”

Category: Finishing


  1. Claude Stewart November 10, 2008

    Yep Shellac the universal sealer. I don’t think it reacts with anything. Great for creating a base coat in between different types of finishes. Claude

    • We use Bullseye Shellac and thin it out using methyl hydrate. It makes it a bit less gummy and easier to work with.

      Another sealing method that we have used for keeping a stain uniform is white glue. Use 1 part Weldbond glue with 5 parts water. It is a porous sealer so stain will still penetrate the wood but will go on even.

        thewoodwhisperer July 6, 2009

        Very interesting! Im going to have to try that! Thanks.

  2. Jeremy Kriewaldt November 10, 2008

    As you may know, shellac does have a shelf life once it has been mixed with DNA (what Australians and english call methylated spirits). However, you can use out dated mixed shellac as the base for sanding sealer. I cut it down more (add 1 part normal shellac mixture to 4 parts DNA) and use to bring up the grain before final sanding. Then move to normal shellac mixture. So if you need sanding sealer, use your existing shellac mix and mix new shellac to replace it.

  3. Beni November 11, 2008

    You can make your own sanding sealer –
    15% talc powder
    40% varnish
    45% tinner
    (i’m not sure about the quantity – but thouse are the ingredients
    try it – if its to thik – dilute it)

  4. Peter Rhodes November 17, 2008

    OK, maybe I missed a step, but can you explain in a little more detail the ‘1lb cut’ formula – as in how much flake to how much DNA constitutes a 1lb cut – (I’ll do the translation into Australian!) Thanks!


    Hey Peter. 1lb cut simply means 1lb of shellac flakes in one gallon of alcohol. This article will help you greatly:

  6. Peter Rhodes November 18, 2008

    Thanks for the info and link Mark! I have checked out your two new sites – good move to separate the vids in the .tv, and good clear layout. I have been re-watching some of your old videos and wonder where the old jovial Mark has gone, I think the comedian along with the information was what set you apart in the early days, and I think there’s certainly room to bring him back! Let’s put the ‘chuck’ back in chuckle!


    While the show will never be stiff and serious, I can’t always promise it will be funny. More than anything, the show is a reflection of what’s going on in my life. And the past few months have been insanely busy. Ever since IWF in August, its been nonstop. Not to mention I did 12 episodes on the gadget station alone. I did one little skit during that series but as time went on, there was just less and less to laugh about. I think we all wanted to see that project come to a close.

    So worry not , my friend. The funny will come back. But I promised myself from the beginning that i would never force the comedy. Its bad enough as it is. Imagine if I forced it.

  8. Paul ( November 11, 2010

    Firstly – thanks for the great vids… I run a custom one-off business building guitars. I like the forgiving qualities of shellac in general – but I cannot use this unless an amber cast is desired. Have tried many sanding sealers, not to mention sealing with the nitro as well (takes forever). Thing is – neon blue tranparent finishes are desireble with these pieces – so choices are limited. Any ideas for sealer that works well with dyes on smaller production runs? I use dyes, as stains are never anywhere close to the desired colors. Of course, if it’s shellac, I just just go for the classic French rub finish – if abmering is a plus on a natural type of finish …

    Thanks again for the great casts!



  9. Scott December 13, 2011

    Exclusively? I just got geared up for a shellac sealer for a cherry desk. Is there something new that works better?


    Well shellac still works, but yes I do think this stuff works better than shellac.

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