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Grain alcohol vs. denatured alcohol


Woodland
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If by grain alcohol you mean Everclear then it had better be less toxic since people mix drinks with it. Grain alcohol is more expensive because it is non-poisonous and therefore is heavily taxed. Denatured alcohol has poisons added to it to make it non-drinkable and exempt from alcohol taxes. I'd like to think that if Everclear is drinkable then it should be pretty safe in varnish. I haven't used it myself but a lot of guitar makers who french polish their guitars say that Everclear is the best shellac solvent to use so I'd bet that it will work anywhere that denatured alcohol works.

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Everclear is about 75-80 ethanol. I wonder what the water content in denatured alcohol. You could theoretically get grain alcohol at 95% purity but I would not know where in the States one could buy it. I am sure this can be found other countries and would make an excellent solvent(an some very strong lemoncello)

Mike

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I've got a bottle of Everclear on my shelf which says it's 95% ethanol, so I'm not sure where the 75-80 is coming from. I bought it at a grocery store in the liquor aisle here in Arizona. In New Hampshire I had to go to the state-run liquor store, and it was a different brand than Everclear, but it was likewise 95% ethanol.

Woodland, if you search through the archives here there are other threads talking about this, where posters talked of horrific nervous system damage that has either been done to them or someone they know by breathing in lots of denatured alcohol. Since reading those threads I haven't touched the stuff unless I was outside so the fumes could just blow away. Hence the Everclear.

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Ethanol precipitates water, therefore 100% ethanol is difficult to

come by. I was told that Everclear is 150 proof, meaning it's 25%

water, so the 75-80% ethanol would be accurate. I would imagine

that Everclear has a high water content because the makers don't

take many steps to keep air away from the ethanol, and so the water

content builds up.

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190 proof Everclear (or equivalent brand) works even better than denatured. I've used it exclusively for french polishing and touchup varnish for years. I can't seem to keep it off my fingers, so I'm relieved to know that I am not poisoning myself (it goes right through your skin you know). It's not that much more expensive when you consider how far it goes. I don't use it in my alcohol lamp, though!

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Personally I have never made the attempt, but, here in Oregon, it is not only quite legal to set up a still, and make your own ethanol, the government will send you a free brochure on how to do it safely. How pure your ethanol turns out depends on to what degree of sophistication you want to attain. You can produce fuel-grade ethanol quite easily, whatever "proof" that may be.

The limitations are in quantity and destination. If it is less than (some number) of gallons per year, AND for your personal use only, they have no problem with it. Go beyond, and their attitude will change drastically.

For the amount one would use as a luthier, though, I'm not sure it is worth the trouble. Varnish is the only use I would have for it, and it seems to me a rather expensive way to produce solvent. Now, if a group of luthiers worked together to produce a year's supply for all, it might be worthwhile, I suppose. But I don't know how the law looks at that...

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There are several types of stills (or so I'm told). A pot still can only get you to 40% or so, A still with a refractory tower with baffles or a second cold water coil can get you 90% alchohol right off the bat. Since the first 10% called the heads, needs to get tossed as undrinkable this can be used for shellac and shop stuff. It's not poisonous to breath it's just kind of funky. The rest can be used to make the best lemoncello imaginable since the oil in the peels comes all the way out with strong alchohol ( or so I'm told).

The French bow making tradition is sarurated with the liberal application of distilled mirabel plum eau de vie (or so I'm told).

http://www.revenoor.ihtmlcom/faq.

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Mother Earth News magazine ran an article on the subject, specifically for producing fuel-- as I recall, it was using a tower filled with glass marbles for the distillation process, but as I didn't feel like trying it, that's about all I remember.

I don't think the lesser percentages would make good fuel in an automotive application, which was the stated intent of the article, so I reckon they must have been drawing off pretty potent juice.

With all the current emphasis on "bio-fuels", I expect there are even more publications available, and as long as you are ONLY using it for fuel or solvent, and not producing thousands of gallons, and selling them to your neighbors in mason quart-jars, I think you would be unmolested by the ATF crew here...they would help you fine-tune it, most likely.

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If you make it for fuel legally, you have to get a permit AND you have to add methanol or other denaturant, which makes it comparable to the paint store stuff. Your operation is subject to random inspection by ATF, although you could probably get by with hiding a little of the 95%.

Alcohol does not "precipitate" water, but can absorb a little. You can't get 100% ethanol by simple distillation because 96% boils at a lower temperature than 100%. The typical method for absolute (100%) alcohol involves adding benzene, which forms an azeotrope with water that boils either higher or lower, I don't remember which, than the alcohol. Personally, I don't use enough of the denatured to worry about it.

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in terms of legailty of a still; in many places its illegal to manufacture your own alcohol, but if you buy it, and use the still to refine it or to remove toxins, I wonder is that still (pun) illegal?

Several times I've poured bad wine into a large saucepan, placed a small pot on a brick in the centre, and covered the thing with a large iced-water-filled bowl. Heat the saucepan, the alcohol condenses onto the bowl and drips into the small pot. The first shots to come through are very pure, and it gets progressively more dilute and "tasty(!)" as the process continues. But its better and more fun than tipping the wine down the sink.

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