Traditional Varnish

Plates need to be varnished, at least if you want them to last for quite a bit and at first I used Liquitex varnish which is a contemporary method. I don’t like it. It smells bad, sticks like a mad man and I could not get it to flow over the plate easily. Carl mentioned I should try and heat up the stuff “au-bain-marie-style” and haven’t tried that yet but decided to buy the traditional varnish anyway.

This varnish consists of a mixture of Sandarac which is a resin from a North African conifer, Ethanol and Spike Oil. Spike oil is a lavender oil and (obviously) smells really pleasant. Even the Sandarac smells really good on its own. The formula used is the following:

400 mL Ethanol
60 gr Sandarac
40 mL Spike Oil

First you have to grind the Sandarac, it comes in a crystalized shape, until it’s a powder. Then you have to dissolve it in Ethanol. When that has taken place add the spike oil and filter, filter, filter until it’s absolutely clean. The sandarac can come with residues from the tree, small animals etc. Filtering these out is very important!

Some photos (nvm the iPhone “qual”):


From l.t.r.: a Mortar, the jar with the grinded Sandarac, the sieve and the original package of Sandarac
From l.t.r.: a Mortar, the jar with the grinded Sandarac, the sieve and the original package of Sandarac
Sandarac mixed with Ethanol, still dissolving
Sandarac mixed with Ethanol, still dissolving

I’ll post how it looks when dissolved tomorrow. I wish I could post its smell 😉



  1. Hi Indra,

    there is no need to grind the sandarac.
    Just put the larger parts with the lavender oil and the ethanol in one bottle.
    The sandarac will disolve within a half an hour.
    just give it a try.

    BTW i LOVE the smell !!


  2. hi indra thanks for all the infos.. i like your guides and blog a great help! which Ethanol are you using? (i’m in the uk) cheers

    1. Hi Kurt,

      Apologies for the late reply..

      I use 96% Ethanol, denatured with Methanol. This Methanol addition makes the stuff poisonous so you can’t make booz from it. Makes it a lot cheaper to buy.


      1. thank you for letting me know appreciated!

        i bought 99.9% just to be on the safe side, but next time will try the 96%. thanks

      2. 99,9% has more water in it (ethanol contains water) than the 96% that’s why with the 96% version I add a little bit more water to get the salts dissolved.

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