All Replies on Finish or not to finish the inside of drawers?

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View Pete DeSimas's profile

Finish or not to finish the inside of drawers?

by Pete DeSimas
posted 02-08-2011 09:05 AM

25 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3848 days

#1 posted 02-08-2011 02:05 PM

Pete, this discussion has come up several times and the consensus seems to be about a 50:50 mix on finishing drawers. I am with the group that finish all surfaces but a number of others do not apply finish to the insides/sides of the drawers. So I guess that this is largely a personal decision in that there are no absolute right or wrongs here.

Here is one forum discussion on the topic.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4154 days

#2 posted 02-08-2011 02:54 PM

Repeated from other discussions:

“I have a house full of real antique furniture and none of my pieces have fully finished drawers.
I’ve done furniture restoration and repair for more than 40 years and it’s the same story.
Occasionally I’ll see a piece that has minimal finish on the inside of drawers, such as a little stain and shellac.

I generally use a little shellac to seal the unseen parts of any drawers that I make.
If I color the wood, I use a water-based dye not an oil-based stain.

Avoid multiple coats of finish, especially oil-based products.
It could make the drawers stick and the smell will linger for a long time.”

-- 温故知新

View ChrisForthofer's profile


150 posts in 3093 days

#3 posted 02-08-2011 05:07 PM

I would just do a coat of shelac, one pound cut. Just something to seal the wood. I poly’d drawers in one of my first pieces and regret it, dust nibs and all sorts of hard to reach corners. Gives me nightmares just thinking about it. (kidding)


-- -Director of slipshod craftsmanship and attention deficit woodworking

View Carl Webster's profile

Carl Webster

82 posts in 2825 days

#4 posted 02-08-2011 05:35 PM

I have been around a long time and all the factory produced furniture I have seen is never finished inside the drawers.

-- Carl in SC

View Mgiannetto's profile


1 post in 2717 days

#5 posted 02-08-2011 06:07 PM

I always finish the inside of my drawers with two quick coats of dewaxed shellac and a quick coat of clear wax. I hate finishing as much as the next person but my thought is if you are going to spend all this time building your piece, finish it to the best of your ability. It really doesnt take much time and the end result is much nicer to the touch!

good luck

View meestajack's profile


33 posts in 2698 days

#6 posted 02-08-2011 09:58 PM

I’ve noticed that poly finish on one side of a piece of wood can cause cupping as moisture migrates more slowly through the finish than the ‘open’ wood grain, so that may be a consideration depending on your design.

View Broglea's profile


685 posts in 3117 days

#7 posted 02-08-2011 10:19 PM

The few dressers I’ve made did get finish on the drawers. Simply becasue I thought it was a waste of my time and material. Who looks inside drawers to see if they are finished or not anyways?

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3689 days

#8 posted 02-08-2011 10:34 PM

I asked this question last night of the instructor in a woodworking class I am taking at the local tech school. This guy has been in the cabinet and furniture making business for 30+ years.

His advice: Shoot the unstained draw boxes, dust frames, etc. with a coat of lacquer. He then waxes the wooden drawer slides so they slide easier.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3507 days

#9 posted 02-08-2011 10:40 PM

One thing worth considering, is the use of the drawers. If you plan to put things in them that can cause marks, stains, or spills, then it might help to seal the inside. I think many high production cabinet shops dont finish the inside simply because of time and cost. I have drawers in cabinets in my kitchen and bedroom that the kids put crayons and ink pens etc in and I wish they would have been sealed because its nearly impossible to get the stains and marks out. I also find its easier to dust and clean the insides of the drawers if they are sealed.

In my own shop, I tend to stain the inside of the drawers as well to match the outside, but thats just me :-)

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3024 days

#10 posted 02-08-2011 11:48 PM

If you can find a non smelling poly, maybe ?
I look at it this way, a Home handyman or carpenter will finish the inside of drawers , a real cabinet maker won’t !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Alongiron's profile


647 posts in 2720 days

#11 posted 02-08-2011 11:52 PM

I guess I would have to say finish them because I always use pre-finished plywood for my drawers as I do for the inside of my cabinets

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View sgtsprout's profile


71 posts in 2797 days

#12 posted 02-09-2011 12:05 AM

I am also getting ready to start a 2 twin bed room set and I will not finish the drawer innards. I just don’t see the point. I am not an experienced woodworker though so take that with a grain of salt.

-- "There are no gains without pains." -Benjamin Franklin

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3507 days

#13 posted 02-09-2011 12:14 AM

My great grandfather was a German cabinetmaker from the late 1800s. I have a number of his pieces in my home…they look like Ethan Allen furniture and the drawers are all finished on the inside. My grandfather was a Danish cabinetmaker and I have one of his pieces, and its stained on the inside, but no shellac, so some cabinetmakers from way back did finish them.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3800 days

#14 posted 02-09-2011 02:30 AM

I finish my drawers the same way I finish the cabinet. Two coats of poly and apply two coats of paste wax with #0000 steel wool.

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3095 days

#15 posted 02-09-2011 05:38 AM

If I’m restoring or rehabing, I go with whatever is already there (i.e. finished or unfinished). For new work, I use prefinished baltic birch ply. It saves me a ton of time since the drawers are ready to go as soon as I make them. On a kitchen last year, the drawers sat in the customers house for two weeks while the finish guy did his thing.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View DraftsmanRick's profile


112 posts in 3087 days

#16 posted 02-09-2011 05:57 AM

PETE!!!!!!!!! Listen, it depends on what you mean by “finish” but if you mean stain/poly that kind of thing…NO DONT TO IT! Your drawers will smell for YEARS. Now, if you want to “finish” your drawers in such a way as to just keep the thermal expansion and contraction its simple. USE SHELLAC! It dries very quickly, slows down the thermal movement and it flashs off “meaning no smell” in a couple of hrs which also means you can apply several coats in a single day. And its easy to apply, rag, foam brush, whatever. You can also use it to help stop bloching with cherry and other blotch prone woods. Oh, almost forgot, get the “dewaxed” shellac. You can get it at lowes/home depot.

-- Jesus was a carpenter

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3024 days

#17 posted 02-09-2011 10:02 PM

I think the unfinished drawer probably started back before any drawer hardware was available. Wood slid on wood. We were taught in our cabinet school not to finish because paint or stain would not slide well, all they wanted us to do was coat the part of drawer that touches other wood with candle wax. TODAYS world of melamines and drawer hardware is doesn’t matter if the drawer is finished. An example would be melamine kithen cabinets , it would only make sense to have the drawers finished. On your dresser drawer it depends on what lumber you are using for the drawers. Really the choice is yours.
(I didn’t mean to offend anyone by the real cabinet maker comment I previously made. I apologize if I did)

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2720 days

#18 posted 02-09-2011 10:24 PM

Count me as a 50:50 dewaxed shellac:denatured EtOH guy. Beeswax on sliding surfaces.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View nate22's profile


475 posts in 2902 days

#19 posted 02-09-2011 10:55 PM

Pete it is up to you if you would want the insides done. Like I do drawers for underneath beds and I only do the outsides of them. But it is up to you want you want to do with them.

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

View CampD's profile


1675 posts in 3513 days

#20 posted 02-09-2011 11:10 PM

Kitchen and Bath Cabinet drawers, Yes, the location their in warrants it.
Furniture IE: chest of drawers, no!
I also like to stain them to match the exterior wood, JMO.

-- Doug...

View Pete DeSimas's profile

Pete DeSimas

15 posts in 2697 days

#21 posted 02-10-2011 04:44 AM

Thank all for the information to think over. I still have a about 6 weeks before I start my project and I will continue to research it.

-- Pete DeSimas - Rhode Island

View WoodSpanker's profile


519 posts in 3418 days

#22 posted 02-15-2011 10:19 PM

Well sir… my $0.02 worth would be this: Ask the owner of the piece. When you make YOURS, do it however you want. If it is for the wife, or for you both to share, ask HER what SHE would like. Everyone is happy, and it keeps marital bliss. If she doesn’t like it later, then make her new drawers! hahahaha.

-- Adventure? Heh! Excitement? Heh! A Woodworker craves not these things!

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2803 days

#23 posted 02-15-2011 10:27 PM

I use bees wax or carnuba wax on the outsides of the drawers and moving edges – if there is no drawer hardware – wood on wood moving surfaces. Insides have no finish as a rule.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Viddy's profile


3 posts in 1475 days

#24 posted 09-22-2014 02:32 AM

any advice on how to get into the corners of drawers with stain, or a better question is how to get the extra stain off the wood after application?

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3068 days

#25 posted 09-22-2014 05:28 AM

I put in a spray bottle, lightly spray it, and then use a dry sponge brush to wipe it around. Then just use a cloth to get it cleaned up the rest of the way. Also, stain it with the bottom out and it will be a lot easier.

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