Finishing an Armoire

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by DonDA posted 10-21-2009 12:26 AM 2076 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DonDA's profile


169 posts in 3260 days

10-21-2009 12:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing armoire staining

I am building a cherry armoire for my daughter. It has an upper section with 2 doors and lower section with 4 drawers; and I have the case for the lower section done and dry-fit. I have 3 questions –
1. – Should I leave the inside of the armoire completely unfinished? I built a chest of drawers for my fly-tying materials and every time I open one of the drawers I can smell the finish even though it’s been 6 months. But, it is getting better. Any suggestions?
2. If the inside is left unfinished, where does one stop with the stain? I planned on doing all the drawer rails and stop there, and for the top- finsh both sides of the doors but not the inside.
3. Should I prefinish and stain parts before final assembly and glue up? I just read an article in Fine Woodworking about the virtues of staining before assembly.
I’ve built several pieces of furniture, but never one to store clothes, and not an “heirloom” like this that I’m trying to make as precise as I can as a gift for my daughter.
Thanks for the advice ahead of time.

-- Don, Saginaw Mi

5 replies so far

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3314 days

#1 posted 10-21-2009 02:09 AM

Don, You’ve presented some good questions and I hope some of the other LJer’s will chime in and give their opinions. #1. should you leave the inside completely unfinished? Personally, I’ve never like leaving anything unfinished, but that’s a personal prefrence. I always do the same finish on the interior of any piece of furniture as I do on the exterior. That’s not a written rule by no means, just the way I like to do it. I love the feel of a beautifully finished drawer. As far as the smell, most finishes will gas off for quite a while. The longer you can leave the drawers and doors open before using the better. I don’t notice any odors from any of my dressers, chests, desks, wardrobes, entertainment centers etc. ( It did take a while for it to go away though). The reason I listed all of them is this is some of the funiture I’ve built for my home and we use everyday. #2.Where do you stop with stain? Even though I finish the interiors, very seldom do I stain the inside (unless it’s open shelves or glass doors). I stain stiles and rails and drawer fronts, but leave the drawer box and interior of cabinet unstained. Doors, (both sides) and again the stile and rail, but usuall leave the interior of the cabinet unstained. #3. Should I prefinish or pre stain before assembly? The only draw back to staining or finishing before assembly is you are very limited to what you can sand once it’s assembled.
It’s really your call, and everyone has their own way of doing things. Good luck and hope you will post some pictures for us.
One last question. What stain do you plan on using. I’ve found working with cherry, if I use a med. color stain, the natural cherry will darken with time and blend really well with the stained parts.

-- John @

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3851 days

#2 posted 10-21-2009 02:32 AM

Don, like John I always finish the inside of any cabinet that I build. I assume that you are using oil base poly or other oil base varnish as a finish. It does give off an appreciable odor for a long time. If you want a finish that provides surface protection and is virtually odorless you might want to consider shellac. You can apply multiple coats in a day’s time and it is easily repaired should the necessity arrive. Its biggest drawback is that it does not handle water or alcohol. But that should not be a problem with an armoire.

As far as staining goes I do not stain cherry. But if you are going to then I would stain every part that will be visible with the doors open or closed.

I agree with John about pre-finishing/staining. I usually do this only when necessary such as on the raised panel to prevent it from sticking to the rails and stiles during glue-up. I have found that invariably some form of touch-up is going to be necessary if the piece is stained or finished as I will get some scratches in the surface during handling and assembly. But if you want to do so then you will need to mask off those areas that are going to be in contact with glue since finish will inhibit formation of a glue joint. To me it is just more trouble than it is worth.

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

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 3973 days

#3 posted 10-21-2009 03:20 AM


I agree with John and Scott’s suggestions overall. However, my personal preference is to leave any part of a piece that is unseen or won’t be touched unfinished. Although.. for the inside of drawers, traditional finishes include no finish, shellac or a clear wax. This is to make cleaning the drawers easier and none of these have any smell to them really. Sometimes no finish is helpful, such as when using aromatic cedar for drawer bottoms. I studied a lot of modern “fine” production furniture and antique furniture for my dresser project and I don’t recall seeing any finishes or stains used internally. The undersides of antique or modern tabletops are almost always raw oxidized wood. Traditionally, I suspect this has much to do with reducing the costs of applying finishes. Either way, I don’t think there is any disadvantage, or any advantage to the practice unless your furniture is in a steam room or something drastic. Regardless, this is your work and I think it’s most important that you do what feels right to you. Either way, it’s going to turn out great from the picture you posted. Great question/forum topic and project. Hopefully others chime in.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View DonDA's profile


169 posts in 3260 days

#4 posted 10-21-2009 04:38 AM

Thanks guys for great tips. Now I feel comforable finishing the inside. And I’ll shellac the drawers for a nice feel and finish.

-- Don, Saginaw Mi

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#5 posted 10-21-2009 07:44 AM

Good choice Don

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics