Finishing drawers?

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Forum topic by zlatanv posted 01-23-2010 05:44 AM 6178 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View zlatanv's profile


691 posts in 3233 days

01-23-2010 05:44 AM

I am building a wooded legal size file cabinet and am wondering about finishing the drawers. I don’t think I will in this build, but I have an entertainment center coming up with two drawers and not sure if I should finish those or not. Most are made of 1/2 in ply birch or oak and edge banded the seen edges.

Does anyone finish your drawers with any sealers or anything else and on what type of projects would you seal or completely finish the drawers with multiple coats of a finish?

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

12 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3821 days

#1 posted 01-23-2010 01:58 PM

This topic comes up periodically and basically you will get an even split on whether to finish the drawers or not. I prefer to stain and finish all surfaces including the drawers. I will usually just use whatever topcoat I am using for the visible surfaces to finish out the drawers.

But an equal number of members do not put any finish on their drawers for a variety of valid reasons. So I guess it really comes down to a personal decision as to whether to finish them or not and to what level they are finished. There are pieces of antique furniture that were built without finishing the drawers that have withstood the test of time but I just prefer the integrated look that finishing the drawers gives to the project. It is a little more work, but then I am a glutton for punishment who happens to enjoy the finishing process. :)

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

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3666 days

#2 posted 01-23-2010 02:46 PM

I think following the idea that its not seen so don’t spend time finishing it is kind of a lazy approach to working. If thats the plan then why finish the backs of doors or the underside of any overhangs, or even sand them for that matter. If nothing else wipe on some oil or something. The only time I would even consider not finishing a drawers interior is if it were cedar or some other wood which benefited from staying raw.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View G_Bishop's profile


58 posts in 3046 days

#3 posted 01-23-2010 02:53 PM

When It comes to drawers, I don’t necessarily stain them but I do spray a couple coats of poly on them or rub an oil finish on them.

-- ---- Jack of all Trades, Master of None ----

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4127 days

#4 posted 01-23-2010 03:04 PM

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 Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3428 days

#5 posted 01-23-2010 03:58 PM

I’ve done it all three ways. Gotta agree with Randy about the smells. Shellac is your friend.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3773 days

#6 posted 01-23-2010 05:58 PM

I finish my drawers the same as the cabinet itself. Two coats of poly and apply wax with 000 steel wool. I also keep my drawers natural even if the cabinet is stained. Thanks for asking.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3285 days

#7 posted 01-23-2010 07:44 PM

I agree with Tom, I always finish my drawers. I don’t stain them anymore (I used to) because I feel they look better longer with a natural finish, espescially in kitchen cabinets where utensils will scratch stain. I generally finish with lacquer, so it’s not hard to spray inside the drawers. The smell doesn’t last too long either.


View zlatanv's profile


691 posts in 3233 days

#8 posted 01-23-2010 10:00 PM

Thanks all, will probably go with a couple of coats of shellac just to seal them. This is a copy of a cabinet the guy already has and he wanted a replica, that one didn’t have finished drawers. I have usually cut drawer sides to depth and then finished them and the bottoms with 3 coats of poly then cut to size and and add groove for bottom and assembled them, seems easier than to finish assembled drawer. The smell does linger for a while, so will probably try something new.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View Bob Areddy's profile

Bob Areddy

192 posts in 3401 days

#9 posted 01-23-2010 10:38 PM

I think it depends on what finish you’re putting on it. I’ve finished the insides of drawers before with Tung Oil, and the stink has lasted for 4 years because there’s no air circulation around it.

-- --Bob

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4099 days

#10 posted 01-23-2010 10:54 PM

I have finished all of my drawers to date, but it is a personal preference and I am aware that many drawers are not finished.

I would not put a film finish on sliding parts. That would be if the drawer had rabbets on the side that slid on rails, it should not have a film finish that may be caused to peel off. An oil and wax finish would better.

I use pre-catalyzed and post-catalyzed lacquers and varnishes and a lingering odor has not been a problem.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3675 days

#11 posted 01-23-2010 11:41 PM

Some women can smell a mouse fluctuate next door, so I would be concerned about the smell of the finish in dresser drawers impregnating their clothes. Just because you can’t smell it, doesn’t mean others can’t.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View zlatanv's profile


691 posts in 3233 days

#12 posted 01-24-2010 03:19 AM

This is for a two drawer hanging file cabinet with heavy duty ball bearing slides. Haven’t used lacquers before but sounds like a good option.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

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