Newbie question re dovetail drawers

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Forum topic by David White posted 08-25-2010 05:37 AM 1566 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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David White

120 posts in 3479 days

08-25-2010 05:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey all,

My next project (my first non shop furniture project) incorporates dovetail drawers. I have always loved the look of dark primary wood drawer fronts contrasting with bight crisp white secondary wood sides, so I’m excited about the challenge ahead.

One question I have is in regard to a finishing strategy. Do you generally apply the finish to the drawer sides as well as the fronts? Does this lessen the contrast between them? Or do you apply finish to only the visible primary wood dovetails ends?

Thanks in advance!

Auckland, New Zealand.


4 replies so far

View jsdnnoanybtr's profile


24 posts in 3256 days

#1 posted 08-25-2010 07:09 AM

I recommend applying finish only to the drawer fronts, and if you have the patience to the end grain of the pins of the drawer fronts with a small pointed brush.

Then for the drawer sides apply what James Krenov called polish. Polish in this vernacular is a well thinned coat of shellac. Just enough to keep the wood from taking on dirt and finger prints.

The reason not to put an oil based or lacquer based finish inside the cabinet, on drawer sides or inside of drawers, is it stinks and stinks up what is in the drawers.

-- jsdnnoanybtr but you can call me jr

View David White's profile

David White

120 posts in 3479 days

#2 posted 08-27-2010 01:20 PM

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3393 days

#3 posted 08-27-2010 01:28 PM

Dave thanks for posting, I had the same question. I’m getting VERY close to finishing my nightstands and I was wondering if it was ok to oil the inside walls of the side and back panels, the center shelf, and the drawers. JR, what would you recommend for the inside of the stands? The center of the stands is very visible since its just a shelf, so I want it to look just as nice as the outside will.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View Viktor's profile


466 posts in 3616 days

#4 posted 08-27-2010 07:41 PM

I don’t see why it would lessen the contrast. Both parts will get darker and there will be plenty of contrast. I always finish entire surface of a project the same. Yes, the underside of a cabinet gets the same 220 grit treatment and multiple coats, just like all other parts. No reason, just channeling my obsessions to something constructive. You may want to avoid using pure natural oils that don’t completely dry hard on the inside of drawers or wherever prolonged contact with paper or cloth is possible. Oil will bleed from wood into it. Also, large panels such as table top etc. should get the same coat on both sides to reduce and balance moisture exchange.

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