To Finish or Not to Finish

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Forum topic by TheOtherJohn posted 04-22-2013 07:20 AM 896 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 1933 days

04-22-2013 07:20 AM

Hi Folks,

I’m relatively new to woodworking and recently started my first actual project – building a toy box for my two boys. I’ve got to the point where the box is complete and the lid is complete. I’ve wiped the entire thing down with mineral spirits and its ready for stain/finish.

I used birch hardwood for most of the construction, with baltic birch as the box bottom and also as panels in the sides. I used a wood conditioner and minwax early american stain on the lid (both sides). I’m reasonably pleased with how that turned out and plan to apply a couple coats of poly for durability. My question is, what does one do with the inside of a toy box? The outside will be finished the same as the lid, but should I stain the inside or leave it? Maybe just apply poly? I’m really unclear regarding the standard practice for this type of thing and would appreciate any opinions out there – someone who’s only done this once has more experience than me.



7 replies so far

View BacktotheWood's profile


125 posts in 2990 days

#1 posted 04-22-2013 11:43 AM

Hi John,

There’s not necessarily a standard for finishing the inside. As with all our woodworking, its whatever you want to do with it. You probably will get many different ideas here at LJ’s. What I did for my grandson’s toy chest was to cover the inside with a thin layer of cork that I got at HD. I know that a 3 year old was just going to throw toys in, so the cork would soften the blow. The other thing I thought about was that any finish on the inside would smell for a long time. Just my thoughts.

Welcome to LJ and have fun


-- Bob, --Silence & smile are two powerful tools. Smile is the way to solve many problems & Silence is the way to avoid many problems.

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Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2462 days

#2 posted 04-22-2013 12:36 PM

If you choose to finish the inside, I would suggest you use shellac or a waterborne finish. Oil based finishes, like varnish, can off-gas the odor for a really long time. An odor that most find unpleasant.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3127 days

#3 posted 04-22-2013 03:47 PM

You can do whatever you want. There are no best practices on this, although you will hear people argue that the inside “must be finished.” IMO, that opinion is unfounded.

I’d just use shellac or poly to give the interior a little durablity. Others will leave it unfinished.

-- jay,

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2745 days

#4 posted 04-22-2013 04:07 PM

You want a children friendly finish. standard poly is nontoxic only after it cures. If you finish the inside of the cabinet, leave the top open and set it outside in the sun for a few days – let it warm up. I have found that this takes a couple of weeks out of the curing time.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2658 days

#5 posted 04-23-2013 01:29 AM

Shellac would be easy (just wipe on 3 coats of 1:1 shellac/alcohol) and you won’t have to deal with the prolonged stench inside the chest.

I have had very bad experiences putting things out in the sun to hasten the drying/curing! Unless you really like a “bubble finish”!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Loren's profile (online now)


10278 posts in 3616 days

#6 posted 04-23-2013 02:10 AM

I’d probably seal it with shellac, sand with 320 and apply paste
wax inside.

... would take about 10 minutes to do the shellac, 5 to sand
off the nibs and 5 to do the wax.

View TheOtherJohn's profile


4 posts in 1933 days

#7 posted 04-23-2013 07:27 PM

Thanks to everyone who chimed in to help me out with this. The odor issue I had thought about but the toxicity of poly was something I overlooked. I’m thinking of going the shellac route and will let you know how it turns out.

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