Drawer Question

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Forum topic by Rob posted 03-08-2009 04:07 PM 1377 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3666 days

03-08-2009 04:07 PM

I rarely see drawers with stain or finish on them, why is that? Do they stick or something? You think they would look better finished. Perhaps people just don’t do it because it isn’t seen, but I thought you wanted to seal all sides from moisture changes, and if that’s the case, then why not drawers? Thanks.

14 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3820 days

#1 posted 03-08-2009 04:15 PM

Rob, most drawers have a finish on them but generally are left unstained. I think this is largely because they are out of sight and therefore only minimalist work is done on them, as far as the staining/finishing goes. Another reason for not staining them could also be for contrast purposes. A drawer made from maple in a project with a darker primary wood gives the piece visual interest. But irrespective of whether a drawer is stained/dyed or not it should be sealed/topcoated in a fashion similar to that of the rest of the project.

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

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3891 days

#2 posted 03-08-2009 04:16 PM

I finish all my drawers with lacquer

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View mski's profile


439 posts in 3978 days

#3 posted 03-08-2009 04:49 PM

Rob here is a good drawer construction explaination, the page on finishing explains why not to finish the insides. this Guy also has an awesome router book.


View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3986 days

#4 posted 03-08-2009 04:59 PM

I never put any finish on my drawers.

The only thing I would put on them would be to rub the outside, top and bottom edge with an old candle. That will keep them sliding smoothly.

Putting a finish on one side only can lead to them warping due to moisture being absorbed unevenly.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3666 days

#5 posted 03-08-2009 06:29 PM


Thanks for the article; very interesting. Here is the part concerning finish in case anyone else is interested. I think it’s a good explanation.

Finishing is a topic largely left unexplored
in this book. But a few words on finishing
drawers are essential.
Drawers often are left unfinished. Oil-based
finishes, which are favorites of furniture
makers, give the insides of drawers a vaguely
rancid smell. That’s because the drawer boxes
are usually closed, inside the chest, where air
circulation is negligible. This odor can persist
for years and years. It can permeate clothes
kept in the drawers. Some people don’t notice
it, others are extremely conscious of it.
Being wary of this problem, some furniture
makers avoid using any varnish (not only oilbased
ones) on the body of a drawer and even
on the inside of a chest of drawers.
If you want to finish the drawers in your
chest, try shellac. A couple of diluted coats
will dry quickly and seal the wood. Then sand
lightly with 220-grit paper to eliminate the
nibs; finally, apply paste wax.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3391 days

#6 posted 03-08-2009 07:05 PM

well, I guess people only take care of what they really see…..the other reason could be the drawer is inside of a case that is alredy finished…..I made 40 drawers for a client once and she carefully finished each one with shellac, it’s a nice finish because it drys fast, can be applied by hand and do not stick with other parts.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 3373 days

#7 posted 03-08-2009 08:21 PM

The only finish I put on drawers is shellac. It’s just enough to seal, leaves no lingering odor, keeps fingerprints and dirt off the wood and allows them to be wiped out, if needed.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3772 days

#8 posted 03-08-2009 10:40 PM

I very seldom stained my drawers but always fnished them with two coats of poly and waxed. Same was true on the inside of my cabinets. If it did not show I left it natural unless the customer wanted them stained. Most people liked the natural finish and everybody liked the inside of there cabinets finished like the outsides.

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3440 days

#9 posted 03-09-2009 01:31 AM

I never put finish on drawers, and certainly in factories we never did as it was considered a waste of money, but here in asia everyone does. Laquer, stain, paint, you name it, our local customers even asked for it. Never could get a answer as to why western furniture has no finish and eastern furniture does.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3763 days

#10 posted 03-09-2009 02:25 AM

This is something I’ve wondered about too. GaryK has a good view of it. Makes sense. I guess in the long run, it’s a matter of preference.

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3552 days

#11 posted 03-09-2009 04:57 AM

I usually put 2 or 3 coats of shellac on my drawers. Its’ easy and dries quickly. I follow up with some steel wool (very lightly!).
I know poly isn’t very good… It makes your drawers stink.
Also, I usually put in cedar drawer bottoms if the drawers are meant for clothing. I don’t put a finish on that.

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3611 days

#12 posted 03-09-2009 01:59 PM

I always finish the drawers in any shop stuff I build. There’s just too much grease, sweat, coffee spills, etc. that unfinished drawers can soak up and I worry about dimensional changes with the seasons in my unheated shop.

Furniture drawers I never finish – even water-based poly will leave enough fumes in an enclosed drawer to taint anything you store in it. I can verify mski’s reference. Clothes in particular seem to pick up anything.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View Rob1's profile


26 posts in 3397 days

#13 posted 03-09-2009 04:40 PM

I refinshed a Maple desk I got at the Good Will Store. I did not do the drawers. Everyone I knew liked the work until one day a critic said I should have stained and finished the drawers. I stained one drawer and liked it so much I finished all drawers inside and out.

For a show piece, or my personel builds I finish the drawers.

-- Regards, Rob

View foodog's profile


31 posts in 3424 days

#14 posted 03-13-2009 05:28 AM

I’ve never used stain on drawers but I’ve always used semi gloss poly and have never had any problems with odors…...of course they are usually sitting in the open for a couple of weeks until I finish the rest of the cabinet.

-- Stan from St. Paul Mn

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