Finishing query - insides of free-standing cabinets? - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 04:58 AM Thread Starter
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Default Finishing query - insides of free-standing cabinets?

Hi folks,
I'm building a buffet (yes, yes, pictures and more to come later on, I promise!), but I have a question about the finishing.
I'm going to use clear water-based poly on the exterior as it's to match the table I built a little while ago, but I saw an article that talked about cabinets and not putting finish on the insides, and this being a recommendation. Can't remember the magazine, but it was a woodwork one.

This seems strange to me, as I naturally assumed I should give it at least 1 coat to help keep the "open faces" balanced in regards moisture absorption. Given NSW has a humid climate at times, and also given this is an inside only piece, I'm a little confused.

What do you all do usually? Do you seal the inside of a buffet or similar cabinet? Or do you leave the timber raw?
And does using poly etc. only on the one side cause issues with warping?

I certainly know if I get water on one side of a piece of pine it bows, or at least the piece I used under my sharpening stones did, as it only got wet on one face.

The buffet will have two cupboards side by side, no divider, and a set of 3 drawers at one end. Primary construction is glue-laminated beech boards, with a marine-ply back (probably the nearest to good beech ply in the US).

Advice appreciated!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 06:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1fizgig View Post
.

1... What do you all do usually?
2... Do you seal the inside of a buffet or similar cabinet?
3... Or do you leave the timber raw?

4... And does using poly etc. only on the one side cause issues with warping?

5... I certainly know if I get water on one side of a piece of pine it bows, or at least the piece I used under my sharpening stones did, as it only got wet on one face.

Advice appreciated!
1... shellac is the perfect finish for your application...
2... yes..
3... no...

4... takes forever for the odors to dissipate...

5... use stone (scrap piece of granite counter top) or a ceramic tile..
wood isn't flat to start w/, it's too soft and wants to flex.....

This would have been the week that I'd have finished chewing thru the restraints...
If only new layers hadn't been added....

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 06:33 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Stick.
I want to use the poly as it matches what I used on the dining table (the round one I made and posted first here). Wife appreciation factor in play.
Water-based poly, or at least the one I used, doesn't seem to take long to de-odorize, so I'm not worried about that.
My diamond plates need something to hold them in place, hence I used some scraps to make a quick holder. I'll make something a little sturdier eventually, but this sufficed at the time.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1fizgig View Post
This seems strange to me, as I naturally assumed I should give it at least 1 coat to help keep the "open faces" balanced in regards moisture absorption. Given NSW has a humid climate at times, and also given this is an inside only piece, I'm a little confused.

What do you all do usually? Do you seal the inside of a buffet or similar cabinet? Or do you leave the timber raw?
And does using poly etc. only on the one side cause issues with warping?

I certainly know if I get water on one side of a piece of pine it bows, or at least the piece I used under my sharpening stones did, as it only got wet on one face.
Finishing only one side can promote warping. One side expands with the water absorption and the other lags behind which causes the warping. If finishing the inside is going to be difficult after assembly then do it ahead of time. Mask off any area where glue will be applied. This is usually a good idea when applying stain too as getting an even look in corners is between hard and impossible after assembly. Some like pre-staining to avoid the splotchy look glue can cause if it squeezes out and gets into the wood grain.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 01:33 PM
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It's a good idea to finish the inside. Though in the case of the materials you are using, there will be little bowing. Also, if the piece is kept in a climate controlled area it won't exhibit much movement. Another reason to finish the insides is any spills will make a mess and permanent stains on unfinished wood. Even if you are storing only dry things inside, a spill on the top can run inside. Feces happens. You definitely want that wood protected.

I prefer an oil based wipe-on poly as it is super easy to apply and very forgiving. I use it for big and small pieces. Almost idiot proof though idiots can be quite determined. I get your point on matching existing pieces, WAF is a powerful thing especially when a new piece of shop equipment is on the horizon. FWIW, oil based poly smell doesn't linger very long at all. Faint odor in a day or two, none at all in less than a week. I think it's because the layers tend to go on thin and thus dry out quickly. I keep trying brush and spray but always come back to wipe-on because it is so easy and the results are always outstanding.

+1 on chuck's points about prefinishing. It's one of the tricks that ups your finishing game. And a wipe on poly is particularly good for avoiding glue-up areas and minimizing intrusion under tape.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 02:19 PM
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Hi Steve,

Just thought I'd through my 2 1/2 cents worth in as well.
I'm with the guys that agree the inside should be finished. In fact I don't know if I ever have finished only one side.
As was mentioned moisture is going to work its way in area of least resistance or in this case bare wood.
I also spray all my finish's and so also spray most generally 3 coats inside and out. I use a Post catalyzed vinyl sealer first coat and 2 top coats of commercial grade of "Post Catalyzed Lacquer". (meaning I catalyze before using my self)
I also lightly sand in between coats.
I also refinish and restore old furniture and depending on the customer's request will even seal the inside of some of them as most repairs are usually cracks from sealing only one side etc...
Yes you will have gas off time or a nasty smell which most finishes generate anyway, but lacquer is a bit worse.
Someday when I slow down and just do this for fun I think I will try other finishes. Lot of my woodworking buddies talk about Shellac's
and how great they are so maybe.
Anyway hope this helps too. So long story short finish both sides of everything and you can't go wrong.

Kind regards,


Tim of ZWW&S
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys, appreciate the feedback. I don't feel so nutty for automatically wanting to finish the inside now. I was beginning to think I was doing something unnecessary.
I do recall having seen older furniture in an unfinished state, but in today's world it just seemed like asking for trouble.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-27-2020, 04:47 PM
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A LOT (most?) commercially built furniture from the 20th century wasn't finished to the same level on the interior and undersides as the exterior. But they were sprayed lacquers for the most part.
Maybe it was a production coats consideration.
I just went and checked a couple of nice pieces i inherited from my parents; the glass fronted china cabinet is nicely finished on the interior, because it's viable.
The hutch, not so much.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-28-2020, 11:44 PM
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I don't make a lot of cabinets and book cases these days, the house is already full. However, for a double book case atop a set of cabinets, I chose to paint the interiors white. I didn't want to look at so much wood grain, and the white makes it stand out. The interior is also painted white, and I often paint shelving a clean white, I just like the clean look. If I were making book cases with conventional stain and finish, I still prefer a white interior. It is a personal preference and those who like the wood grain showing are also correct. I recall my mother in law had some built in cabinets with some open shelving installed, all white, maybe 50 years ago, and I really loved the clean lines and brightness of the installation. It stuck.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-29-2020, 07:59 PM
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I used water based poly on my cabinets without any problems.
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