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 Post subject: Finishing
PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:26 am 
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Finishing is not one of my strong suites, and there are a lot of opinions on whether or not to finish the insides of a furniture carcass such as a dresser, and what finish should or should not be applied to the inside. Antique solid wood furniture as opposed to plywood, the type of construction, flatsawn or quartersawn, the wood species and whether it's "old growth" or not, properly dried and stabilized, expected humidity variation, etc. all play a role. The insides of a couple of antique pieces ( >125 years old ) we have are not finished inside at all, and show no signs of warping, cupping, splitting, etc.

Generally speaking the advise I've read, from a variety of sources, recommends against any oil based finishes on the inside - especially drawer boxes - due to lingering odor. Some recommend a couple coats of shellac.

So, since I'm to the point on the chest on chest I'm building where I need to give this some consideration, I'm opening this up to pick everyone's brains on the basic question : To finish or not to finish the insides, and with what? And also to open up a general finishing thread, if anyone cares to chip in in that regard, since it's been a while since we've discussed it.

To provide some basic info:

Woods used: Airdried walnut and cherry.
Carcass construction: Edge glued panels approx. 18" wide x 7/8" thick for sides, tops and bottoms.

Joinery: Sides are dovetailed into tops and bottoms.

Drawer dividers: Approx 3" wide and cross grain with sides, but joined with sliding dt's. Runners are M/T into dividers and single point screw attachment on back end

Environment: Construction is being done in unheated/cooled shop so is subject to outside humidity/temp changes.

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Last edited by Gene on Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:19 am 
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I am generally in the couple-coats-of-shellac camp for drawers.

While this may not necessarily be enough to alleviate season changes, I feel it makes furniture look more complete.

The added benefit is that clothes slide more easily into/out of the drawer.

As for finishing the interior to the chest itself, no need IMO to apply finish. If the construction is sound (and it is) the chest will survive quite nicely without it. Air-dried materials are about as good as it gets.

Your great-grandchildren will be using this chest.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:28 am 
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Location: Kerrville, Texas USA
I am in the no finish inside camp.

I have had no problem so far but my stuff is all less than ten years old.
However all my purchased stuff and my parents stuff is unfinished inside
and showes no sign of problems.

I often wonder if the "equal treatment" on all sides is overrated as a problem with furniture used inside.

Duan

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:20 pm 
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I am the same - I finish the drawers w/shellac (and then wax the sides and runners) but leave the rest au naturale


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:33 pm 
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I don't put finish on the inside of my cased goods. I especially don't put finish of any sort on my drawers.

On the inside of a closed case you don't need finish as the humidity level stays pretty much the same at all times because the air doesn't circulate. Even in climate zones where the humidity level changes a lot it's still relatively stable inside the case because there's nothing going on in there for the most part.

Drawers definitely should NEVER have any finish on them. Certainly NEVER any oil based products but also not even shellac. You don't know what people are going to put in those drawers down the road. They could put something in there with an alcohol base and it will soften the shellac and then you have big problems when it dries again.

Alcohol based stuff comes in many hidden forms. Perfumes, aftershave, lotions, scented thingies for making clothes smell nice, etc. It would be a shame for your antique handcrafted scarf to be ruined because you put it into a shellac coated drawer and your lingering perfume caused the shellac to stick to the scarf and causing a huge "spot" that you'll never get out of it.

Or you accidentally spilled that bottle of fingernail polish remover and the bottle still had some residue on it after you wiped it off and put it into the drawer.

Anyway, my rule = outside get finished. Inside gets left alone.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:01 am 
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R. Peterson wrote:
I don't put finish on the inside of my cased goods. I especially don't put finish of any sort on my drawers.

On the inside of a closed case you don't need finish as the humidity level stays pretty much the same at all times because the air doesn't circulate. Even in climate zones where the humidity level changes a lot it's still relatively stable inside the case because there's nothing going on in there for the most part.

Drawers definitely should NEVER have any finish on them. Certainly NEVER any oil based products but also not even shellac. You don't know what people are going to put in those drawers down the road. They could put something in there with an alcohol base and it will soften the shellac and then you have big problems when it dries again.

Alcohol based stuff comes in many hidden forms. Perfumes, aftershave, lotions, scented thingies for making clothes smell nice, etc. It would be a shame for your antique handcrafted scarf to be ruined because you put it into a shellac coated drawer and your lingering perfume caused the shellac to stick to the scarf and causing a huge "spot" that you'll never get out of it.

Or you accidentally spilled that bottle of fingernail polish remover and the bottle still had some residue on it after you wiped it off and put it into the drawer.

Anyway, my rule = outside get finished. Inside gets left alone.


No finish was my inclination on this, but hadn't thought about the potential problems with shellac you mentioned, and had considered using it. Thanks for pointing out the potential problems. Probably saved my marriage :) :wink: .

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:08 pm 
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OK, I guess I'm the odd ball here. :D I have always put finish on the inside of my case goods and all parts of drawers. I see no reason not to.
I can't see going through all the work of building a piece of furniture and skimping in the finish. Are there any real advantages to not putting finsh on those parts? Dirty fingers on unfinished drawer dividers will leave dirt marks over time that might not happen on finished wood.

As far as the humidity equalization thing, I have seen boards with paint or finish on one side warp. I even did some one year to see what happens as a lesson with my students. Now on a properly made piece, the joinery may hold everything from warping, but there must be some stress on the pieces.

My two cents. :wink:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:13 pm 
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P.S. I once was asked to repair a top to a table top that only had poly on the top surface. It warped like crazy.............was it the finish or not?

I ripped it, jointed and planed it, glued it up, and finished all sides and it never warped again.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:53 pm 
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reelinron wrote:
OK, I guess I'm the odd ball here. :D I have always put finish on the inside of my case goods and all parts of drawers. I see no reason not to.
I can't see going through all the work of building a piece of furniture and skimping in the finish. Are there any real advantages to not putting finsh on those parts? Dirty fingers on unfinished drawer dividers will leave dirt marks over time that might not happen on finished wood.

As far as the humidity equalization thing, I have seen boards with paint or finish on one side warp. I even did some one year to see what happens as a lesson with my students. Now on a properly made piece, the joinery may hold everything from warping, but there must be some stress on the pieces.

My two cents. :wink:


You're not the only oddball here, Ron. :lol:

There's so many variables that can cause problems later on, that I'm thinking that some of what is said below is probably true - that problems blamed on not finishing both sides equally may very well be the result of wood quality, construction technique, and so on. Some of the pieces I'm using on this project have shown internal stresses when cutting, so I'm taking account of that as best I can, by letting it rest for a few days then straightening with a handplane, before assembling. I expected some of that due to the fact that some of the walnut has fairly decent figuring and/or knots, which always indicates internal stresses.

Anyway, here's what someone said on another forum (I edited some out ):

I ran furniture factories for over 20 years, putting out literallly thousands of truckloads of mostly solid wood furniture. Since then, for the last ten years or so, I have done custom woodwork, refinishing and antique restoration, and custom finishing. I also still try to keep up with current production methods.

This first-hand experience has shown me that wood which is stable in storage and in the shop will usually be stable in the final product. Proper construction will generally easily resist any tendency to warp or cup. The only thing you can't constrain successfully is cross-gain movement, and plenty is written about that.

Finishing one side allows the wood to absorb or give up moisture faster on the unfinished side, but the wood stabilizes and balances out the moisture remarkably quickly, in my experience, and in an indoor environment changes in humidity tend to be pretty gentle. Proper construction and constraint also seems to cause the wood that wants to warp to take a "compression set," that tends to make the wood even more stable over the years. Bob flexner did some experiments to demonstrate and published an article on it about a year ago.

What I am trying to say is that in most cases I don't worry about finishing the inside of a chest of drawers, or even under a solid wood table top, of which I have made quite a few.

With UNCONSTRAINED panels such as drop leaves or unsupported chest lids, I would be very careful about selection and layup, and finish both sides equally. But since they show, this is generally done anyway.

Think about it: When was the last time you saw a panel in a frame do anything other than split from improperly constrained cross-grain movement? Would finishing both sides have prevented that?

When was the last time you saw a properly constructed and mounted table top warp badly unless it had been stored in harsh conditions or made from poorly dried lumber?

When was the last time you saw a breadboard construction warp at all without the ends having first let go due to excessive heat or moisture (and no pins)? And yet I have seen my own tables (the relative few with that construction) move easily a quarter inch across the grain from season to season.

When was the last time you saw the side of a chest with any kind of locking construction (not a rabbet and nails) come apart due to warping?

How many times have you seen lacquered drawer sides damaged by plasicizers migrating into the finish from objects stored in the drawer? Would that have happened if the drawer sides weren't finished?

I have seen a lot of really messed-up furniture, but I really can't remember the last time I saw damage that would have been prevented by finishing both sides.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:41 pm 
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Looks like there are good arguments on both sides of the issue just as you might expect. I've done both over the years and can't honestly say I've experienced a big difference in stability of the finished piece. I do agree that finishing the inside of drawers with any kind of varnish product produces an odor that can last a lifetime. I never considered shellac as having a downside but the case previously presented makes sense.

I would suspect that in the case of antiques the reason for not finishing the inside of carcasses was purely economic. If it didn't show, why spend the time and waste the material putting on a finish. It was on to the next project to continue your quest for making a living.

Gene, I think either approach will be satisfactory - just do what feels right to you.

By the way, that's going to be a beautiful chest on chest.

Tom

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