The underside of a project


Recommended Posts

I have never put as many coats of finish on the underside of a project as I do to visible areas.  Projects like like tables.  But I have started to wonder if this is incorrect.  What do you generally do.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is not specific to table tops, but I was just reading an article by Tage Frid (FWW, Jan/Feb 1991, pg 85) he says,

 

"Finishing—I finished both chests with Watco oil. Never finish the inside of the carcase or outside of the drawer sides, because they may stick together. Instead, rub them with paraffin. And never use an oil finish on the inside of the drawers, because it always bleeds and may spoil what is inside. Instead, you can seal the drawers' insides with shellac or lacquer. You needn't worry about moisture inside the chest, however, because the drawers are closed most of the time."

 

For some context. In this article he is talking specifically about his 4 drawer chest. He does not use and kind of mechanical drawer slides - he does it the old-fashioned way, wood on wood. Which for fine furniture is the preferred method.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is not specific to table tops, but I was just reading an article by Tage Frid (FWW, Jan/Feb 1991, pg 85) he says,

 

"Finishing—I finished both chests with Watco oil. Never finish the inside of the carcase or outside of the drawer sides, because they may stick together. Instead, rub them with paraffin. And never use an oil finish on the inside of the drawers, because it always bleeds and may spoil what is inside. Instead, you can seal the drawers' insides with shellac or lacquer. You needn't worry about moisture inside the chest, however, because the drawers are closed most of the time."

 

For some context. In this article he is talking specifically about his 4 drawer chest. He does not use and kind of mechanical drawer slides - he does it the old-fashioned way, wood on wood. Which for fine furniture is the preferred method.

 

I would agree with this for the most part. For years we never finished even the inside of kitchen cabinet drawer boxes. Today they come pre finished with a UV finish but in reality its just marketing for cabinet makers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Finishing the underside shows that you are paying attention to detail. I give it a couple of coats as do insides. However everywhere else would get 4 coats and tops another one or two - 1 sealer coat (shellac) all over, 3 top coats of finish and 4/5 coats on tops. Backs would also get 3 as you never know what the end user will do with the cabinet. I have seen cabinets used as room dividers where the backside is seen even though they were originally intended to go against a wall. So pay as much attention to the back as you do the front.

Edges of table tops undersides need 3 top coats too even if you don't nib sand as much towards the middle as people have a tendancy to "feel the quality". Rough to the touch edges turn peoples opinions.

Link to post
Share on other sites

But it does make them a little easier to clean up.... for when I spill an entire pot of coffee and half of it ends up in the silverware drawer :)

 

This I agree with but it does nothing for wood stability or anything of that nature. Its just another selling feature. Melamine is the top seller now days for this very reason. Its easy to clean and adds perceived value. Just like 3/4" plywood boxes its all marketing, "look at mine they have ply 3/4" boxes" no "look at mine they have 3/4" plywood boxes with melamine" Finishing things like the full underside of a table or the inside of a dresser doesn't really add any marketing value or any quality. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

For table tops specifically, I've always heard to put the same number of coats on the bottom as you do on the top.  It's not going to prevent moisture changes in the wood, but it will help make sure that moisture changes at an equal rate from all sides.  Supposedly it helps reduce warping/cupping since one surface isn't transferring moisture at a faster rate than another.

 

Being pretty new to the game, I dont know how much water this theory holds (pardon the pun) but it makes sense.  Also dont know if there is a point of diminishing returns based on the # of coats.  If you do 4 on the top is 2 on the bottom enough to stabilize moisture transfer?  No idea.

 

But I have played it safe and applied the same # of coats to both the top and bottom in the pieces I've done.  I do save time on the bottom during sanding in between coats.  Much less thorough sanding on the bottoms between coats than the top.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.