Questions on finish/no finish for INSIDE of chests


I know that conventional wisdom says that both sides of wood should be finished the same to prevent warping. However, what if the "other side" happens to be the inside of a chest that will hold clothes or other goods that you don't want "stinking" of stains, varnishes, shellacs, or, in fact, any type of finish? Can the inside be left unfinished? What would be the consequences of leaving it unfinished?
Gerry
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A Bombay (sp?) chest ? :)
Jim
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That seems to be what people are saying but, if you look around at a lot of antiques, you will find a lot of insides not finished. In any case, if you let the finish dry, it won't stink up anything. Most finishes are odorless once dry. The old standby, shellac is great for inside drawers and it is completely odorless when dry.

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Thanks to one and all for the responses. The consensus seems to be unfinished or shellac would be equally acceptable. However, will it create problems in a few years if the inside is shellac and the outside is a totally different finish? If going with shellac, would it be better to use shellac on the outside as well?
Gerry
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wrote:

Shellac is the preferred finish by shellac snobs world wide. Why would you want to use anything else? ;-)
I've used shellac all around, just on the outside, or not at all. Just don't varnish the inside of an aromatic cedar chest. It will stay sticky longer than I can wait.
Patriarch
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G.E.R.R.Y. wrote:

You are wise to consider this ahead of time. I finished a pine chest about 3 or 4 months ago using polyurethane varnish. It's been airing out ever since, and it still smells really strong. I should have used something that cures more quickly (like lacquer or water-base poly). If I had it to do over again, I'd probably leave the inside unfinished.
Josh
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G.E.R.R.Y. wrote: > I know that conventional wisdom says that both sides of wood should be > finished the same to prevent warping. However, what if the "other side" > happens to be the inside of a chest that will hold clothes or other > goods that you don't want "stinking" of stains, varnishes, shellacs, > or, in fact, any type of finish? Can the inside be left unfinished? > What would be the consequences of leaving it unfinished?
Stink?
Was unaware that shellac had any smell when it dries.
I'm using shellac right now on the interior of a chest of drawers.
Lew
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Shellac won't leave any odor. Old furniture is often unfinished on the inside (talking about stuff in the 50-75+ year old range) and while it seems to hold up fine as far as warping goes, very often the surface of the wood inside drawers becomes somewhat soft and creates dust. I find that wiping on a thin coat of shellac will help seal such items and reduce the dust. In fact, if the piece has a musty odor inside, shellac will often take care of that as well.
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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Hi Gerry, I asked that question of Jeff Jewit of Homestead Finishing. He said if the piece has little or no support than the "finishing dictum" holds otherwise don't worry about it. Cheers, JG

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Thanks. I guess that is what I was hoping to hear. I'm going to leave it unfinished on the inside. I don't imagine this will be any great work of art anyway. ;-)
Gerry
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G.E.R.R.Y. wrote:

For thin wood, then maybe. However "thin" usually means drawers rather than chests, and the outside of these is usually unfinished too (except the front).

Use shellac - no smell at all, just a couple of days after finishing.
You can also use various specialist oils for this. I was once fool enough to use some "lemon oil", sold specially for finishing the inside of chests. It stank so badly that even after 2 weeks of sitting open in high summer I still had to pack the chest with a couple of handfuls of lavender before delivering it.
I was at a high-end (_very_ high-end!) furniture show in Cheltenham at the weekend. You could play the old Japanese "perfume game" by opening the drawers and sniffing for which brand of finishing product they'd used 8-) The best piece in the show, the 40,000 chest of drawers, used Renaissance microcrystalline wax and had no smell at all.
Show's still on for a week. _Well_ worth the visit. http://www.celebrationofcraftsmanship.com/Annual_exhibition.htm
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Wasn't there a film called "The Smell Of Money"? That's what I'd want a 40 000 chest to smell like. ;-)
Gerry
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As with others, I finish the inside of chests and drawers with shellac - one light coat. Most old antiques are done the same way but after 50+ years you can barely tell there was any finish on the inside. Most will tell you that they were un-finished, but they did have a light coat of shellac or wax when they were made.
Dave
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