I'm making a small cabinet/table/thing. It includes two drawers at the top, and solid sides. These are traditional drawers sitting on wooden runners, and the sides of the drawers are a close fit to the sides of the cabinet. I was going for the "piston fit" style drawer - can't say I made it exactly that accurate but it's close enough for the question.

The piece is nearly ready for finishing but I'm not sure whether to finish the inside of the solid cabinet sides, or the underside of the top.

I've searched this site as well as Google, but I can only find information on whether to finish the inside of the drawers themselves (it seems generally they're not finished).

If it makes any difference, I'm probably going to finish this with standard polyurethane.

  • Does this answer your question? What kind of finish should I use inside dresser drawers?
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 19:28
  • 1
    You must have missed the above searching the site but as you can see it covers this. As it basically says despite the tradition you can choose to finish the interior should you so wish to, but note the caution about the wait time for a full cure if by "standard polyurethane" you do mean oil-based. Obviously this can have a major impact on the time from completion of build to putting the item into service, depending on how much varnish you put on (thickness of coat and/or how many) as well as the current drying conditions in your workspace.
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 19:38
  • That question is about the inside of the drawers, though it does mention in passing the inside of dressers in general. The answer may be the same, but my question is different - I'm asking about the inside of the drawer opening. Considerations about drying time of the finish apply to both, but here there's an additional consideration of the drawers rubbing on the finish.
    – MarkH
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 11:02
  • The Question is, but my Answer goes beyond the title. You ask if the inside of the drawer opening should be finished and I say "The traditional practice was for drawer bodies, and in fact the entire interior of a chest of drawers, not to be finished in any way." I'm sorry but that directly answers your query, making this is a duplicate, and SE has essentially a zero duplicates policy. If you want to ask about finish rubbing off in a drawer opening then ask just that (every Q should ideally ask one thing anyway, making it easier for future searchers to locate info).
    – Graphus
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 9:42
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    Thank you, yes I did see something about that in one of the questions here a while ago. I don't want to clutter up the comments here, but yes, I have a plan :)
    – MarkH
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


Generally speaking, the interior of the cabinet is not finished unless it's on display. So portions behind doors or just open would be finished, but portions hidden behind drawers would not be finished.

You may, of course, choose to finish yours, but yes, any contact surfaces will have the finish rubbed off reasonably quickly.

If you go take a gander at your local antique shop, you'll notice that very few, if any, of the cabinets have finish inside the drawer areas and most are no worse for wear because of it.

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