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I am building a very large (110" X 48") dining table. I intend to finish the wood by applying Danish oil and a water-based, oil-modified, polyurethane.

Since it won't be exposed to wear, is it necessary to seal the underside of the table?

  • According to Flexner the conventional wisdom that you have to finish both sides equally to prevent problems isn't correct, and the state of numerous old tables and other pieces of furniture seems to support this (the vast majority of which were not finished equally on both sides). On your proposed finishing routine, I would recommend you not use "Danish oil" before waterbased poly. If you need superior waterproofing to what the DO can provide then start and finish with oil-based polyurethane, it's a simpler, easier and more reliable finishing method. – Graphus Oct 24 '16 at 8:22
  • @Graphus Hmmm...I think you just prompted another question. woodworking.stackexchange.com/q/4885/192 – Jeromy French Oct 24 '16 at 21:23
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Bob Flexner says it is unnecessary to finish both sides of a table top:

...finishing the undersides of tabletops or the insides of cabinets or chests has only limited impact on reducing the likelihood of future problems. The only reasons to go to the trouble are for looks and feel — both of which are perfectly legitimate. But neither has anything to do with stabilizing the wood...

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I think it should be considered depending on the use the table is intended for. I deal poker in a casino where I sit at the table as high as I can, this means my legs are often up against the bottom of the table. I have picked up a lot of small splinter over the years. I think in some cases it would be nice if there had been some finish on there that would of kept the grain and splinter from rising.

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No, sealing the underside of the table is not necessary.

Wood species, dimensions, grain patterns, moisture levels, and how the boards are joined will be the primary factors regarding movement.

The only reason to seal the underside is for the aesthetic appeal of a fully finished piece.

My current dining table is walnut veneer over walnut with an unfinished underside. It was made in the 1950's and is still in excellent condition.

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