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I hired someone to put together bed slats for my new bed. The bed frame comes with center support for the slats that he's building and the slats will be screwed down onto the center slat and the side rails of the bed frame. He ordered furniture grade hard maple wood which has been planed and sanded.

He thinks that the bed slats might warp if I don't use a sealer. I really like the look of the hard maple without a stain or sealer though. Most do it yourself manuals for bed slats online don't even mention using a sealer. So this is what I want to know.

  1. Should I use a sealer and why?
  2. If so, what sealer should I use that won't be noticeable or discolor the wood and still do the job?
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He thinks that the bed slats might warp if I don't use a sealer.

A 'sealer' won't make much or any difference to this once the slats are fixed in place and in use.

I use quotes above because the idea that we seal wood with a finish is widely misunderstood. Various finishes do protect the wood's surface from dirt to various degrees (even a thin application helps a bit) but much less from changes in humidity which is what he is referring to. Even the best finishes in this regard* have to be built up to fairly thick, consistent coating to do so.

Should I use a sealer and why?

You can apply a finish to the slats if you want to, but there's no need and they are very commonly left unfinished (hence why DIY manuals won't normally mention applying anything to them).


*What are called film finishes because they build a film on the surface of the wood, these include shellac, varnish, lacquers and epoxy coatings.

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I'm trying to picture a situation where you would see the slats in an assembled bed. Is this a bunk bed?

I've made several beds and have never sealed the slats. If there's concern such as incomplete drying of the maple, but you wish to leave the wood bare, you might want to seal just the end-grain. My preference for this is shellac. I mix my own but the Zinsser brand off the shelf is fine if it's fresh. I typically dilute the first coat for better penetration.

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Personally I had a king sized bed on 4" slats spaced with 5-6" gaps with vertical support on every 4th slat of so. It really wasn't enough support and it lead to my first mattress failing when it was only 4 years old. When I removed the mattress the slats without vertical support were warped downward 2-3". I ended up reinforcing these with more vertical supports and then to sure the whole things up I screwed down 1/2" plywood across the whole thing. Now my new mattress has a rock solid surface to rest on. It's not super pretty, but it's not seen at all when the mattress is on it, and this was a strong case for function over form.

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