Finishes for Drawer Interiors

A cabinetmaker looks for advice on drawer finishes that are tough, and don't smell bad. September 16, 2008

I am looking to find a good interior drawer finish that has less odor than conversion varnish, but will hold up fine. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
All my customers use pre-finished on their drawers.

From contributor P:
What kind of CV are you using? I finish drawer interiors with CV and they don't stink. The only thing I know about stinking CV is that it will stink real bad if it is over-catylized. I use Valspar post cat, and we catalyze 1 ounce per quart of material. Any more than that and it not only stinks but causes other problems as well. Hope this might help, because in my opinion CV is the best choice for tough drawer interiors.

From contributor W:
I have just switched from Sherwin CV to Mohawk's Post cat Lacquer called Duralac. It is very similar to CV except it does not stink or burn your eyes and burns in for less scuffing.

From contributor M:

Thanks for your info, guys! We have been buying pre-finished dovetailed drawers for most of our cabinets, but this is a custom bureau. We would like it not to smell so bad, as it takes a while for ML Campbell Duravar to flash off in a closed drawer.

I was wondering if someone has a similar project or reproduction piece and what they used on the drawers. I remember someone advertising some type of drawer-coat finish; maybe it was a low-fill wax type "stuff". Any help would be appreciated.

From contributor B:
We use Fuhr 260 Urethane for drawer boxes and it holds up really well. And it has a mild odor when you spray it, unlike CV where it off gases for a long time and smells bad.

From contributor S:
I am missing something here. You say it takes a while for it to flash-off in a closed drawer? Flash-off is when the wet sheen evaporates but the film is still tacky. Don't you let your pieces cure a day or so?

I wonder if the tech age has got everyone wanting instant gratification. Things take time to make. A nice piece of furniture used for a lifetime certainly deserves a little time to cure properly. Any finish will stink if it is still off-gassing.

From contributor R:
If you have drawers for a kitchen project or drawers for a bathroom vanity or drawers for a dresser you might consider having them custom made for you (your customer). No need to worry about odor or material usage or labor to even make them or even the material used to construct them. Its a win-win situation for you and your customer.

The quality of the drawers Ive seen that are outsourced are great and the finish is first rate too.

If you decide against outsourced drawers and want to continue to manufacture them and finish them with a conversion varnish, you might think about putting a fan on them to help disperse the odor.

Either way it does take a day or two or three for the smell to go away. One thing I learned quite a while ago was to place a sock full of cedar shavings in the drawer box - it helps to mask the odor of the finish.

From the original questioner:
We decided and finished the drawer and cabinet interiors with a salad bowl finish, scuffed with 320 when dry (3 days), and paste waxed over the scuffed finish. Thanks for the help. We typically use dove-tail prefinished drawers that are purchased from a drawer manufacturer. We did make our own dove-tailed drawers in the past, but find buying them more cost efficient.