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Old 09-03-07, 11:35 AM   #1
skiahh
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Any woodworkers amongst the Foo clan?

I'm finishing a new coffee table (no relation!) and am wondering about the underside. I've got lots of wood pieces, both expensive and not, where the underside is stained but not finished.

Never really thought of it before, since I've never finished or refinished a table, but is the underside left unfinished (poly finish, not stain) for cost/time savings or is it to let the wood breathe? In theory, the underside won't get any traffic, so doesn't really need a poly finish.

I've still got to finish the apron and overhang, but do I need to do the bottom inside the apron?

Thanks!
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Old 09-03-07, 11:43 AM   #2
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I wouldn't finish it. The traditional way to handle undersides (drawers, tables, etc.) is just to leave them unfinished. I think that's more of a cost-savings tradition, but now that you mention it, poly isn't porous, so there could be something to the breathing argument. BTW, if you haven't already committed to poly, have you thought about other finishes, like Tung oil, Danish oil, or the like?
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Old 09-03-07, 11:46 AM   #3
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I wouldn't finish it. The traditional way to handle undersides (drawers, tables, etc.) is just to leave them unfinished. I think that's more of a cost-savings tradition, but now that you mention it, poly isn't porous, so there could be something to the breathing argument. BTW, if you haven't already committed to poly, have you thought about other finishes, like Tung oil, Danish oil, or the like?
Well, top's done already. And I did consider other finishes, but went with a semi gloss poly.
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Old 09-03-07, 12:07 PM   #4
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On tables, it depends on the use. I tend to have all sides finished - perhaps not with the same # of coats, but certainly finished to the extent that a hand reaching under the table will 'feel' a texture that matches what their eyes see on the top/outer surfaces. It also helps for the longevity of the piece - over time, moisture is less likely to enter the fibres and warp the wood.

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Old 09-03-07, 12:10 PM   #5
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I am a 3rd year master apprentice woodworker. We always finish all sides of anything we build. You don't have to by any means. But my boss takes the same approach to woodworking as high end car restorers. He wants everywhere to look as good as the parts you normally see.
If the peice is going to be in a humid area, there is a benifit to finishing all surfaces. If the underside of that table top starts breathing in damp air, it can start bowing. Finishing it would make impregnable. The way I see it, for the little bit of time it takes, it's worth it to just finish the entire thing.
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Old 09-03-07, 12:14 PM   #6
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I am a 3rd year master apprentice woodworker. We always finish all sides of anything we build. You don't have to by any means. But my boss takes the same approach to woodworking as high end car restorers. He wants everywhere to look as good as the parts you normally see.
If the peice is going to be in a humid area, there is a benifit to finishing all surfaces. If the underside of that table top starts breathing in damp air, it can start bowing. Finishing it would make impregnable. The way I see it, for the little bit of time it takes, it's worth it to just finish the entire thing.
Thank you. Just what I was looking for! An explaination either way. I'm off to finish the bottom of the table now.
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Old 09-04-07, 01:06 AM   #7
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If the underside of that table top starts breathing in damp air, it can start bowing.
I can testify that wood sealed on one side bows.
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Old 09-04-07, 03:40 AM   #8
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Vanno has it exactly right. With kiln dried wood especially, you want to maintain the low moisture content through the thickness of the wood.

Now for some applications you want to allow it to breathe, like say the underside of an outdoor roof over an open space. Otherwise when it does get exposed, and it will, it won't be able to dry back out.

But for funriture, you want to protect it if you can.
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Old 09-04-07, 07:09 AM   #9
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Yep - seal it - especially up there. You have such a wide fluctuation of humidity during the year between heating and cooling that the wood will be forever in a state of flux if you don't.

Oh, you can assume that perhaps I know something about wood. I am not a student or even a wood worker - I am an owner of tree plantations who produces wood and furniture from a factory.
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Old 09-04-07, 07:31 AM   #10
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Well Jesus is always with me, so it's kind of like he's on Foo, if that helps.
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Old 09-04-07, 07:32 AM   #11
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I build guitars and the top of an acoustic guitar is often times referred to as a table. I would never ever finish the underside of a guitar table. It would destroy the tone. But the dining table I built has a finished under side and more importantly it has the slide hardware to allow the top to move as it reacts to the change in season. I just put one coat if I remember correctly. I'd guess it would be fine with out it but I would definitely finish the end grain off to probably 6 inches in or so.
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Old 09-04-07, 08:37 AM   #12
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I stand corrected! Thanks for the info guys!
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Old 09-04-07, 08:59 AM   #13
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Just as the wood can draw moisture through the unfinished side, it can also dry out more and eventually crack. So always seal all work. There is nothing worse than putting in all that time and work to only have a crack running through the middle of it in a couple of years because you decided to cut a corner and save some time.
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Old 09-04-07, 09:01 AM   #14
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Tee hee. Skiahh's finishing his hard wood.
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Old 09-04-07, 11:35 AM   #15
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Tee hee. Skiahh's finishing his hard wood.
the last person i expected to see that joke coming out of
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Old 09-04-07, 11:48 AM   #16
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What they said, if you don't finish the bottom, at least seal it.
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Old 09-04-07, 11:51 AM   #17
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Woodworker.

lol
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Old 09-04-07, 03:56 PM   #18
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I'm good with my wood
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Old 09-04-07, 06:01 PM   #19
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On a mandolin list this guy was talking about his Johnson Mandolin. He told us he was refinishing it and that he had "Palm sanded his Johnson". Years later this still comes up.

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