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  • Finishing kitchen cabinet drawers

    Hi all,

    Cabinets are finished with conversion varnish. Drawers are eastern rock maple.

    What do you think? Conversion varnish for the drawers, or shellac, or cat-lacquer or ?? I don't have a strong affection for poly... but you tell me what you think is best. The shellac advice comes from folks that point out that conversion varnish on drawers stinks for a long time. But shellac isn't all that great as far as water resistance goes. Whatever the material is, it will be sprayed on.

    I usually just wax the raw wood drawers on furniture, but there are way too many drawers in this kitchen for all that waxing, and besides the wax probably isn't nearly durable enough for kitchen cabinets.

    Help! It's time to finish the drawers!

    Thanks,

    Andy

  • #2
    Re: Finishing kitchen cabinet drawers

    Hi, Andy. I wish I could help you. I also don't like poly finishes, but it is a kitchen...

    I'm actually posting because I have a question (no advice...sorry). What is "conversion varnish"?
    I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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    • #3
      Re: Finishing kitchen cabinet drawers

      Hi,

      Conversion vanish is a post-catalyzed, high-solids, cross-linking finish that sprays and behaves similarly to catalyzed lacquer. There's a number of resins that different finish makers use. The material dries fast (I find it a bit slower than lacquer, but not much). Like some other cross-linking type materials, it continues to cross-link for several days or in some cases a week or more. The cross-linking makes it harder, more scratch and abrasion resistant and very resistant to water and household chemicals - good for kitchen cabinets. After fighting with poly on jobs like this, I finally found this stuff and I think it's even more durable and a heck of a lot easier to deal with. Looks better, too... more like lacquer, not so much of that "poly plastic" look. It even wet sands and rubs out, so I now use it for furniture, too.

      The stuff I use is from Chem Craft (which was bought a while ago by Akzo-Nobel). It's fairly easy to spray, much easier than poly and easier to fix screw-ups, too. Two coats is it - you don't want more as you can get cracking and checking problems if the film gets thicker than about 0.003"-0.004". I thin it 10% with lacquer thinner, lightly knock the nits off the first coat with 400 grit, spray a wet second coat and it ends up looking great.

      But, it does stink for a couple of weeks and from what I've learned from others, in a closed space like a drawer, the odor can persist for a real long time. Not exactly what you want for your food prep utensils.

      Oh yeah... you have to finish above 60-65 degrees F or it won't cross-link. So, it's not the thing for a really cold shop. Also, I don't like spraying it when it's too hot, or it dries too fast - like lacquer in that way, too. Except you can't get "slow" thinner for the conversion varnish.

      I'm doing an actual timed experiment right now to see how long the odor stays. I've read a lot on woodweb and other places that say shellac is the choice for drawers, but as you point out it IS a kitchen... bound to get wet sooner or later. With the conversion varnish the drawers could be wiped out with a wet sponge with no problems. So I'm really trying to convince myself that the odor won't be a huge issue.

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      • #4
        Re: Finishing kitchen cabinet drawers

        Andy,
        I built our kitchen about 20 years ago and finished the drawers with shellac. Never had a problem. The conversion varnish, of course, would be much more durable. Your experiment will be interesting to see just how long the odor lingers. If it's not too bad and you can somehow leave the drawers open or out of the cabinets for the time needed, that would be the way to go.
        John

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