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I built the storage cabinent as decribed in the article on the "Big Capacity Storage Cabinet" from the July 2009 issue (the cabinet that used the restaurant storage tubs). I'm a novice woodworker and this was my first non-toy project. Amazingly enough, it turned out pretty well! The materials are 3/4 birch plywood (table top, sides, frame) and pine (trim and door panels). Anyhow, I'm interested in sealing the wood to prevent stain damage from spills or water in the basement floor. I'm not really interested in a glossy finish or paint. I actually like the feel and color of the bare wood, but would still like to protect it.
Sasha - to keep water from wicking up through the legs I suggest that you put some type of leg leveler or slide on each leg. For a finish, you may have to use a satin varnish or shellac, they will seal the wood and if it still has to much shine you can lightly sand the surrface to dull it. The shellac will have more shine than the varnish but it dries very fast and if you do not want to brush it you can buy it in a spray can.
Almost any other paint and varnish can be used over shellac.
I would suggest a de-waxed shellac with a top-coat of water-based satin poly. The schellac will bring out the color and the poly finish is very durable. I use this technique on my projects all the time, and neither one stinks to much. Well the shellac does but it's dry in a few minutes. Nice!
You did a great job buiilding this cabinet. I hope it's as useful for you as it has been for us here in the American Woodworker shop. The best solution would be to brush on a coat or two of waterborne polyurethane. Unlike oil-based poly, or even shellac, waterborne poly will add protection without significantly changing the natural color of the wood. Before you brush on the wb poly, dampen the wood's surface and let it dry, to raise the grain; then sand lightly. A second coat of poly will provide additional protection, but it will also increase the sheen. Light sanding after the second coat will reduce the sheen.
To keep moisture on the floor from wicking up on the feet, turn the cabinet upside down and brush epoxy directly on the end grain. Thin epoxy works best. Herg 1's suggestion to add leveling feet is a good one if the floors are uneven, but you could also just add shims where necessary. I hope this helps. Tim
Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.
I applied the water-based poly and it looks quite good. There is a nice sheen without being too shiny and still maintains the color. I noticed that the plywood soaked up a lot of the polyurethane so I applied 3 coats by the time I was done (maybe have a quart). Also, I needed to sand it lightly between coats as the plywood became rougher after each application. (Clearly I should had read Tim's post before :)
Since the floor is quite uneven, I need a lot of shims and so I may not need to seal the feet right away. However, Tim's suggestion of epoxy seems like a good one.