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Old 12-16-2008, 05:15 PM   #1
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Cedar treatment?


I built a picnic table out of cedar for a friend for Christmas and I was wondering what type of finish I should use on it? I don't want to mask the beauty of the wood.

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Old 12-16-2008, 05:39 PM   #2
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Cedar treatment?


You are going to get all sorts of opinions on this one. So I will give you mine.
But first some questions.
I take it that you are talking about western red cedar? If not, my comments may not apply.
Will the table live outside all its' life? Where are you so we know the sort of climate it will have to deal with?
OK, the finish.
Over the years I have done a mountain of cedar work, some of it garden furniture and tables as you are doing.
If the table will receive a reasonable amount of care, you might consider an oil finish. Tung oil or Danish oil would be two examples. When you do the application, bear in mind that you will need several coats over a period of several days, or even weeks if you have a cold environment.
Ideally, an oil finish should be re-coated every year. This way it stands a chance of lasting for a very long time.
The second option would be spar varnish. This comes with a built in UV inhibitor, and you will find that it brings out the color of the wood beautifully. The oil does as well, but there is a distinct difference.
The big catch with varnish is that you should use 7 coats the first time it is applied. I realize that may sound excessive, but if you want it to last, that is the way to go. The first coat is thinned about 10% so it soaks well into the surface. It always looks awful. By the time you get to the fourth coat it will start to look great. But persevere to coat number 7 and the finish will look two feet deep. It too will need recoating, but not as often as the oil.

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Old 12-16-2008, 06:57 PM   #3
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Cedar treatment?


Thanks cocobolo!
Yes the wood is western red cedar. The table will be used outside under a porch roof. We live in Northeastern PA where we deff get our share of all four seasons. I like your varnish suggestion. How long shall I wait between coats? I only have 7 days to finish! Thanks again!
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Old 12-16-2008, 10:59 PM   #4
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Cedar treatment?


In that case you had better get started! Hopefully, you are working in a nice warm room!
Spend a little time getting the surface as smooth as possible, with your final sanding by hand with the grain. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the fine sanding dust that you nor I can see. This gives you a nice clean surface. If you can keep your work area warm, you can put on one coat each day. You will find that as the coating builds up, it will dry faster to the touch. Try to keep the coats as thin as possible for the first two or three to aid in drying. When you are done (with as many coats as you can) the varnish may well feel dry, but it will not be cured. So make sure your recipient lets it sit quietly for a few days at least. You might try adding just a little Japan dryer to the varnish, it helps both the drying process and the hardness of the final product. Good luck! Any chance of a picture when you're done?
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