Finishing Cedar and Maple

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Forum topic by Ntaskani posted 06-30-2015 03:35 AM 751 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 1997 days

06-30-2015 03:35 AM

I need advice on how to finish a coffee table I’m working on. The legs are made of logs I cut from a dead Maple tree in my backyard. The top is Cedar that I bought at Lowes, that I’m gluing/nailing to a 2×4 plywood.

I read somewhere online that you should never use any varnish on Cedar. Is this true? So I cannot use Danish Oil (natural one)?

Any suggestions would be appreciated (for the Maple legs and the Cedar top). This table is for outdoors but will not be exposed to sun or rain (under a deck that is sealed).

Thanks! Please keep in mind I’m a novice and need everything spelled out.

2 replies so far

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 2538 days

#1 posted 06-30-2015 05:44 AM

I’ve used pigmented stain on cedar and had good luck with that so far. I think I used Olympia from Lowes.

To quote an article I just found:

“Transparent, non-flexible, film-forming finishes
such as lacquer, shellac, urethane, and varnish are not
recommended for exterior use on cedar. Ultraviolet
radiation can penetrate the transparent film and degrade
the wood. Regardless of the number of coats, the finish
will eventually become brittle, develop severe cracks and
then fail.”

Danish oil is a hard drying oil, and according to wikipedia “it can polymerize into a solid form.” So even though you don’t have to worry about the sun or rain, I think the big danger is that the humidity going up and down will cause the wood to swell and shrink, causing hard finishes to crack. Also, from what I’ve read on urethanes in general is that once the finish has cured, it continues to harden as the result of what they call cross-linking. No matter what you do, it will get brittle eventually. In fact, I’ve heard the thicker the coat, the more quickly this will happen. This is less of an issue with indoor furniture that isn’t subjected to constant temperature and humidity changes.

If you really want a clear top coat, maybe a spar varnish would work, since it’s more flexible after it cures. From what I understand that still merely delays the time until cracking will appear. When cracking does appear, the varnish will have to be removed completely before you can refinish it. Not that difficult for the very top, but could be a pain in the ass in little nooks and crannies.

View Stewbot's profile


199 posts in 1887 days

#2 posted 06-30-2015 05:50 AM

I like to use Tung oil on my cedar garden boxes. Im no expert myself, but i know that I like the look of Tung oil on cedar. However, in my experiences my boxes (exposed or not) usually start to look a little thirsty again as time passes.

-- Hoopty scoop?

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