Cedar Chest

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Forum topic by Dynamike posted 01-12-2015 01:08 AM 1736 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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83 posts in 1820 days

01-12-2015 01:08 AM

Topic tags/keywords: cedar maple chest table finishing

Hi everyone. I’m new to LJ and this is my very first question so please bear with me. I am making a raised panel cedar coffee table for my wife. It has Aromatic Cedar panels with Hard Maple rails and stiles. I don’t want to “finish” the interior of the table so as not to seal in the aroma of the panels. However I know I just can’t leave them naked. What kind of wood sealer would work for the interior of this project? Second; The top has to be durable enough for small spills, I don’t like coasters and I can’t always be around to make sure others use them. I thought about a varnish type finish for it’s beauty characteristics but am not sure about it’s durability. I hope to begin finishing in the next 2 or 3 days and would love to hear any and all finishing suggestions. Thank You!!

-- "It's not scrap until it's sawdust", and maybe not even then...MAKwoods

5 replies so far

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 2996 days

#1 posted 01-12-2015 01:19 AM

I’m not sure there is a finish you can put on the inside, and not at least slow down the aroma of the cedar dramatically.
That being said, I feel strongly, after a few months you will get sick of the aroma. And it won’t last forever anyway, the oil on the surface of the cedar will gas off over time, and the aroma will decrease with it. The standard way to bring it back is to lightly sand the open wood, and the aroma comes back as the new oils are brought to the surface. If the inside will be untouched by usage, I’d just leave it and enjoy it for the few months you will have the aroma.

As far as the top, you have a few choices. A good hard polyurethane, polished after hardening will do fine, as will adding a paste wax coating on the top of the poly after curing and polishing to help with waterproofing. You will have to reapply the wax probably once or twice a year, at most. The new layer will cut into the old layer, so there will be almost no buildup. I used to use Johnson’s paste wax, which is basically a carnuba, but there are others out there you might favor better. Butcher’s comes to mind. There is no way to totally protect the top save for some sort of epoxy finish, or glass. But I had furniture last for years and years with tough spar varnishes and paste wax.
Many others will chime in with other finishes, but this is a start.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1901 days

#2 posted 01-12-2015 07:31 PM

As Paul said, and from my experience with cedar, there really isn’t a “sealer” persay for what you are asking. Cedar being an oil base wood, unless the client requests otherwise, I’ve used an oil base clear coat, such as Minwax, or the like, and it will take more than one time, to take care of that. As far as your top, there are water proof finishes out there, but, its just as easy to go with what works. I guess the first thing I’d have to ask you is how much of a shine, or gloss look are you after in the end? Personally, I prefer the Minwax line of finishes, simply because they are easy to clean up, no need for thinning if you are going to spray it on, which I often do, and it has an AWESOME showroom floor finish!! After you’ve put on the third coat, & it’s dried & cured, clean the surface & use Johnsons paste wax on it, buff, & not only will you have a professional, eye catchin’ finish, but it’ll be water proof, too!;) Works for me! Just my two cents.:)

-- Sawdust703

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5520 posts in 2832 days

#3 posted 01-12-2015 07:59 PM

Don’t finish the inside, cedar chests are purposely left bare for the reason you stated. For the top the one of the most durable finishes is polyurethane.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2851 days

#4 posted 01-12-2015 08:04 PM

I used Minwax Polycrylic on a cedar chest to avoid the yellowing of oil-based poly. It worked out great, it’s been 3 or 4 years and I just saw it the other night (it is my sister-in-law’s) and it pretty much looks like it did the day I gave it to her. She uses it as her coffee table, and had a piece of glass cut to put on the top (with little rubber bumpers under the corners and middle). Don’t know if it mattered, but there was about a month of time between planing the lumber down and actually applying the finish.

Edit to add picture of how the polycryclic looked :

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Dynamike's profile


83 posts in 1820 days

#5 posted 01-19-2015 02:42 AM

Hi all, thank you for the comments and advice. I decided to go with the tried and true Helmsman Spar Urethane for it’s super durability. First I used Minwax sanding sealer to close the pores and then brushed on the first coat of Helmsman Clear satin. The first coat was so thick that I was able to sand it with 220 without going through. I think the first coat was as thick as about 3 coats of spray. I then sprayed on the remaining 3 coats of Helmsman. The finish is superb and I am not afraid of any water marks or stains.

-- "It's not scrap until it's sawdust", and maybe not even then...MAKwoods

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