Best finish/sealer for Cedar

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Forum topic by MAC_addy posted 06-09-2016 05:28 PM 398 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 319 days

06-09-2016 05:28 PM

So I’m making my mother a cooler chest box that will be outside mostly all year. What finish/sealer should I use to protect it?

7 replies so far

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2391 posts in 2346 days

#1 posted 06-09-2016 05:44 PM

Paint is best. Some folks use paint base without the color added. It goes on white and dries clear. Has U V inhibiters. I have used the acrylic and it dries clear but using the oil base the end look is a little milky.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

View CharlesNeil's profile


1602 posts in 3295 days

#2 posted 06-09-2016 05:48 PM

over cedar, you REALLY need a coat of Shellac, cedars produce a natural oil that sooner or later will cause finishes to “let go” either leave it natural or use shellac as the first coat , no matter what you do as a top coat.

View Kirk650's profile


272 posts in 173 days

#3 posted 06-09-2016 05:49 PM

I hate to say it, but paint is your best option for cedar left outdoors. A couple of years ago I made a really nice outdoor bench from cedar harvested off our place. I used an oil based primer and then the best spar varnish I could find. A year or two later we had to refinish it. And this year we painted it. Mother Nature in central Texas is tougher than the best spar varnish I could find.

That said, if you don’t mind periodic refinishing and want to keep the cedar looking natural, a cooler box shouldn’t be too hard to refinish from time to time.

View MAC_addy's profile


9 posts in 319 days

#4 posted 06-09-2016 05:59 PM

Oh man, I really don’t want to paint this since the wood looks quite nice.

Question: Can you use Shellac and Poly together?

Unfortunately the weather in North Arkansas is quite humid and hot in the summer, so I can imagine that it’ll start to discolor quite fast.

View jdh122's profile


878 posts in 2242 days

#5 posted 06-09-2016 06:01 PM

To me the main advantage of using cedar for outdoor projects is not having to finish it at all. Just let it weather to that nice grey it will get. Of course it won’t last as long as if you painted it and maintained it each year, but it seems to me that it’ll be less work overall to make another one in 10 years than to repaint it each year. If you were lucky enough to get old-growth northern white cedar, or at least boards with all heartwood it could last many decades with no finish.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 844 days

#6 posted 06-10-2016 02:45 AM

EXACTLY jd! Cedar is a natural oil wood as it is. I’ve worked with cedar making screen doors, window frames, planter boxes, benches, etc. Cedar is a natural insect repellent. And withstands the weather w/out any finish. But to paint it?!? Sorry, but cedar is just to nice of wood to waste the time & effort to paint it. Leave it as it is. Just my .02.

-- Sawdust703

View Wondermutt's profile


60 posts in 281 days

#7 posted 06-10-2016 05:07 AM

Spar Verathane. Thin it by 10% with mineral spirits and it will absorb better.

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