Finishing Oak and Cedar?

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Forum topic by Kathy posted 05-30-2010 12:48 PM 1148 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2888 days

05-30-2010 12:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing oak cedar question

I have two questions and thank you ahead of time for your advice. I am a self-taught woodworker and would appreciate your thoughts!

1. I am making a quilt rack with red oak. My questions is how do I deal with the pores in this wood? No amount of sanding is going to smooth them out. I want to stain the piece and put on a satin finish of some kind. Do I need to seal the wood, or fill the pores in it? I have looked on line and get many different answers!

2. I am making a garden ladder plant stand of decorative cedar. It is red with white streaks through it. It is really a beautiful wood. What do I put on it to keep the color and preserve it in the elements?

-- curious woodworker

5 replies so far

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3031 days

#1 posted 05-30-2010 01:22 PM

As you know Oak is a open grain wood put hard. If the quilt rack is just for display I wouldn’t worry about the pores. As far as the cedar. It is a good for outside as far as being good for rot resistence. But it does turn grey over time. I would just use a good outside clear finish, and just coat it like you would say a deck for the house..

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3789 days

#2 posted 05-30-2010 02:10 PM

Meme, I do not fill oak. It can be done if you are interested in getting a classic piano finish but it is a lot of effort. Here is a video that details the process involved in filling.

Tim’s comment on the cedar is on target. Mother Nature will naturally try to weather cedar to a grey color.
Trying to stop this will be a constant battle.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3252 days

#3 posted 05-30-2010 02:36 PM

Good advice from both Tim and Scott. I would not fill the Oak. A couple quick tips to remember about Oak. IF you are going to stain it, make sure you let the stain have plenty of time to dry, if you try to rush it more then the time recommended on the can, you may end up with a little bleed back.(that’s stain that’s trapped in the pores and did not dry completely and will want to bleed back through the finish). Cheap stains like Minnwax are the worst. Also, when applying the finish, do 2 to 3 thinner coates of finish and not real heavy coates. Oak looks very artificial and plastic looking if too much finish is applied. Oak usually looks better with a more natural look.
I did an outdoors bench once in Cedar (beautiful). I used an exterior Polyurathane and it looked great for a couple years, but once the finish began to breakdown, Mother Nature took over and it turned a lovely grey color. I liked the way it looked so left it.
Good luck on both projects.

-- John @

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 2888 days

#4 posted 05-30-2010 05:49 PM

Someone recommended that I stain the oak and then use Tongue Oil? Has anyone used it and at the store there are several different “tongue oils”.

Thanks you so much for your replies.

-- curious woodworker

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3425 days

#5 posted 05-30-2010 09:49 PM

it’s actually “Tung Oil”, and this is a confusing point for a lot of woodworkers, because it is sold in different formulas under this name. There are some pure Tung Oil products, and then there are Tung Oil finishes with dryers and other additives, or may not even contain Tung oil at all, but mimic the finish achievable by using tung oil. Then you have polymerized tung oil, which can also fall under the tung oil finish category which is heat treated to give a quicker drying time.

If you do decide to go with a tung oil, apply it in several thinned coats liberally. the wood will soak it up fairly well, but when it dries you will have a fairly durable finish with the natural wood color, but just a bit darker. I would recommend making a few test boards and applying different finishes to figure out what you like the best.

-- San Diego, CA

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