What finish to use for Aromatic Cedars ?

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Forum topic by Daniel Graff posted 02-07-2011 11:00 PM 1252 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Daniel Graff

15 posts in 3951 days

02-07-2011 11:00 PM

I’m designing and building a small box for holding stationary, envelopes, pens, stamps, etc. Utilizing Spanish Cedar for the outside and Aromatic Cedar for interior “trays.” It will sit on a desk and not receive to much abuse.

What type of finished can I use and still retain (if possible) the wonderful aroma of the these two woods. I’m open to just about anything, including not applying any finishing the Aromatic Cedar.

Thanks in advance for your help!


6 replies so far

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3049 days

#1 posted 02-07-2011 11:31 PM

Any sort of finish is going to at least mute, mask, or alter the aromatics of the cedar. If you want to retain the aromatic quality of the wood, I think I’d forego any sort of finish, at least on the inside of the box. Cigar boxes will usually have an exterior finish, but will be left untouched on the inside for that very reason, leaving the Spanish cedar unfinished and able to do its thing.

The same can be said for many a blanket chest; the exterior wood will be finished, while the aromatic cedar inside will be left in its natural state, without any sort of finish.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2982 days

#2 posted 02-08-2011 12:45 AM

As Jonathan said leave the inside unfinished to retain the cedar odor. When the cedar odor becomes faint you can revive it by lightly sanding it to bring back the cedar odor. I finished the yarn box for my wife and used polyurethane to finish the outside ( see my projects to view yarn box) . The polyurethane will turn the red of the cedar a creamy tan. I’ve heard that tung oil will maintain the red color although I have not tried it with the tung oil.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 3923 days

#3 posted 02-08-2011 02:03 AM

I agree on leaving inside unfinished. I’ve done just that especially when the project will reside indoors where humidity excursions are somewhat less than outdoors. Wood does not need a finish. Sure there are reasons for a finish such as changing appearance and minimizing effects due to relative humidity. But don’t take it as a given. To me a strong consideration is original and natural beauty of wood and the intended use as in your case.

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3140 days

#4 posted 02-08-2011 07:03 PM

I have to agree with everyone above, just leave the inside and/or trays unfinished. However, if you do decide to finish it, BLO does wonders on cedar. I’ve been working a lot with aromatic cedar lately and the pieces I do finish I use BLO, it really gives a warmth to the wood.

-- David

View Daniel Graff's profile

Daniel Graff

15 posts in 3951 days

#5 posted 02-08-2011 07:10 PM

THANKS everyone for your input.

These answers were in line with what I was thinking. I was just hoping some mystery finish was out there that I did not know about.

I’ll leave it unfinished on the inside.

Thanks again,

View swirt's profile


2737 posts in 2971 days

#6 posted 02-08-2011 08:40 PM

If you want the inside to look more like it has a finish but want to leave it unfinished, burnishing is another option. Before assembly you can burnish it by rubbing it very hard with a narrow piece of wood that has a rounded edge. It creates a shine and a deeper color without actually sealing the wood.

-- Galootish log blog,

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