Red Cedar Question

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Forum topic by Marq posted 04-02-2014 08:24 PM 2827 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1509 days

04-02-2014 08:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: red cedar

First off I will apologize because I can’t be the first to ask this question but here goes anyway. Please don’t kick me off the site. =) I love to work with red cedar but have found I can’t keep the color. Is there a way to keep the bright color of freshly worked and sealed cedar. I generally use a poly to seal it but over the next few months it slowly loses the bright reds and goes more to a red/brown. The pictures are of the same Pedestal about 8 months later. The color dulls considerably…

Any help?

11 replies so far

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3579 days

#1 posted 04-02-2014 08:30 PM

My understanding is you should oil cedar and not varnish it.I really don’t know if that helps. This cabinet is very nice.I am pleased you showed it.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2087 days

#2 posted 04-02-2014 08:37 PM

I can’t speak to red cedar/aromatic cedar specifically but most woods with interesting colors (i.e. purpleheart, bubinga, etc.) lose their color from contact with UV light/sunlight. I think it’s also possible that reaction with oxygen can dull the color. But if you’ve sealed it up with poly I would think that reaction with oxygen would less of an issue.

If it’s UV that is dulling the color, as I suspect, you may want to try a varnish with UV blockers. The varnishes with the most UV protection tend to be varnishes made for boats. You can get those at marinas or on the Internet.

I look forward to more expert folks chiming in on this.

View Marq's profile


3 posts in 1509 days

#3 posted 04-02-2014 09:09 PM

This is not a UV issue because this cabinet has been in a room with no window since it was build. I’m at a loss on this one. I really appreciate your comments. Hopefully someone a lot smarter than me has a solution to this.



View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2669 days

#4 posted 04-02-2014 10:33 PM

I have built several cedar chest for family. I sanded the wood then when I was ready to finish it, I coated it with boiled linseed oil. Don’t leave it pooling but take a rag and wipe on a good coat. Let that sit for about 24 hours. At the time we used sanding sealer (1 coat) then lacquer (3 coats). I think you can put polyurethane on it but have never actually done that. I do plan to try it in a few months but we used lacquer where I went to school in the ‘60’s. These cedar chests still have that great color and grain. I believe the cedar is correctly called aromatic cedar isn’t it. Red cedar is not nearly so beautiful.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2363 days

#5 posted 04-02-2014 11:49 PM

Easter red cedar is the wood that the OP has shown, aka aromatic cedar. Wester red cedar is the kind you’d normally see used for exterior applications, and looks, well, not red.

I’d be curious to know what the determining factor is in how long the color stays the same. The wood on the chest I posted in my projects was almost purple when I first milled it. By the time I’d finished it, it was a nice bright orangish brown. I finished it with Polycrylic and it sits in a room that gets the morning evening sun, and it still looks like the day I finished it, about 2 years ago.

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

View bigblockyeti's profile


5111 posts in 1714 days

#6 posted 04-03-2014 12:01 AM

I’ve used lacquer over eastern cedar and it looks great initially, those projects that stay out of the sunlight keep their color, those that get even a little sunlight fade eventually in my experience. Same with purpleheart, I have a wine rack in the basement that’s still brilliant purple and a lamp stand of sorts by the window that now looks like a muddy brown purple mix. I have to remember to rotate it every once in a while so it fades evenly. I have completely unfinished cedar in my closet and the complete lack of sunlight has allowed it to stay as colorful as it was when it came out of the planer.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2669 days

#7 posted 04-03-2014 02:31 AM

I didn’t mention 2 things in my earlier response. Only oil the outside of a chest or cabinet. Oiling the inside will cover the aroma. The other thing I failed to mention is I graduated from high school 49 years ago this spring so I am not sure how long this will keep the wood looking nice and fresh but it must be more than 50 years. I am all for the linseed oil on the outside of the cedar. It will make the grain and color pop out at you.

View firefighterontheside's profile


18149 posts in 1850 days

#8 posted 04-03-2014 02:45 AM

I’ve used eastern red cedar a lot and I think as stated earlier, the oil products work the best, though they tend to add a bit of amber to the color. I’ve used water based products and they looked great til the finish dried and then it was back to the faded color.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Aj2's profile


1382 posts in 1792 days

#9 posted 04-03-2014 03:39 AM

The reason you can’t keep the color is ,that’s the way Mother Nature want it so she always get her way.
You just got to play the hand your dealt.

-- Aj

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18265 posts in 3669 days

#10 posted 04-03-2014 04:38 AM

There is a company here in the Seattle area that builds cedar log homes. They stay good looking with the fresh cedar color. Might check with them and see if they will tell you what they use for exterior finish. Cedar will turn gray in a year if left to its own devices ;-(

Might try this . Most finishes do not really preserve the natural wood.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Marq's profile


3 posts in 1509 days

#11 posted 04-03-2014 12:19 PM

Thanks for all your responses. I will try some of your suggestions. =)

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