Need Finish Suggestions For Outdoor Picnic Table Made From Western Red Cedar

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Forum topic by Targa posted 07-04-2014 03:10 PM 1467 views 1 time favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118 posts in 1981 days

07-04-2014 03:10 PM

I’m finishing up building a picnic table and benches for outdoor use made from western red cedar and am trying to figure out what finish to use on them.

I don’t want to use paint or any solid colors because we want to see the wood grain.

From the information I could find on the internet and in the archives on this site, it seems a semi-transparent oil based stain or finish with UV protection is recommended the most often without any consensus on brand or product, although Sikkens Cetol SRD seems to be mentioned more often. Its my understanding that outdoor furniture made from western red cedar will need to be lightly sanded and recoated every couple of years but the right products will not peel they will just fade.

Can anyone with experience finishing western red cedar on outdoor furniture give me some suggestions based on your experience.

Thank you

-- Dom

2 replies so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2931 days

#1 posted 07-05-2014 12:30 AM

You are on the right track with oils rather than film finishes which will invariably split/crack/peel.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View cooksmtn's profile


15 posts in 1810 days

#2 posted 07-05-2014 03:15 AM

I build a lot of outdoor furniture and planters, out of Western Red and Incense Cedar. Up until recently I was using Olympic Waterguard, an oil based penetrating finish. It was an economical product, had some linseed oil in it to bring out the color, UV inhibitors, and was a water repellent. An annual application did a fair job of maintaining the color and a good job of repelling water. I never paid more than $15/gallon. I had tried other, more expensive products, which performed slightly better, but the Olympic seemed to be the best value.

Unfortunately, they switched to a water based formula last year, which raised the grain on my finely sanded pieces. I used part of a gallon to compare performance, and it seemed to repel water as well, but didn’t seem to impart the same depth of color. The grain raising was unacceptable, so I didn’t pursue the product further.

I searched for a while for another oil based product in the $20/ gallon range, and didn’t find much. The few oil based finishes I found were at least twice that price.

I now use a blend of boiled linseed oil and Thompson’s Wood Protector (which seems to be Thompson’s Waterseal with UV inhibitors added). As near as I can tell, Thompson’s isn’t much more than paraffin dissolved in a solvent. Into my second year using this combo, and it seems to do what I want. And customers seem happy with it. Buying the Thompson’s in 5 gallon pails, I believe my cost is under $20 gallon.

As I tell my customers, you get what you pay for. The higher priced products will need less maintenance, so it’s a case of how much your time is worth.

FWIW, I am located in a semi-arid climate at high elevation, where UV is a bigger factor than water.

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