What's the best way to finish cypress for an outside project?

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Forum topic by helluvawreck posted 09-24-2014 03:56 PM 10685 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3101 days

09-24-2014 03:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing cypress for outside use

My brother in law bought an old wrought iron bench and the wood is mostly gone. Even though I don’t have the time I agreed to give him a hand on it and I’m not going to charge him a dime because we are pretty close. He wants to do as much of the work as he can so hopefully there is an easy finish that a beginner can put on the wood parts. I’m going to buy some 4/4 cypress from my brother who sells hardwood. We use to be in the molding business before we lost our plant in a fire.

I don’t have any experience with cypress. Neither do I know how to finish an outside project like this that will be good and durable. I don’t have much experience with outside projects like this.

What would be a good way for my brother in law to go about finishing the cypress slats that I will make for his bench?

Thanks in advance for any advice that you can give me.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

18 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4453 days

#1 posted 09-24-2014 04:20 PM

Personally, I would not finish it at all. Cypress will get weathered looking, but last pretty much forever outdoors. If you really want a finish, I think spar varnish is always the best way to go outdoors.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View lew's profile


12495 posts in 3990 days

#2 posted 09-24-2014 04:23 PM

I have never worked with it, either. But, I remember watching a New Yankee Workshop episode that made a Garden Bench from it. I remember them saying that Cypress has a high silica content so it is tough on blades. Also, I think they just left it unfinished, allowing it to age naturally.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10364 posts in 4287 days

#3 posted 09-24-2014 04:47 PM

Natural finish is best… just leave it alone… Forever!

Otherwise, I think I would go with just BLO or Tung Oil…
... every year or so, all you have to do is a light sanding & re-oil. YOU will have to do this FOREVER.

With Varnishes, etc. you will have to sand the old finish OFF completely to refinish… AND you will be refinishing every year or so… FOREVER.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View bruc101's profile


1261 posts in 3776 days

#4 posted 09-24-2014 04:48 PM

I’ve been using Cypress for 45 years to hand carve and route wood signs and have made 100’s of counter tops with it.

It will age and turn a beautiful gray. I recently repainted the letters and cleaned up the gold leaf on a bed & breakfast sign I carved 20 years ago and the Cypress was absolutely beautiful.

If you want to clean it later pressure wash it and it will once again be even more beautiful than when new.
Our home was built totally out of Cypress in 1974. The outside, the studs, floor joist, sub flooring, decks, tongue and v-grooved ceiling and 3×12 exposed beams. There has never been an exterminator in our home nor do we have any kind of varmints in the house other than our daughters and grand kids.

You can’t go wrong with Cypress. Leave it in it’s natural state.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View stefang's profile


16209 posts in 3568 days

#5 posted 09-24-2014 05:10 PM

Interesting info. I wished we had it growing here so I could get some.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18423 posts in 3910 days

#6 posted 09-24-2014 09:18 PM

It likes water Mike. How about panting some and see how it likes the fjords ;-)

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

View firefighterontheside's profile


19580 posts in 2091 days

#7 posted 09-24-2014 09:24 PM

I tried marine polyurethane and it peeled off of my chairs I a few years. I put natural deck stain on it and haven’t done anything since(10 years). Definitely want something that soaks in and not coats.

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

View Lenny's profile


1616 posts in 3761 days

#8 posted 09-24-2014 09:43 PM

Hi Charles. As others have stated, cypress is a perfect outdoor wood that weathers to a grayish tone. I personally do not like gray. I built a cupola out of cypress and finished it with Epifanes marine varnish. It darkens the cypress like a polyurethane would but I prefer that over gray. A fellow LJ who goes by cypresswoodworker advised me to never seal cypress completely or it will rot. For that reason, I only used the Epifanes on the exterior of the cupola, leaving the interior to breathe. The marine varnish lasts about 2 years before it needs re-coating.

I just completed another project made from cypress. It was made at the request of my daughter and she wanted it stained. I hated doing it but obliged her wishes. I did not apply any finish over the stain since all surfaces are visible and therefore I would be sealing it. Good luck.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View jack1's profile


2117 posts in 4262 days

#9 posted 09-24-2014 09:48 PM

I’ve also heard natural aging too for outside projects. There is an auditorium with panels on the walls at UC Davis from cypress found under water somewhere (Canada maybe). It had been there for a couple of hundred years I understand. They finished it because it’s inside and its really stunning.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2924 days

#10 posted 09-24-2014 10:33 PM

Do whatever he wants but DO NOT use a film finish like Poly or Spar as it will crack/split/peel. I would either do BLO or leave it naked.

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

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2595 days

#11 posted 09-24-2014 11:46 PM

Behr exterior solid stain.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View TheFridge's profile


10814 posts in 1720 days

#12 posted 09-24-2014 11:57 PM

Jack, that is sinker cypress. Pricey stuff.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View jack1's profile


2117 posts in 4262 days

#13 posted 09-25-2014 01:30 AM

I didn’t know it was available at all. Purity…

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3038 days

#14 posted 09-25-2014 11:22 AM

Good question with lotsa good answers. Always learn something new on LJ’s.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View kajunkraft's profile


162 posts in 2444 days

#15 posted 09-25-2014 12:26 PM

Websites such as LJ have really expanded my knowledge. One thing is that different areas call Cypress by different names; and some areas call something Cypress which is totally different from the Cypress I know.

That being said, I am in South Louisiana and we have what I believe is properly called Bald Cypress or Southern Cypress. And there are two types in general: Old Cypress & New Cypress.

Old Cypress is found in old buildings and as sinker cypress. It is highly sought after and then hoarded like gold, with gold prices should you find some to be purchased. It is great wood and requires no type of conditioning to last forever, as it already has and will continue to do so.

New Cypress is found at most any lumber supplier and has been harvested at a much earlier stage in its growth. It has to be carefully treated or will rot very quickly when exposed to the outdoor environment. TWP is one very good stain/sealer with several color choices which create a fairly natural and beautiful look. It has to be retreated periodically to maintain the protection.

I build primarily outdoor furniture and used to use our local cypress. Had lots of failures when customers did not retreat as required. Switched to Western Red Cedar, which is not local, and have had a lot better luck. It truly does not rot nor feed the termites even when totally unfinished/treated. WRC is often used to line the insides of saunas, which are quite warm, humid, wet, etc.

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

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