How To Finish Cedar Wood – Unbelievable Tricks

How To Finish Cedar Wood

Finishing cedar wood is a process of great nuance, taking patience and technique to achieve the optimum results. Taking on this challenge is to enter an age-old tradition of craftsmanship and dedication, but the effort is definitely worth it – once you understand the nooks and crannies of the process you’ll be armed with a valuable and rewarding set of skills. In this article, we’ll explore the intricate specifics of how to finish cedar wood, from preparation to protection of the final finish. Read on to learn the entire process and get the best results possible!

Finishing Cedar Wood

Finishing cedar wood can be a rewarding and satisfying task, bringing out the unique beauty of the wood’s color and grain and protecting it for years to come. While, at first, it may seem daunting, following the steps and taking proper care is the key to achieving a successful result. The following section will guide you through the process of preparing your wood, sanding and staining or painting, sealing, and protecting the finish. With a bit of thought and effort, you can have a beautiful cedar wood finish that will last.


So, how do you prepare cedar wood for finishing? The main things you should do when getting ready to finish cedar wood are checking the wood for damage, cleaning the wood, and possibly sanding it.

First, you should inspect the wood for any existing damage. You should look for scratches, splinters, or any other type of damage that could interfere with the finishing process. If you find any, you should repair them at this time.

Next, you should clean the wood with a damp cloth to remove any debris and any dirt or oils that may have built up on the surface. Make sure that the damp cloth isn’t so wet that it could disturb the natural oils within the wood.

Lastly, you may consider lightly sanding the wood with a very fine-grained sandpaper. This is to help smooth the surface and to help make sure that any stains or paints will be more evenly applied. The key here is to lightly sand and not to over-sand, as this could cause issues with the wood’s finish in the long run.

That’s it! Now your cedar wood is ready to be finished. Just remember that the cleaning and sanding steps are not required for cedar wood, and can be skipped if you choose.

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Materials Needed

When it comes to finishing cedar wood materials, you’ll want to make sure you have everything on hand to ensure that the job is done correctly. Make sure you have sandpaper, from roughly 60 to 320 grit. You’ll also need wood cleaner to make sure the wood is clean before staining and sealing. Have a high quality, oil-based wood stain so you can get the exact color you are looking for. Finally, you should also have at least one can of high quality, oxide-based seal coating for protection of the wood.

It’s also important to have various rags and cloths on hand. These will come in handy for the cleaning process, as well as the sanding and staining. Have an assortment of cloths, from course to fine, and make sure they are clean so there is no danger of cross-contamination. If stain is being applied, make sure to wear gloves and safety glasses to protect your hands and eyes. Lastly, have a dust mask handy to protect your lungs from the dust created from sanding.

Having all the necessary materials on hand before beginning the process of finishing cedar wood will ensure that the job is done properly and that the wood will look amazing. Take time to gather all the needed items so that you are both safe and efficient when it comes down to the work.


Sanding is one of the most important steps in finishing cedar wood. Proper sanding will help create a smooth surface and define the wood grain, giving your cedar the desired finish. The first thing to consider when sanding cedar is the grit of the sand paper, which will depend on the existing condition of the wood. For example, if the surface of the cedar is already smooth, an 80- to 100-grit sandpaper can be used. If there is a rough surface, rough spots, or bumps, 40-grit sandpaper may be necessary. Make sure to use a finer grit sandpaper on the edges and corners to ensure a smooth finish in those areas.

Once you have the correct grit paper, the sanding itself is relatively straightforward. Start by making sure the cedar is free of dirt and debris before sanding and then attach the sandpaper to a block of wood or an orbital sander. Lightly sand the wood in overlapping rows, starting with the coarsest grit followed by the finer grits. Move the sandpaper in the same direction as the wood grain and make sure to clean off any dust. Sand until the cedar wood is a smooth, consistent texture and the wood grain is defined. To finish, use a sanding sponge or cloth to gently buff the wood and get rid of any imperfections.

Staining or Painting

Staining or painting cedar wood can be a great way to give the wood a unique look that is tailored to meet your exact needs. Once you have prepped the wood, sanded it and ensured that it is clean and smooth, you can begin staining or painting it.

When it comes to staining cedar wood, you want to start off by selecting the specific wood stain that you want to use. Make sure to choose the stain that will best complement the look of the wood, keeping in mind the final aesthetic that you want to achieve. Then, apply the stain with a brush, rag or sponge and make sure to cover the entire surface entirely. Once the stain has been applied, leave it to dry and then you can decide whether you want to give it a light sanding to smooth it out and make the colors even more beautiful.

When painting, you want to be sure to use a primer that is specifically made for cedar wood. Start off by using a brush or roller to apply the primer, working in smooth and even strokes. Once the primer has been applied, you can then move onto painting the cedar with the color of your choice. Again, ensure that the entire surface is properly covered and then leave it to dry. After the paint has completely dried, you may wish to apply a coat of clear sealer, in order to protect and enhance the painted or stained finish.


When it comes to sealing cedar wood, it’s important to ensure you’re selecting the right product. Coastal climates and areas with high humidity are areas that cedar wood should be particularly well-sealed in. If you’re dealing with near-salt water climate, you’ll need to find a sealant that’s strong enough to keep the wood from wearing down. Before applying your sealant, it’s essential to know the condition of your wood. Many sealers can take multiple coats, so sanding down a rough surface may be necessary. You’ll also want to lightly sand between each coat of the sealer if you’re going for extra protection or a glossy finish. If you’re looking for a more natural look, select a sealer that’s transparent like a penetrating oil. It will still protect the wood from water, but won’t give it the standard tint of a stain or paint. Completing the sealing process with a few layers of clear coat will make sure that all of your efforts won’t go to waste. After you’ve allowed the sealer to cure, it’s important to clean the cedar wood of any dust and debris to prevent it from becoming scratched and discolored. With the right sealant and proper maintenance, cedar wood will be looking great for years to come.

Protecting the Finish

Caring for the wood finish on cedar is not difficult, but it does require a certain level of attention and maintenance. It is important to keep any exposed cedar surface clean and free of moisture and dirt. Dirt and moisture can cause the finish on cedar to break down, resulting in a dull, lifeless look. To keep the cedar looking its best, it’s important to regularly dust or wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth.

Protecting the finish with a sealant is recommended to keep the wood looking as it should. A sealant helps to protect the wood from any dirt, moisture, or staining that could come with time. Most sealers are applied once but might need to be reapplied if the finish starts to look dull or worn. There are a variety of sealants to choose from, from polyurethane to lacquers and varnishes, so it’s important to find the best fit for your particular cedar project.

If you’re looking for an added layer of protection for the cedar’s finish, applying a wax or oil to the wood can help keep it looking its best. Waxes and oils can help prolong the life of the cedar’s finish and can help keep the wood looking healthy and vibrant. Before you begin applying a wax or oil, it’s important to make sure the finish on the cedar is clean and dry and that the oil or wax you apply is specifically designed for outdoor use.

Cedar is a beautiful, natural looking wood that can add character and beauty to any outdoor space. With proper care and maintenance, your cedar finish can look lively and vibrant for years to come. Taking the time to thoroughly prepare and protect the finish with a sealant and/or wax defines the look of the cedar and will add a lifetime of beauty.

Tips & Advice

When finishing cedar wood, be sure to use a finish that stands up to the weather and offers protection against damage from moisture and rust. If the wood will be left unfinished, protection from rot and insect damage is essential. It can also be helpful to use a penetrating sealant for easier maintenance and polish in the future.

When staining cedar wood, be mindful of the grain and color of the wood. A stain should highlight the beauty of the wood grain, and not make it look artificial. For a deeper and richer tone, multiple coats can be applied with light sanding in between coats. Additionally, sealing between coats can also help with a stronger finish.

When using a brush to apply a finish, make sure to choose a soft, natural-haired brush. Brushes with synthetic bristles can leave brush marks and bristles that can get stuck in the wood. Finally, if using a spray finish, be sure to use even and consistent pressure when spraying the wood.

No matter the finish or type of wood, it’s useful to practice on a test board before starting the project. This can help to ensure the desired result is achieved. It’s also recommended to do some research on the specific cedar wood being used, as different cedar species react differently to different finishes. This will help ensure the best result for the project.


Devin B

Hi everyone! My name is Devin and I'm the author of this website about tips for woodturning and wood finishing. I'm an avid woodworker and have been doing it for over a decade. I'm constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with new materials and finishes.

I started my journey in woodworking when I was a teenager, making furniture for my bedroom and small projects for my family. As I got older, my interest in woodturning and wood finishing grew. I took classes on the subject and read books on the topic.

I'm passionate about woodturning and wood finishing because it allows me to express my creativity in a tangible way. I love the satisfaction of seeing a piece of wood that I have transformed from a block of raw material into a beautiful finished product.

I hope you find the tips and advice on this website helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to help out and share my experiences. Thanks for visiting my website!