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Best cypress finish???

woodctr's picture

Just finishing an outdoor bench made of cypress and would like your opinion on the best finish.  I'm leaning towards shellac or maybe tung oil, as I want the natural color and beauty of the wood to show through.  I also would like to make it as weather proof as possible.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.   Thanks

RonInOttawa's picture

(post #111999, reply #1 of 7)

At a minimum, coat any part of the chair e.g., the legs or bottom of a footrest, that touches the ground with as much epoxy as the wood will soak up. My personal favourite for this task is Cold Cure, a very low viscosity epoxy made by Industrial Formulators and sold by Lee Valley.

I live in a wicked climate zone in Canada and I've had good success with spar varnish. A really good brand isn't cheap (~$30+ per liter) but it will contain a good UV inhibitor and last 3-5 years before the finish needs to be renewed. Use at least 3 coats.

I've read about coating all the wood with a clear epoxy to seal the wood prior to putting on the spar varnish but the utilitarian nature of my outdoor projects hasn't justified the additional expense.

If you use just a shellac or tung oil for the finish you will be renewing the finish on a yearly basis and the wood will definitely turn gray.


The biggest difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits. - A. Einstein

woodctr's picture

(post #111999, reply #3 of 7)

Thanks, the bench has wrought iron legs, so absorption of moisture throught the legs is not a problem.  I just want to be sure that I leave the wood seat and back as natural looking as possible and yet be able to make it fairly weatherproof.

thanks again.

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #111999, reply #4 of 7)

The natural look of outdoor wood is grey.  Attempts to keep it looking newly cut are excercises in continual maintenance--and usually doomed to fail, since some summer other things will get so hectic that the maintenance is neglected and grey results anyway, except patchy with ugly spots of deteriorated finish. 

Best is a Sunbrella cover which is removed only when the bench is in use. 

"oil finishes" mean several times a season maintenance.

varnish means an annual recoat, with periodic stripping and refinishing.  Only the best marine grade spar varnish makes sense to use--Epifanes Gloss, Interlux Schooner, and Pettit Captain's constitute the list.  Personally while these look great to me on teak and mahogany, I wouldn't put them on cypress or cedar. 

Edited 10/7/2008 5:41 pm ET by SteveSchoene

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

hammer1's picture

(post #111999, reply #2 of 7)

Both shellac and tung oil are very poor choices for exterior work. If you want a film type finish, you have a variety of marine varnish options. If you want an "in the wood" type finish you may want to consider a deck coating such as Defy or a marine oil. You are not likely to find any of these at a local paint supplier. No finish will last forever, outside. Some fnishes like Watco oil or Penofin may need renewing a couple of times a year. A high quality varnish may last several years. If you are late in maintaining any type of finish, you may have to sand and start over. Pick something that you are willing to keep up with or just go natural and let the wood age. Don't hesitate to contact the suppliers and ask for recommendations. They carry more products than the average woodworker will ever get to use. Different finishes require different application methods.

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

kreuzie's picture

(post #111999, reply #5 of 7)

Cypress is OK to leave unfinished for outdoor furniture. I'd worry more about the wrought iron.


Ckenney's picture

(post #111999, reply #6 of 7)

Since cypress is weather resistant (NOT weather proof; it will eventually rot), leaving it unfunished will lead to a silky grey.

The best outdoor finish is either an epoxy coating or marine varnish. FWW or PW did an article and found that the marine varnish bought from a marine supply store was superior to that found in a home center. I'm sure you could find some online if you don't live near the water.

HowardAcheson's picture

(post #111999, reply #7 of 7)

>> The best outdoor finish is either an epoxy coating or marine varnish

I think your sentence should read, "The best outdoor finish is an epoxy coating AND marine varnish:|" Epoxy is very intolerant of UV in sunlight. It will rapid deteriorate, cracking and peeling. That's the reason that epoxy surface are always overcoated with a UV absorbing coating such as a true marine exterior varnish.