Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

November, 2003

Finishing Wooden Cedar Chest

Q. I have a extreamly old cedar chest that the finish has begun to wear off, it's solid cedar and beautiful wood. I removed the finish and tried teak oil on the top. I let it dry for 1 week and it appears that the sap is bleeding through the teak oil finish. Is there a specific treatmet that should be used?

A. Cedar can be difficult to finish. I recommend that you remove the teak oil that you put on the chest, and wash the surface well with lacquer thinner to wash back some of the natural oils in the cedar. By washing with lacquer thinner you are not washing out the oils completely from the wood as much as you are washing out the surface oils in order to create a good surface in which to apply another coating.

Because cedar has natural oil that migrate to the surface, this may cause most any surface coating to remain soft, or lift from the woods surface.

By washing with lacquer thinner, you will wash off the oil that has migrated up to the surface and create a good clean surface to apply a shellac finish to.

The shellac is alcohol soluble, and is not subject to softening from the migration of the natural cedar oil as may be the case with the teak oil.

Because of the fact that shellac is alcohol soluble, this makes it a good stain and oil blocker, shellac is often used when finishing knotty pine to help seal in the sap from the knots.

Please be aware that coatings and solvents are chemicals and therefore you should always pay attention to proper handling procedures and be prepared to wear protective clothing, such as respirators, gloves, coveralls, etc. For further information on the health and safety requirements for the coatings and solvents you wish to use we strongly advised you to contact your local coating supplier. If possible, go the extra step and look for this information on the website of the product vendor.

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