Guild of Oregon Woodworkers

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Finising Exterior Furniture (Ipe/Cedar)

  • 10 Jun 2018 2:26 PM
    Message # 6302459


    I'm in the process of making a table that will reside oudoors year round.  The top is Ipe, the rest Western Red Cedar.  I thought about leaving it unfinished and letting it gray naturally, but at least for the first year or two want to preserve the color of the respective woods. My preferences are low gloss to high, natural to amber/yellowing finishes, with consideration for trade-offs between aesthetics and durability.

    For the cedar, I was thinking of using a DIY wiping varish of roughly 40% boiled linseed oil (BLO), 40% mineral spirits and 20% Epifanes spar varnish.

    For the IPE, because of the problems with woods like Ipe holding finishes I'm thinking maybe just the BLO.  I've read on various forums that people like things like Penofins Marine Oil and Deckwise Ipe Oil, but if they have to be reapplied every six months to a year anyway, am I really any better off using these?  I'll normally be using plates and cutting boards, but this is still food prep area, not a deck, so there's that to consider.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

    Rich Schiffer

    Last modified: 10 Jun 2018 7:19 PM | Anonymous
  • 13 Jun 2018 11:41 AM
    Reply # 6309522 on 6302459

    Hi Rich,

    If you do a google search for Fine Woodworking Outdoor Finishes, you will see that in issue #205 they did a "torture test" of exterior grade finish. That test showed that either Epifanes (a Dutch marine varnish) alone or a combination of Epifanes and epoxy worked the best. They then left the finishes out an additional two years and discovered that really only the Epifanes/epoxy combo was really durable.

    Long story short, exterior finishes, no matter how good, are going to require maintenance. The sun is really destructive. Paint is a really good option because it blocks UV, but then you can't see the wood.

    I tried using Epifanes once. Ultimately I gave up and the chair is inside instead. I found the finish to be expensive and hard to get right. I had a lot of streaking and uneven sheen and it takes a lot of coats to get full protection. I'm sure with a lot of practice I could have figured it out, but I decided to just go with unfinished for future outdoor furniture. If you do want to try, Epifanes is intended for Teak and other marine woods, so it should work for the Ipe and Cedar you have. And I bet with some research online you could get some advice for best results.

    I hope this helps.

  • 09 Jul 2018 5:03 PM
    Reply # 6367785 on 6302459

    The Wood Whisperer has a great episode on creating and finishing an outdoor bench. He goes through his process of sealing the wood with thinned epoxy and final finish with epoxy and varnish in detail. 

    He did refinishing work professionally before his website became his main source of income so I trust his techniques.

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