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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys - getting ready to assemble a cedar patio table.

The wife wasnt 100% sold on the red tones in the cedar so i mocked up a couple test pieces. She like the piece stained with a Minwax Cherrywood Gel Stain. Browns up the red hues just enough while also darkening up the white streaks in the wood. The thought of putting gel stain on the entire table (48"x48") doesnt sound awesome...

I really want a topcoat that will be durable as we plan to leave the table outside year round (Ohio). So that has me thinking a Poly??

I have also seem some sealers but im just not sure that is best for a cedar table that is going to nick and dent easily due to the softness of the cedar...I have some cedar tones fence/deck sealer but i have also seen glowing reviews for Sikkens Cetol sealers...

Just looking for general thoughts/suggestions from you guys who are vastly more experiences with wood finishes for cedar.
 

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The gel stain is an interior stain and shouldn't be used for exterior work. You might use a semi-transparent house stain such as Woodscapes from Sherwin Williams and then topcoat it with a spar varnish. A better finish would be a marine grade spar varnish such as Epifanes Spar Varnish available at boat supply stores
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Steve

Will the boat varnish "build up" like a poly for protection from the kiddos dropping cups, utensils, etc on it?
 

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Thanks Steve

Will the boat varnish "build up" like a poly for protection from the kiddos dropping cups, utensils, etc on it?
Yes, very much so. It's formulated to use for the deck of a boat. It will take a great deal more abuse then the Helmsman spar varnish. It's been a while since I've used it and what I had was very thick and built quickly. It needs to be thinned to use especially if you spray it. Just be sure to use their thinner to make sure there is no adverse reaction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks a million for the info. It appears that it only comes in high gloss. Any suggestions on how to take the sheen away. I was hoping for more of a matte/satin finish.

It never dawned on me that the gel stain probably shouldn't be used outdoors. My mind was stuck on the premise that I could stain with whatever I wanted as long as I covered it with an exterior grade poly such as the Helmsman.
 

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If you go the spar varnish route, I think it give great protection and look nice. Epiphanes spar varnish seems to be the gold standard, though it's expensive. Most boat builders brush it, because it's relatively thick and will build quickly when brushed and the goal is to get it to build. On some spars, it can be seen to be visibly thick. Some even chill it to get it to go on even thicker. It stays soft compared to other finishes so it can flex with the wood's expansion and contraction and that also makes it resilient to dings and dents


BUT......

Any clear finish allows the wood below to break down with exposure to the sun's UV rays. When it does, the bond between the varnish and the wood is broken, some water gets in, it further compromises the bond and before you know it, you're scraping, sanding and re-varnishing. Boaters with varnish finishes usually sand every year and add another coat of varnish. The absolutely, positively best way to keep varnish looking nice is a cover. I made a mahogany and oak tiller a decade ago, put 5 coats of varnish and made a cover out of Sunbrella material. The tiller still looks good. On every other inch of wood, the varnish begins to peel within a year, lasts two at the most.

Cetol makes a marine coating that's sort of a rust color, it has an additive in it that prevents UV degradation (the additive is what makes it rust colored), but it also obscures the grain and it's a whole lot less pretty than varnish (IMHO).

It's not that often that I get to contribute on this forum, I'm usually asking questions, but trust me on this one - If you've got a sewing machine that can sew sunbrella, break it out and make a cover. Sunbrella is available from Sailrite.com Sometimes you can find it at fabric stores too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Would there be anyway to tint the Epifanes varnish to add in some cedar tones to decrease the red hue at all? If not, no worries. I personally love the contrasting tones of red, brown, white in the cedar but the wife is more conservative.

You guys definitely have me sold on the varnish over the Helmsman from the box store. Going to get some ordered right now.

Thanks again!!!
 

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The Epifanes is available in a satin sheen but keep in mind that any exterior finish whether it is paint or varnish is more durable in a gloss sheen. They put flattening agents that look like talcum powder into gloss to create the satin sheen and the flattening agent makes the finish more porous. Can you imagine how hard it would be to keep your car clean if it had a satin sheen on it. The dirt holds moisture on the finish and when water gets under the finish it causes it to fail.

I wouldn't add any color to the Epifanes. If you want to do that I would just go with the Helmsman. What you will need to do is give the wood the color with the stain before putting the varnish on it. It's best to practise the stain on scrap wood first before putting anything on your project. For practice purposes you could use the Helmsman to see what it will look like with a finish on it.

 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I think i am completely thinking far too much into this, to the point that i have utterly confused myself...

The first coat of Epifanes calls for it to be thinned to a ratio of 50%. What exactly does that mean? If i place 10mL of varnish in a container, how much thinner do i need to add to give the 50% ratio, 10mL or 5mL? Is something that is thinned to 50% essentially 1.1?


Surface Preparation:
Bare wood must be clean, dry and free of grease etc. Degrease with Epifanes Spray Thinner For Paint and Varnish or denatured alcohol. (Wiping down with mineral or white spirits, may leave an oily residue.) Do not use water. Sand the bare wood to a fresh surface with 60 - 80 grit dry abrasive paper with the grain of the wood. A block may be used to assist in fairing the surface. Finish sand with 100 - 120 grit dry abrasive paper. If desired, stain the wood at this time with a good quality oil or water based stain. Do not color the varnish itself as this will create a muddy appearance. Brush application with a good quality, clean, natural bristle brush will give good results. Try an Epifanes brush for the ultimate varnishing experience. Foam brushes are convenient on smaller projects however, are not suitable for larger jobs. "Roll and tip" is a great method for large flat areas. 3" foam roller followed by a bristle brush is the best combination.
CoatsFirstSecondThirdAt least 4 moreProductEpifanes Clear GlossEpifanes Clear GlossEpifanes Clear GlossEpifanes Clear GlossThinnerBrush Thinner For P&VBrush Thinner For P&VBrush Thinner For P&VBrush Thinner For P&VThinning Ratio %5025150 - 5Drying Time in hours24 at 65F.24 at 65F.24 at 65F.24 at 65F.Abrasive paper grit220280320320-400Abrasive paper typeDryDryDryWet or DryApprox. coverage /150 - 300 sq. feet150 - 250 sq. feet150 - 200 sq. feet150 sq. feetRemarksDo not sand through
the stainSand by hand. Machines can be too aggressive.
 

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50% would mean it's half Epifanes and half thinner so 10ml. would be used. The stuff is pretty thick and a thin first coat is so it bonds well to the wood. The only thing I didn't like in the instructions were the remarks about the stain. You shouldn't use just any stain for exterior wood. Stains are formulated to be interior or exterior and if you use an interior stain it is likely to fade pretty fast. Normally the color you have to look out for in exterior applications is a stain that contains red. The color red fades quicker than any other. Even the color brown contains red and in the sun over time can turn green. Yellow tones are safer.
 
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