What Kind of Oil is Best for Cedar Wood

No wood species is perfect, but few come close to it as much as cedar does. Specifically western red cedar is resistant to water, insect attack, and decay or rot. It also has a beautiful grain structure and colour, but where it lacks is that it has tons of knots. However, even the most water-resistant wood also requires finishing. Using an oil finish is a great idea, as it will not only accentuate wood but also make it further resistant to the elements. Though you might be wondering which oil finish would be best for wood like cedar. In this article, we will answer that question for you and find out what kind of oil is best for cedar wood.

For cedar wood, the best kind of oil is linseed oil and Danish oil. Linseed oil has been used for centuries by people who use cedar for fencing purposes. It helps greatly in highlighting the colour of the wood and the grain pattern. Not to mention it dries out and cures to a hard finish that can strengthen cedar. Danish oil is used for projects that need added protection. It contains natural blends of oils that penetrate deep into wooden fibres, providing protection against moisture.

Cedar has been used in fencing and cladding traditionally due to its water-resistant nature. It is a great wood to work with as well, it has a really nice scent when it is cut into. It is insect repellent so termites don’t bite into it either. However, it is not a dense wood, western red cedar has a Janka hardness rating of a mere 350. While the eastern red cedar is about 900 on the Janka hardness scale. This is why people enjoy carving with the western variant of cedar. It is easier to carve than ash and cuts easily with knives and blades.

Best Oils for Cedar Wood

1. Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is by far the best natural finish to apply on cedar wood. Not only does it dry to a hard finish making the lumber durable, but it also brings out the beauty of cedar. This wood is famed for its water-resistance and insect-repellent nature, which is why it is used in cladding and fencing. People also use eastern red cedar to make wooden cottages and flooring as it ranks higher on the Janka hardness scale. Having been finished with linseed oil, the cedar gives a really gorgeous and rich look.

As far as durability goes, linseed oil penetrates deep into the fibres of cedar. When it hardens it makes the wood strong inside out. However, if you are planning on using it for exterior purposes, it will not protect it from the sun’s UV rays which causes degradation. So applying a coat or two of a finish with UV inhibitors will actually help in avoiding the colours of cedar from fading. Linseed oil has a slight amber hue that deepens as time passes.

Lastly, linseed oil is very easy to apply, however, it takes a lot of time to dry compared to other oil finishes. Sunnyside Corporation’s Pure Linseed Oil right now is the best-selling product online. It has natural linseed oil that improves cedar’s resistance to weather elements.

2. Danish Oil

Ask any woodworker what would be one of the best outdoor oil finishes, they would just point towards a bottle or can of Danish oil. Cedar is famously used in outdoor projects like fencing for its water repellency. Add Danish oil finish to it which contains a blend of natural oils with resins and varnish and the cedar wood will last a long time before it needs maintenance again. It will also bring out and highlight the grain structure along with the knots of the wood. The reddish-brown colour of the wood also becomes prominent with the application of Danish oil. 

The best part about using Danish oil as a finish is that it is very easy to apply. It hardly takes any time for it to dry compared to other oil finishes like linseed oil. The only issue if there is any with Danish oil is the distinct smell that it gets from the chemical components. However, since it dries and cures fast, the odour goes away fast.

Watco Rust-Oleum’s Danish Oil in Natural Shade is one such example that does not alter the colour of the lumber. Not to mention it is one of the best products that perform really well.

Step-by-Step Guide on Oiling Cedar Wood

To apply any finish to wood requires preparation beforehand. Some woodworkers even go as far as to say that a successful finish needs just as good of a prep. You start by sanding your lumber, in this case, cedar wood, from 80-grits and move up your way through the grits. You can use a random orbit sander for this job, but make sure to also have a sanding block at hand.

Step 1 – Sanding the Cedar Wood

As we said before, for any lumber or wood to accept any finish properly, it needs to be sanded. You need to begin sanding from 80-grits and move your way through the grits up to 180. Anything higher than that will make it hard for oil to be soaked into the wood. You can use a random orbit sander as you move up the grits. Start off from 80-grit and take your time to thoroughly sand the surface of the cedar wood. Once you are sure that the whole area has been properly covered with the abrasive move on to the next grit which is 120.

Repeat the same process for 120 grits and take your time to sand to make sure you cover the whole surface of cedar properly. Then move on to 150-grits, the same procedure as before with the previous two abrasives. Once you are finished with 150 it is highly advised that you use a sanding block for the last grit. Use the sanding block with 180-grit sandpaper and move in the direction of the grain as you sand the cedar. This might take some time but it will give you way better results than if you had used a random orbit sander.

Step 2 – Oiling the Cedar

Pour your choice of oil on the cedar liberally and use a rag or brush to spread it all across the surface. Make sure you cover every nook and cranny so that no area of the wood isn’t covered with oil. You can either pour the oil directly on the wood or pour it on some rag and apply it using that. Either way, make sure that the first coat of oil is generous. After you are done applying you need to wait 10-15 minutes and then wipe off any excess using a rag.

Step 3 – Apply Second Coat

Once your first coat of oil has dried off, you can apply another coat of your oil. This time though, don’t apply liberally as the wood has already absorbed a generous amount from the first coat. It has become slightly saturated and won’t be able to take in too much more. So apply a small amount of oil on a rag or directly on the surface and spread it across the whole surface of the cedar. Again, make sure you don’t leave any corners that aren’t oiled.

Wait for 15 minutes then take a rag and wipe off any excess oil as it does not dry properly and might take longer. You can do this for as many coats of oil you want to apply to the cedar but at some point, it will become saturated and won’t be able to absorb any more.

Step 4 – Wiping Off Excess

As the cedar wood becomes saturated with oil, it will start to expel some out. Droplets of oil will form over the surface of the lumber which most woodworkers refer to as sweat. Use a clean rag to rub the cedar properly and wipe off any excess oil. You might have to do this once or twice before it stops doing so. If you don’t wipe off this excess it will not dry properly and make the cedar wood sticky to the touch which will ruin its texture.

Teak Oil on Cedar Wood

Teak oil is not made from the teak tree, in fact, it does not have anything related to teak in it at all. The name comes from the fact that the wood from the teak tree is highly resistant to water and insects. It is a natural water and insect repellent lumber and is often used for outdoor furniture. Teak oil is made from blends of oil that help prevent water damage. It is highly suitable for outdoor furniture in general, thus it borrows the name from the qualities of teak wood.

Cedar wood which is also a water and insect repellent lumber is also used for outdoor fencing purposes. This is because it can withstand rain and other weather elements better than most others. It also makes for a great wood for a birdhouse since the wood can withstand rainy weather. Applying teak oil to it will only help in improving its water repellency compared to if it is not finished at all. Since teak oil contains a blend of linseed oil and tung oil, it will help in highlighting its grain pattern and colour.

Benefits of Oiling Cedar Wood

Cedar wood is mostly used outdoors which causes it to be face to face with natural elements. Oiling cedar will not only help it from drying out from the inside but it will prevent it from taking any water damage from a continuous outpour of rain. It will also help it from having a faded look as the sun can cause wood to become grey and fade in colour. Even if it is not so rainy or sunny where you are using your cedar, the humidity in the air can also affect the cedar.

Besides, being brushed against by wind will wear down anything including wood. So having a few coats of oil applied to the cedar wood will help it in staying strong and durable.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Does cedar wood need to be oiled?

Yes, cedar requires it to be oiled if you want to improve its water repellency. It is naturally repellent to water and insects. However, it has a limit to how much it can withstand, with oil you can stretch that limit further.

What is the best oil to put on cedar?

Linseed oil is the best oil to put on cedar wood. It makes the wood more durable and highlights the knots and grain pattern.

Does Danish oil darken cedar wood?

If you use a neutral shade of Danish oil, it will not darken cedar wood.

Final Thoughts

Cedar is a very forgiving lumber and has many varieties that you can use in your projects. If you want something harder for cladding or building a cottage, then you can always choose the eastern red cedar that has a higher Janka rating. However, even then oiling cedar is a good choice as it will improve its strength and prevent it from drying out. Frequently oiling using one of the oils in our list will make your cedar strong from the inside out and keep it beautiful.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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