I am trying my hand at some lawn benches and chairs for my fire pit. As I'm still new at this I'm choosing western red cedar because it's cheap and easy to work with.

However, I don't know how to stain it. I got Flood CWF-UV Clear natural but not sure if I should sand it first or how to prep the wood. Everywhere I look are techniques on how to apply it but not prepping.

Any recommendations or resources?

  • 2
    Just to mention, you aware that the American red cedars are one of the species that are often deliberately left bare? They will weather to a silvery grey in a couple of years, which you may or may not like, but they are quite resistant to rot all by themselves. Once you do finish them if you want them to continue to look that way you're locked into a finishing cycle for the remainder of the life of the piece, and that may mean yearly reapplication with prep sanding on top of the finish application itself. So there's a very significant difference in effort over time. – Graphus May 21 '20 at 9:49

That finish is a penetrant, not a surface coating. So the surface prep is pretty much whatever you want. For siding, it might be a pretty raw finish. Or, at most, a scuff-sanding of 50-60 grit. That is, there is no real requirement that new wood surfaces be prepared in specific manner for these sorts of finishes on cedar. For cedar, I've found that the real reason to prepare surafces for finish is to make it easier to apply the finish!

But for wood furniture there is an implicit contract that it doesn't fill the user with slivers, and is somewhat comfortable for their dainty bits.

To that end, you'll want to sand to something reasonable like 200-300 grit, and break the edges a bit. Clean the dust off and that's about it.

As for how fine to sand: that is a matter of taste and effort. For furniture intended to be left outside to go grey, going much further than 240 grit is probably overkill. I'd personally find 150 a little too rough for my leaning-back-in-the-shade-with-a-beer comfort, but I suppose after 1 or 2 Canadian summers the surface will be rougher than that anyway. I suppose you could use 150 most places and then finish a little finer on the seat and back. (Though, again, that sounds like extra effort for dubious results.)

  • When sanding, is it better to sand by hand or can I use a belt or palm sander? – NotSoSN May 20 '20 at 3:49
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    A belt sander is really only for heavy removal. A palm sander would work but they're pretty inefficient compared to random orbital sanders. If you can hook up a shop vac to your orbital sander it'll be a lot more efficient. – SaSSafraS1232 May 20 '20 at 15:56
  • +1 again, but for 200-300 grit being "something reasonable". For utility stuff you can often get away with sanding to only 150, and there's rarely benefit in sanding regular furniture pieces above about 220. I know a few woodworkers literally don't have any abrasives finer than 240 in the shop. – Graphus May 21 '20 at 9:39
  • @NotSoSN, that's a surprisingly deep/broad question. In general the idea of hand sanding goes out the window if you have loads and loads of it to do, as it's extremely tedious and effortful to sand very large amounts (even 1 very big surface) exclusively by hand. But it depends on the kind of sanding you're doing (how much work the sanding is intended to do) so on the other hand for better work final sanding should exclusively be done by hand, according to many authorities. This is because even with a good ROS the random scratch pattern can become slightly visible after finish is applied. – Graphus May 21 '20 at 9:46
  • @Graphus, yeah, my range of grit was signalling that, at the end of the day, it's the woodworker's hand or eye that determines when they ought to stop increasing grits. Start at 200, continue until satisfied or boredom sets in. – jdv May 21 '20 at 15:04

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