I made this white cedar chest & I want to protect it from rain and graying from ultraviolet (UV) sun exposure.

I desire an oil stain or sealer because I have seen skin-peeling from varnish, shellac, and polyurethane on items left outdoors. Plus, oil is easy to apply and maintain, just wash off dust and debris, let dry, and reapply a year or three later.

Here is the clincher: I want to keep the wood looking as close as possible to what it looks like now, light wood, although I know darkening of the wood is inevitable -- I just want it looking lighter, not yellowed...

  • I was thinking to use tung oil & while mixing in a UV blocker, but I have no clue where to get a UV blocker, nor what is available, such as perhaps zinc powder.
  • Also I was wondering if some kind of pickling/whitewash may help the final oiled project look lighter like the original? --- what would I use for the pickling effect? A little primer paint in the oil before applying?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciatedenter image description here

  • 5
    Hi John, welcome to SE. You're seeking the impossible I'm afraid. There's really no reliable, long-term, solution to keeping exterior wood its original colour. It's even a bit of a challenge with interior stuff, outside just makes it exponentially harder. With exterior stuff one needs to embrace what the conditions dictate.
    – Graphus
    Jun 17, 2019 at 18:53
  • If you look at most oils, they are yellow in color (or will be eventually). Oil finishes will add a yellow hue to the color of any wood.
    – Ashlar
    Jun 17, 2019 at 23:12
  • What are your thoughts on adding a white picking additive? Would that offset the yellowing, possibly? I may just bite the bullet and spend the $ on a can of sealer oil and pour a bit in a container and add varying amount of primer and just see what happens and report back... I just didn't want to "waste" $ on experimenting on oil. This project has reached $90 & I thought it'd be $45, initially.
    – john neu
    Jun 18, 2019 at 17:47
  • Adding white to compensate for yellowing is something done commercially, so the idea is certainly credible. However the limited number of said products raises a question mark. And the problem with doing it yourself is you need to decide what to use for the white, try to find a UV blocker, then experiment with measurements and record/keep notes, and then see how the things ages with exposure to light. This just isn't practical for any one-time project, which is why I didn't provide an Answer suggesting exactly that.
    – Graphus
    Jun 19, 2019 at 6:57
  • There are some water-while exterior finishes available but they don't fit your requirements either. They don't leave the wood looking pretty much unfinished, they rely on a gloss finish for water shedding (gloss always helps reduce weathering on exterior finishes), so the appearance is all wrong, and the front runner is kinda famous for being very picky about application conditions if you're not spraying (I presumed you didn't have a spraygun and compressor) so that kinda got ruled out too. Plus on top of all that like all marine coatings they're kinda pricey, one quart is like 60 bucks.
    – Graphus
    Jun 19, 2019 at 7:03

4 Answers 4


If you want it to remain light colored I would NOT use an oil finish, like tung oil or linseed oil. These are used specifically when you want a more "amber" finish.

For UV protection you'll want a "spar varnish" or similar product labeled for outdoor use. Typically waterborne products keep the wood closer to their original color than oil-based products. So I'd probably try a waterborne spar varnish.

  • Spar varnishes that can be thinned with water I think are all basically the same and aren't water-clear like you might expect from the "water based" part of the name. And additionally they yellow substantially with light exposure.
    – Graphus
    Jun 17, 2019 at 19:04
  • Do you think adding a pickling white additive (I dunno, primer) would help offset the yellowing effect of oil?
    – john neu
    Jun 18, 2019 at 17:44

I would be inclined to suggest experimenting with Mineral Oil - its a nice clear oil, it will darken some, but I do not know how much.

Otherwise you could try a clear deck sealer, like Thompson's Water Seal.


I am currently trying mineral oil. On an experimental piece it looks amazing. I imagine I would do 2 coats minimum and expect to redo this every year unless I find its durability proves better. Admittedly for cutting boards where it is most popular, exposure to water and soaps gives it a very limited life span. Structurally I would expect it to be more durable than anyone might think because of its industrial applications. The only unknown is its UV protection. Ask me for in a year after a harsh Canadian winter and wet spring. I do suspect, because of the lack of info, it may represent a true competitor to traditional oils for exterior use.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to StackExchange. I'd be interested to hear how quickly this weathers out during the worst of the weather. As for UV protection you'll get none, and I mean zero, because nothing that doesn't contain UV inhibitors really gives any (products that claim UV protection without a specific additive are really miss-ascribing their oxidation protection). So the wood will darken as fast or possibly faster than otherwise. "I do suspect, because of the lack of info, it may represent a true competitor to traditional oils for exterior use." Did you miss out a not (as in may not represent)?
    – Graphus
    Jul 31, 2022 at 15:36

I would look for a water based spar urethane and test it out. All oils are going to darken and mostly yellow or amber the wood. Water based products have a tendency to not amber or yellow.

I use https://centurionwoodcoatings.com/, but not sure if they a product that is recommended for outdoors.

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