Best Finish for Cedar Chest (3 Top Contenders)

Be it a woodworking project or a family heirloom, a cedar chest needs the best finish. However, it can be challenging to choose because there are too many options out there.  

So today we shall seek the answer to what’s the best finish for cedar chest?

Tung oil, Danish oil, and Lacquer make the best finish for a cedar chest. Tung oil will provide a long-lasting, durable finish that’ll last years. Danish oil dries faster and is a beginner-friendly option. Lastly, lacquer is the most affordable and accessible finish for a cedar chest.   

Please continue reading if you’d want to learn more about these finishes. For your convenience, we’ve included these details in our article.

Let’s get this journey of finishes started!

Which Finish to Pick for Your Cedar Chest?

best finish for cedar chest

It can certainly get tricky to pick the best finish for your cedar chest. In our opinion, the best finishes are Tung oil, Danish oil, and lacquer. 

Each finish has its unique properties. To help you understand them better, look at our table below.

We understand that this isn’t sufficient for you to make a final decision. This is why we’ll explain the differences below.

Name of finish Advantages Disadvantages
Tung Oil1. Waterproof coat
2. Durable
3. Does not crack
4. Offers a protective coat
5. Long shelf life
1. Slow drying
2. Finding the original tung oil is difficult
Danish Oil1. Waterproof coat
2. Fast drying
3. Beginner-friendly
4. Accessible
1. Not very durable
2. Needs many coats and frequent maintenance
3. Short shelf life
Lacquer 1. Easy application
2. Fast drying
3. User friendly
4. Accessible
5. Long shelf life
1. Not waterproof
2. Cannot resist chemicals

1. Tung Oil

If you want a long-lasting and robust finish, Tung Oil is an excellent choice. Depending on the cedar color, the finished hue is a transparent deep golden-brown.

It has a long shelf life and lasts up to 2 years. As a result, you’ll be able to utilize it again and again. Keep it on a cool, dry shelf to preserve its quality.

This finish doesn’t require many coats. Two coats are more than enough to provide a smooth waterproof finish.

These features protect the cedar chest whether it’s indoors or outdoors. So there’s no chance of the finish cracking if the wood expands or contracts. This can normally happen on very hot days or colder days respectively.

However, this thick oil takes a lot of effort and time. Once a single coat is applied, you need to wait for 3 to 4 days. You can only apply a new coat after that.

Furthermore, the market is flooded with knockoffs. These usually have solvents mixed in them and can cause the wood to crack. 

A simple method to spot a copycat is if it claims to dry in a few hours. So, getting hands on the real Tung oil is difficult, which makes it slightly more expensive than danish oil. 

2. Danish Oil

Usually, Danish oil is linseed oil mixed with spirits and varnish to give a light brown hue. The ratios of substances and color depending on the manufacturer.

This is a great finish for beginners. It takes around an hour to dry once applied. Thus applying multiple coats is an easy task. 

It provides a waterproof coat but isn’t as durable as Tung oil. So it needs yearly maintenance. But it’s easily available so that’s simple enough. It’s also cheaper than Tung oil in most cases. 

However, the solvents make the finish prone to cracking. So it’s not suitable for the outdoors. If not kept airtight, it has a shelf life of less than a year. As a result, you may need to purchase it repeatedly.

3. Lacquer

This is the most affordable and accessible option. In fact, it’s the cheapest option on this list.  Applying lacquer is simple as it dries in less than 30 minutes. Thus many coats can be applied. You only need a lacquer sprayer to get an even coat. 

Unsure about which to get? Look at the options we have for you that’ll get the job done!

These should help you smoothly put on the finish you choose. 

However, lacquer isn’t waterproof. It also won’t protect from chemicals like cleaning solvents. So it’ll need yearly maintenance too. 

Lacquer lasts for up to 3 years. So you can buy a bottle and refinish it as you like. 

Final Thoughts: Which Finish Is Best for a Cedar Chest? 

Do you have a preference for one over the other? You may still be confused after all of this. Let us assist you.

Use Tung oil if you have the time, patience, and experience. It’ll give you the best and longest-lasting finish. It’ll keep your cedar chest protected both indoors and outdoors. 

However, if you’re a newbie and don’t mind the practice, go for Danish oil or lacquer. Simply ensure that your chest is kept indoors. Make sure to keep the finish away from harsh conditions like heat and chemicals. 

We hope this provides enough information for you to decide the finish. With all that said, we’re close to the finish line. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do you restore a cedar chest?

Answer: Take the chest apart from its hinges. Then sand the outside and inside of the chest with 180 grit sandpaper. After cleaning the dust, apply an oil-based finish only to the outside of the chest. The oils released from the wood will keep the inside fragrant and like new. 

Question: How do you clean a cedar chest?

Answer: Remove all the materials from inside the chest. Wipe the entire chest down with a damp cloth. Use white vinegar or an oil-based soap with a lint-free cloth to clean the chest. Make certain to clean both the outside and the inside of the chest. 

Question: What color stain is best for cedar?

Answer: Stains with natural red and brown hues are best for cedar. This way it brings out the natural color of the wood, without looking overdone.  

Wrapping Up

Now you should know the best finish for cedar chest. We hope the finish you pick is the one that suits your needs. We’re positive that it’ll keep your cedar chest shiny and protected. 

Good luck with the finish, and do let us know if our suggestions were helpful. 

Kevin Smith

1 thought on “Best Finish for Cedar Chest (3 Top Contenders)”

  1. Thanks! Great coverage of the topic w excellent explanations. I appreciated the comparison chart w pros & cons.
    After experimenting with each, I found the clear lacquer brings out the colors of the cedar the best & brightest.

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