Good Finish for A Redwood Sign

Ok all, I just finished my first stacked text (text on text) sign. I used it as an anniversary card for my wife. I cleaned it up a little but have more sanding before finishing. My first thought is just a clear finish of some sort but thought I would ask to see what others use for redwood. Any advice appreciated.



Polymerized tung oil. It’s dead simple to apply hardens into a very durable finish and the grain will be outstanding…

I get mine from lee valley, but I would imagine that there are other sources.

Thanks Grant. We don’t have Lee Valley anywhere near me. I can get locally at big box stores so will check it out. Only drawback I see on the net is drying time between full strength coats. I did see some cutting in half so dries faster. I looked at some videos of uses and looked impressive.

And if you cut it in half, you only get half as much finish…

I’ve use polymerized tung oil regularly - dry time doesn’t seem to be an issue. First coat is thinned in half, that gets good penetration into the wood. Second coat is full strength. And that’s usually all you need unless it is a high wear surface like a kitchen countertop. A third coat is warranted in that situation.

For something that is purely decorative, almost any oil finish will work well with 1 or 2 coats. Tung and boiled linseed (Aka BLO) are readily available. Tung cures faster than BLO; BLO is a bit darker in final appearance.

If you want to avoid the ambering an oil-based finish gives, water-based polyurethanes are easy to find. Harder to apply than oil finishes because they set much faster, but they also allow faster re-coat windows.

Lacquer is in the middle in terms of coloration; cure time is similar to water-based. Also, easy to find in rattle cans for easy, streak-free application.

@Heyward43 The drying time for “plain ol’” tung oil is quite long. The polymerized stuff hardens over night. LV delivers. :grinning: I’m spoiled, since LV HQ is 10 minutes from my house.

If oil does not work out for you, you could use a coat of shellac to pop the grain. Shellac will tend to leave an amber tone to it, which works well with that wood, IMHO. Zinsser makes a rattle can shellac that is pretty much fool proof. It will pop the grain and seal the wood. Then you can top coat with whatever you like. If this is going outdoors, I would suggest that you go with a marine varnish, since they have UV inhibitors in them and are, obviously, able to stand up to wet. If it for indoors, you can use pretty much anything.

Thanks you guys. It will be an indoor sign only. To me it’s always confusing with so many options. I know people have different opinions about what to use and I’m sure they are speaking from experience. I guess I will have to review all of the options mentioned and make up my mind. If I screw up I can always do it over. I appreciate y’alls responses,

@Heyward43 Since it’s indoor only, I reiterate going with tung oil. That wood will look spectacular and the finish will give long life. The beauty of oil is that, over time, you can apply more if it dulls more than you like. Be sure to post pics, H, of it when finished.

ps: Congratulations on your 50th! :smile:


Ok, I’ll give tung oil a try. Sounds like a good solid finish. Good eye! I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that. Thanks.

@Heyward43 The key to a fine finish with tung oil is to removing the excess oil before it become sticky. You’ll read the directions, I’m sure. Basically, you wipe or brush it on - to get around all the letters, I suspect that you’ll need a brush - then let it sit for 20 minutes or so. Then wipe off the excess and let it harden. Repeat for as many coats as you like.

If you buy from Lee Valley, I suggest getting the tung oil sealer, too. It’s not cheap, but given the importance of the piece, well worth it.

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Ordered both sealer and finish. Should arrive early next week. Will give me time to finish sanding and cleanup.

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@Heyward43 H: You may already know this, but when you store this stuff, make sure that there is as little air space in the container as possible. Air is the enemy. There are many ways to address this. I just put glass marbles in the can until the can is full. You can buy cans of inert gas that is heavier than air. You just spray some in the opened can and seal it immediately. There are collapsible bottles that scrunch down to the surface of the oil. Since this stuff is pricey, be sure to choose one. If not, it will harden over in the can.

@gwilki - Thanks for confirming that info Grant. I noticed that problem on some of the videos I watched. The ones I ordered are in 8oz paint type cans so I also found and ordered some 8oz plastic squeeze bottles. I’ll transfer the cans to the bottles after first use. I finished the sanding so ready for the tung oil to get here.