“Come over and see what I bought,” Dot insisted on the phone, “and while you are here you can tell me how to finish it. It’s a seven-foot tall bear carved from a Western red cedar tree trunk, and it is going to live outdoors in front of the house.”
I groaned, but kept my opinion to myself. Out here in the Pacific Northwest, there are vastly more chainsaw carved bears than live ones, and I was fairly certain society could exist without yet another one. Still, Dot is dear to my heart, so I said nothing and went to see this fine acquisition that she had appropriately dubbed Pooh.
“Bear in mind,” I said, ignoring her scowl at my shameless pun, “that we are essentially talking about finishing a cedar wood log. If you do nothing at all, it will eventually oxidize to silver gray, look rustic and distinguished, and outlast both of us. Anything else will alter the appearance and will also necessitate some degree of maintenance.
“The next simplest option is deck stain, which adds color and prevents the wood from going gray but still leaves it looking natural and woody. As with a deck, you’ll have to clean it and re-apply stain each year for the first few years, then as needed after that. One step up from that is acrylic fence and siding stain, which can last five years or more. For a shiny, furniture look use spar varnish or spar urethane. These options will require cleaning, sanding and re-coating every few years, and they may eventually require stripping and refinishing.”
Clearly, she wanted opinion, not options, because she pressed on.
“What would you use on it if it were yours?” she asked insistently.
“If it were mine?” I replied. “A match.”