Handcrafted Western red cedar Adirondack chairs, tables, benches, and more!
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The Advantages of Cedar for Outdoor Furniture
While other wood species are available, cedar is our wood of choice. 5/4 cedar is the minimum thickness material we use for any of our cedar furniture. 5/4 cedar is a full 1 inch thick when finish sanded. This is considerably heavier (33%) than most of the furniture you will find on the market. Cedar affords the best value to our customers by providing lower cost, lighter weight and excellent weather and rot resistance:
Always be sure to follow the recommendations of the finish manufacturer.
Choosing What Wood to Use for Outdoor or Patio Furniture
There are a number of options available when selecting what wood to use for outdoor furniture, and each will lend its own unique color and properties to your project. What choice is best for you will partly depend on what type of furniture you are building, what your budget is, and where you are located.
For example, the wood you choose to build an Adirondack chair will probably be different than what you would use to build a steamer chair, or a spindle backed front porch rocker. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, Western red cedar will be commonly available, while other species, such as cypress will be more readily available in the Southeastern United States.
I will outline below several of the more common wood choices for outdoor furniture use, as well as some of their advantages and disadvantages.
You must make special consideration when building outdoor wood furniture. Unprotected wood, regardless of the species used, will eventually deteriorate when exposed to rain, wind and sun. Some species are more durable than others, but they should all be protected in some way to ensure their maximum useful life.
In many people's minds teak is the premium choice for outdoor furniture. Teak is exceptionally strong and lends itself well to the slender parts of a steamer chair for example.
Teak is very oily, which makes it resistant to moisture, insects and fungus, but also makes it unsuitable for painted or stained finishes. Teak will weather to a silvery gray if left unfinished. Teak, being a tropical hardwood, however, is increasingly rare, very expensive, and will probably not be stocked at your local lumber yard.
Due to the high levels if silica found in teak, it is very hard on cutting tools. In fact, carbide or diamond cutting tools are a necessity. Due to the hardness of the wood, all screw or nail holes will have to be pre-drilled. The oils in the teak also make gluing somewhat more complicated. The surfaces to be glued will have to be wiped down with solvent, such as acetone, to remove the oils, in order for the glue to bond to the wood properly.
While teak is a very beautiful wood, and exceptionally well suited for outdoor furniture, its cost may make it impractical for your project, and the difficulty of working with it has to be considered, especially by the less experienced or novice woodworker.
Shorea is a newcomer to the American market. With the influx of furniture imported from Indonesia in the last decade or so, it is becoming increasingly more common. Shorea is a good alternative to teak, having many of the same properties. While imported shorea furniture can be purchased fairly inexpensively, purchasing shorea lumber will probably prove to be more difficult, as it is only available through specialty hardwood companies.
Mahogany, like teak, has long been the choice material for boat builders due to its excellent weather resistant properties. This is true of the dark red heart wood, not the lighter sap wood.
Three species of mahogany are commonly available - Honduras, African and Philippine. Honduran and African mahogany are primarily used for furniture and other outdoor applications, while Philippine mahogany, with its coarse open grain, is mainly used for interior doors and trim.
Mahogany is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture, and usually much less expensive than teak. Mahogany can be glued with standard wood glues, holds fasteners well, and machines and finishes very easily. Mahogany is well suited for paint, stain, varnish and oil finishes. Left unfinished, mahogany will also weather to a silvery gray color.
Cedar is softwood with very desirable decay resistant properties. The two most common species available are Western red cedar and Eastern white cedar. Both species are easy to work with, hold fasteners well, and are sufficiently strong for most outdoor furniture applications.
Cedar contains natural oils that resist decay and insects, as well as provide that pleasant cedar aroma. Cedar is the wood of choice in much of the country for many outdoor applications, such as decks, furniture, fences, shingles and siding.
Of the two species, Western red cedar exhibits better weather resistant properties if left unfinished. Both species, however, take paint and stain well. Because cedar is a softer wood, it is more susceptible to dents and dings, and is less suitable for a clear finish such as spar varnish. If you want a clear finish on your cedar furniture, an oil finish is recommended.
Cedar is usually less expensive than many of the other options available, and because of this, is an excellent choice for a project.
Cypress is in the same family as cedar, and is more common in the southern Gulf States where cypress grows in wet and swampy areas. Cypress is lighter in color than Western red cedar, and exhibits similar weather resistant properties.
Cypress machines and finishes well, and is a good choice for outdoor furniture if it is available in your area
Three decades ago, redwood was readily available and fairly inexpensive. It was one of the choice woods for many outdoor applications, such as furniture and house siding.
Today, however, the government protects the western coastal redwood forests, and production is strictly controlled. It tends to be expensive and hard to get in the Eastern United States. On the west coast redwood is more readily available, and less expensive. Regardless, redwood makes an excellent choice for your outdoor furniture project
Redwood heartwood has a beautiful red color, while the sap wood tends to be light brown or tan. The heartwood is the most desirable for furniture construction. As far as weather resistance and ease to work with, redwood is similar to Western red cedar.
Pressure-treated wood is primarily suited to outdoor structural applications, such as posts and joists for decks. While pressure-treated wood provides excellent weather resistance, it is not recommended for applications such as picnic tables where it might come into contact with food.
Spruce, pine and fir are commonly used for pressure treated lumber. The wood is dried under a vacuum, and impregnated with chemicals, preserving the wood fibers. The most common chemical used is chromated copper arsenate, meaning that the wood can leach copper and arsenic, which is why it is no longer legal to use pressure treated lumber to construct docks in direct contact with lake or river water.
Pressure treated wood can be cut and fastened like any other wood, but special precaution must be taken to ensure that you do not inhale the dust due to the chemicals present in the wood.
Pine or Common White Wood
White softwoods such as pine, fir, spruce, and hemlock are commonly used for construction grade lumber, and due to their relatively low cost, are an attractive choice for many beginning wood workers.
Pine in particular has seen resurgence in the interior furniture market over the past couple of decades, primarily in the low to mid priced shaker and colonial furniture markets, as well as the rustic furniture market.
With a properly applied finish, these woods can be an acceptable choice for an exterior project, though these woods do not lend any particular weather resistant properties, and are more prone to warping and checking (cracking) than the other choices listed above.
If you choose to use pine or a similar soft wood for your project, you must apply an appropriate exterior grade finish to ensure even a reasonable life span for your furniture.
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Spokane, WA 99207