Finishing Redwood

Finishing Redwood

A guide to how to finish and stain California redwood, and redwoods main characteristics.

Craftsman Style

¶ California redwood is a tree of such mammoth size that it is awesome. Specimens three hundred feet high and as much as twenty-five feet in diameter have been found. This wood grows only in California and the supply is estimated as sufficient for one hundred and forty years to come at the present rate of cutting. Some of the trees are two thousand years old.

¶ In many characteristics and uses to which it is put redwood resembles cypress. It resists fire and moisture. It does not rot. It is a soft wood of close grain and straight figure of great uniformity. It is a wood which shows very few knots and some panels six feet and more, wide are common because the trees are so large in diameter. Properly seasoned redwood does not shrink, swell or warp. It is a strong wood and a medium light one. In color redwood ranges from the lightest cherry to darkest mahogany. The grain figures are varied, too, from straight and plain to the curly figure of the stumpwood and roots.

¶ Redwood contains a natural preservative substance which prevents decay and which gives it natural seasoning qualities.

¶ We shall probably come more and more in contact with this truly remarkable wood as time passes. With durable qualities which apparently are equal to cypress for all special and common purposes it is probable that redwood will be with us for centuries after cypress has been depleted in supply twenty-five to fifty years hence. Redwood is used for all common building purposes and many special purposes for exteriors and for most interior purposes, except perhaps for floors to any great extent.

¶ Redwood takes all finishes well. In painting it permits the coatings to penetrate well and good paint proves remarkably durable on it. It is commonly said that there is no need to paint redwood for protection, since it is not injured by moisture and does not rot from fungi. Care must be taken not to paint this wood while it is wet, however. It absorbs moisture rather easily. The grain is free from pitch or resin.

¶ When painting and enameling redwood on interior trim it should be handled in the ordinary way except that any shellacing of knots should be done after the priming coat of paint is on and dry, not before painting. The same is true of knots on exterior surfaces.

¶ Redwood may be stained and takes a beautiful finish with the browns, greens, red and gray. Penetrating oil stains and spirit stains are used on this wood as well as acid or chemical water stains. Some very unusual color effects can be secured on redwood which are peculiar to it and are artistic, indeed. A large number of special formulas for chemical water stains for use on redwood have been developed by the California Redwood Association, San Francisco, California, and they will be given to anyone interested in these special finishes.

¶ No filler is required for this close-grained wood. A coat of shellac will usually fill the fine grain sufficiently for succeeding coats of varnish or wax.

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