Finishing outdoor wood is tricky because of sun and rain. The California Redwood Association recommends that sealers, stains, and primers used on Redwood be an oil base product. I agree---and use: Daly's "Seafin Teak" Oil, Zip-Guard satin urethane, Tre-Wax and Johnson's paste waxes, and Krylon clear acrylic (as a fixative / sanding sealer only). Apply sealer and finish coats (but NOT onto paint or stain). Then wax and / or oil---ONCE IN THE SPRING - ONCE IN THE FALL. BEST.. Consider sheltering your sign from direct sun and rain....then wait and watch the beautiful patina of this wonderful wood to develop (under a little shelter). Because redwood is known to last and last, and if you like the look of silver gray*, by all means put it out for total weathering!
Bottom Line: Redwood heart, both flat and vertical grain, is more dimensionally stable than
Red Cedar. My wood is vertical grain, which is better than flat grain. Because of this fact and a couple of other things of it's uniquely wonderful nature, Redwood
lasts and holds finishes better. Beyond a mere
"presentation finish" my oil finished redwood signs will look, last and perform
better than about everyone else's clear coated (shiny) signs.
Given the elements and the "Big Picture", please consider reading on.
Quality Vertical Grain Redwood Heart will
"last a lifetime". It can't be beat---even if allowed to weather gray. If you
order your sign(s) satin finished (both sealed & oiled) they are protected.
Because I do not apply oil onto painted / stained lettering
or surfaces, your sign should not turn "milky cloudy", crack* or peel. If it
does, we will refinish, re-do or replace it free. I guarantee it!
The Overview - Finishing Redwood Signs & Exterior Wood
You can choose to shelter your sign(s) to minimize or stop color fading and clear coat degradation. See the backround behind Doc's gecko sign above? Those are redwood fence boards which face south, and have been in full sun and rain since 1982. They have never been finished. Consider this: lichens, mosses and mildews are attracted to damp, non-sunny spots.
Be Thoughtful. Be neat and tidy. Clear / wipe out any glumps. Any messes you leave will make for a pain later. Apply wax ONLY on smooth surfaces.
After an alkyd base coat and smooth alkyd or latex finish coats, paste wax (w/o silicates) may be used. In my experience, regular waxing easily doubles or triples the life of the various outdoor wood finishing systems. Do not oil, clear coat or wax gold leaf.
An easy to maintain, (but) for reasonably sheltered wood only, outdoor finish system in my opinion is 3 or 4 coats of Zip-Guard urethane. You may choose to wax. In my experience oil finishes can be rubbed into wax and vice versa. Also, do not "clear coat" any paint or stain. The products I use are fun because they level nicely and dry quickly for additional coats. If sanding is required they won't "gum up the works" (except wax and undried oil). Furthermore, as they weather, they each erode away rather than peel.
Wax is tricky though. It is unpaintable until removed - eroded away completely. Waxing and/or oiling can be fun: once in Spring and once in Fall!
Please read and consider all product labeling and directions before using. If in doubt; test before actual application.
Pigmented sealers and stains last longer but also darken and/or color wood. Paint is even better. If minimal darkening is desired, use a clear sanding sealer first, before application of oils, pigmented sealers, stains and/or waxes.
A quality Poly Brush is good for application of most oil and latex products to flat surfaces. Work with the grain, around but not into the lettering. I use a cheap glue brush for applying oils, then a soft cotton rag to move the oil evenly, while keeping a wet edge, around all parts of the lettering.
Because the nature of redwood is to last a long time, you may even choose to let it weather naturally.
We think you should consider hanging exterior signs with stainless steel or solid brass hardware. Neither will rust. They are easy to find and last a long time. Drill relief holes! Redwood looks good with brass!
Erl's Carved Signs
23520 - 41st Avenue East
Spanaway, WA 98387