Preparing the Surface
No matter what type of stain you use, cedar wood must be properly prepared first. Check for damage to the wood, and repair any problems. Sand the cedar lightly, removing any rough spots. Stain will be absorbed more thoroughly if the surface of the wood is smooth.
Thoroughly wash and scrub the surface of the wood, removing any dirt and mildew. Washing also removes any powder left from sanding the wood. Allow the wood to dry in the sun for at least a day before staining.
Linseed oil, called a drying oil because it hardens as it dries, has been used as a wood stain for ages. Linseed oil comes from the dried, mature seeds of the flax plant. The oil is extracted through cold-pressing and sometimes followed with solvent extraction. When applied to cedar, the linseed oil dries at a slow rate and hardens. Linseed oil soaks into the tiny pores of the cedar, giving it a shiny surface that enhances the beauty of the wood grain. Cedar stained with linseed oil becomes resistant to scratches and dents.
To prepare the stain, boil linseed oil in a large pot. Allow the oil to cool before handling it. Rub a thick coat of the oil onto the cedar with a clean rag or brush. Continue applying oil until the wood is fully saturated and cannot absorb any more. Buff the cedar until it is free of any linseed oil residue. Allow it to dry in the hot sun for a day, then scrub with steel wool and clean the cedar. Repeat the process until the desired effect is achieved. It may take four to five applications of linseed oil.
Tung oil comes from the nut of the tung tree. Like linseed oil, it is considered a drying oil. Cedar applied with tung oil becomes resistant to water and does not darken with age. Tung oil gives the cedar a light, golden tint.
Mix tung oil with an equal part of mineral spirits when staining cedar. Apply the oil with a rag. Wait one hour, then wipe the excess oil from the cedar. Allow the cedar to dry for 24 hours. Repeat the process until the desired finish is achieved.