Do you know of a problem with Western red cedar, where you finish it and after a time (I hear a year), it gets gummy in spots? Do you or anyone there know a cure? Please let me know, because I am about to build a cedar blanket chest, and I want to prevent this problem. – Steve Lammo.
Chris Marshall: Cedar contains aromatic oils and resins that can seep out of the wood over time. They can bleed through some finishes, as you’ve heard. You mention that you are planning to use Western red cedar for your chest. If what you want to do is line the inside in a traditional fashion – in order to achieve that pungent cedar smell – the usual choice is actually aromatic (Eastern red) cedar. You can buy aromatic cedar in thin tongue-and-groove panels for this specific purpose. Home centers often carry it in the closet organization area. It’s also cut into nominal thicknesses and available from lumber distributors, if you decide to build the entire chest from it.
Back to your original question about thwarting gummy bleedthroughs, I’ll presume you go with aromatic cedar. Finishing expert Michael Dresdner says to avoid using an oil-based finish on this wood. Instead, topcoat with shellac or lacquer. These finishes will lock in those pesky oils and resins. But they’ll also seal in the aroma, which may be what you want to preserve in the first place. In that case, leave the lining bare and check it for bleeding every so often. Clean off any resin with a solvent like denatured alcohol or naptha.