So we spent all day Thursday sanding cedar boards. We've got 5200' linear feet of 1"x4"x random length (from 6' to 20') tongue and groove clear (no knots) grade A cedar. It is gorgeous. The range of colors is striking, from blonde to deep red. (The cedar was $6600, shipping included, about $1.28/lf.) Here's our staging area:
We're using Sikkens Cetol SRD (color: natural #078; DO NOT choose the wrong color - the "cedar" color apparently turns the wood orange!), which is an oil based translucent stain that really just deepens the natural color of the wood and highlights the grain. Res4 recommends it; they've used it on lots of their homes. It costs about $30/gallon (we should use b/t 8-10 gallons). The application process requires that you sand the exterior side of the wood to a rough grit (80-100) and then apply liberally, brushing back any excess (the interior side of the wood needs a coat as well, as does each of the tongues and each of the grooves). We've sanded about half the cedar so far, and here are some boards with the stain:
Our estimate from the contractor for installation of our cedar siding was $13k (and I think it would have been higher if we'd talked through the specific details of the sanding and staining process). So we're going to save b/t $5-6k doing it ourselves, assuming all goes well.