A: That is your preference! Cypress is a very dependable material for outdoor use. There is no need to stain or paint the wood since it comes from a swamp. But if you do choose to finish it with a paint or stain, it will handle it just fine. The only thing that may be a draw-back is - based on the product you choose to use, you my have to update your finish annually. But hey, if it's a decorative option that blends in with your setting, then go for it! You won't harm the wood at all. Likewise, if you leave it unfinished, it will just fade to a beautiful antique gray you've seen it on many old barns and other outdoor structures from the classic era.
A: The performance of Cypress varies depending on the location it is kept. Normally, it will fade to an antique gray petunia. The wood softens and depending may show signs of mildew but shouldn't rot. I've had a piece in my yard since 2012 and after washing it the wood was in great condition showing no signs of rot.
A: Until I find a better option, I am using #8 x 1-5/8 and 2in star flat head (T-16) screws. These boys hold the boards together very taught. Plus they have a lifetime marine corrosion resistant warranty. I have old chairs I built using them and they held up just fine so far. Stainless is an option but I'd have to raise chair prices up to help pay for them. Ceramic coating works fine in most marine applications so long as you don't scrape the coating off of the surfaces of the fastener. To help protect the fastener, each one is recessed about 1/8 or more inch into the wood making it hard to scrape off the finish.
A: Well, That depends. If I have a good batch of wood to work with and if I don't make many mistakes while cutting and shaping the parts, I can usually complete a set of chairs in about 8-hours. This includes the time it takes to select the boards, plane them to a thickness, cut the parts to length, band-saw the shapes, belt-sand edges, round all faces and assemble. .
A: I get it from a lumber mill in SC. They are kind enough to package half bundles for me which helps keep prices reasonable. My hopes are that the availability sustains and we can continue to harvest this wood in a conservative manner that protects our forests and provides us with enough materials to build beautiful outdoor products without resorting to a species of wood that requires chemical treatment to last as long as this species does. I use #2 common which means you'll see knots and granular waves in random form. But since this wood is pricy and difficult to find at a reasonable price, I do not discard minor defects that frankly look fine and do not compromise functionality.
A: I have on occasion covered the screws with an exterior grade wood filler. It does look great - but if for some reason a part should need replacement or tightening, this method will create a problem accessing the screws. A wooden plug is another option, but since I hand drill all the holes, getting them precise enough to hold a plug is really difficult and very time consuming. To be honest, the screws look just fine. If you decide to paint and do not like seeing the screws - perhaps on the seat backs, you can cover them with a good exterior grade wood filler prior to painting.