Do you know the right wood to use for different projects? No piece is the same. Different species of wood have their own unique properties, which environmental factors also impact. Cedar wood is a commonly used softwood that can be found in a lot of timber merchants and DIY stores.
This article will explain the advantages and disadvantages of cedar wood, so read on to find out how cedar can be used in your woodworking.
8 Advantages of Cedar Wood
Cedar is a great timber, with many properties that make it lovely to work with. Below we’ll outline some of the advantages of using cedar wood.
It’s important to remember that the general characteristics of a piece of timber are impacted by the way it has grown and the environment that it’s grown in. Because of this, there is a huge amount of variation between cedar trees grown in different countries and at different altitudes.
There are also different types of cedar wood, including western red, Alaskan yellow, Spanish, eastern red, and northern white. These vary in their characteristics to one degree or another.
Cedar has a beautiful smell. It’s rich, woody, and has a slight note of citrus. You will probably recognize the smell instantly; it often reminds people of saunas, cigar boxes, and sharpening a pencil.
Cedar is a very oily wood, which has a lot of benefits. In fact, cedar contains so much oil people regularly harvest the oil and use it for perfumes and essential oils.
Woodworkers often apply oil retroactively to timber to protect it from a range of issues, so the fact that this wood already has it is a great advantage.
Over time wood can warp, twist, and bow, but protecting it with oil minimizes the wood’s movement through different environmental pressures. Oiled wood also resists staining more effectively and has a higher gloss than non-oiled wood. Cedar possesses a lot of these properties naturally because of the oil within it.
Natural Pest Deterrent
The characteristics highlighted in the previous two points mean that cedar naturally is more resistant to pests and mold than timbers with less oil and scent. Pests can cause timber to become structurally unsafe and visually unappealing.
Rot, mold, and pests can also be a health hazard, all of which cedar has natural resistance against. This doesn’t mean that cedar won’t suffer from pests, however, but it is less prone than some other species.
Cedar wood has a low density, and, because of this, is considered to be one of the lightest woods readily available that is still strong enough for woodworking projects.
Cedar is frequently used in acoustic guitars. This is because cedar has excellent acoustic properties, which means it absorbs sounds and reduces vibrations. Cedar doesn’t just lend itself well to guitars, however.
These acoustic properties are also beneficial within rooms where sounds can be dampened. If the outside of an area is clad in cedar, it provides a layer of soundproofing that can keep spaces quiet and private.
As a building material, cedar is considered sustainable. The reason why cedar is sustainable is that it can be regrown, unlike fossil fuels. Another reason that trees are considered sustainable is because of their ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere.
It’s important to note that timber must be certified as being sustainably grown, meaning that it has been harvested responsibly from forests that are managed with environmental considerations. A properly managed forest will create a continuous supply of timber without depleting the resource.
Easy to Work With
The ease with which a piece of timber can be worked will depend largely on that specific piece of wood. For instance, a lot of dead knots in the wood create an unappealing aesthetic and changes in the grain direction, which can cause tear-out and difficulty when planing.
Also, if the wood is bowed, twisted, or contains defects such as shakes and splits, it will be harder to work with.
However, the characteristics of the species also play a large part in the workability of timber. If you have a decent section of wood, cedar wood can be lovely to work with.
In general, cedar has a straight grain and a regular texture. With a sharp, well setup plane, removing material can be quite easy. Additionally, because of the lower density of cedar, cutting it provides low amounts of resistance.
The oil content of cedar makes it much more resistant to water than other, drier types of wood.
However, cedar is still susceptible to water damage, particularly if it’s in contact with water for an extended period of time.
3 Disadvantages of Cedar Wood
Cedar has many positive qualities, however, there are also some disadvantages to using it. In this section, we’ll discuss the negative qualities of cedar wood.
All timber needs to be looked after and maintained, however, some species require more maintenance than others. If maintained on a regular schedule, less drastic work is required. But if timber is not regularly looked after, more significant repairs will need to be conducted.
The type of maintenance needed will depend on what the cedar is used for and the environment it’s in. If the timber is indoors, it will need less maintenance than in an outdoor setting.
In particular, if the timber is exposed to water regularly, direct sunlight, or large temperature changes, then a more rigorous maintenance schedule will be required.
Maintenance techniques range from re-applying oils, finishes, or paints to replacing rotten boards.
Prone to Bruising
Because cedar has a lower-density grain, it can dent, bruise and scratch more easily. It’s possible to reverse or protect against some of these problems by applying a hard-wearing finish or by steaming the defect briefly. However, this type of wood might not be well suited to some jobs where it can be regularly impacted.
In a separate article, I looked in detail at how strong cedar is. Reading that should help you further assess whether it is suitable for your job or not.
In the USA, some trees are called cedar even though they are actually from the cypress family of trees. True cedar trees are part of the Cedrus group of trees. The best way to identify a cedar is by looking at its cones, which will be upright and barrel-shaped if in the Cedrus genus.
There are four ‘true’ cedars: deodar, lebanon, cyprus, and atlas. These trees are found all over the world, however, they are common in the western Himalayas and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the strict botanical definitions of which trees are cedars and which are not if you go into a timber yard in the USA and ask for a cedar, you will likely get a tree from the cypress family.
Is Cedar Good for Woodworking?
In general, yes, cedar is great for woodworking. However, it depends mainly on the type of job the wood will be used for. Alongside this, the type of cedar will significantly impact whether it’s a good wood to use for your project.
Cedar can be a very attractive wood, and the scent of it also makes it very good for some projects, as it can be appealing to more than one sense.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to using cedar in a woodworking project. By doing careful research about the timber and the project you’re undertaking, you’ll quickly get an idea of what timber you’ll need for your job.
Choosing the right species of cedar is very important as the qualities vary a lot between the different species.