Without the right type of wood, your project won’t succeed. But there are hundreds of different types of wood in the world, so how do you know the perfect one to use in your woodworking project? With a little bit of knowledge, you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision about the right wood to use in your job.
This article will focus on two specific timbers called cedar and acacia. Once you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll know all about these two materials and whether or not they match the needs of your project.
What Is Cedar?
There are a few different varieties of cedar, as it is not just one tree, but a group or family of trees. Cedar trees are known to grow tall and are coniferous. Technically speaking there are four types of trees in the cedar family: atlas, cyprian, deodara, and lebanon.
However, in North America, there are a number of other softwood trees that are referred to as cedar as well. These trees include the Red Cedar and the Eastern Red Cedar.
What Is Acacia?
Acacia is a hardwood found in Australia, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. However, it has become known all around the world for a variety of reasons and qualities that make it an ideal timber for certain projects. Acacia is not native to North America.
Cedar vs. Acacia: What Are the Differences?
Although they are both trees, cedar and acacia are very different. In this section, we’ll discuss the different properties the trees have.
Acacia is a heavy hardwood; the strength and hardness of the wood mean it can be difficult to work with. Tools must be sharp to cut acacia, and they will get blunted quickly.
Comparatively, cedar is not as strong as acacia by quite a long way, but it is much lighter. If looking at the strength-to-weight ratio, cedar performs extremely well.
Appearance and Grain Pattern
Different species of timber are most easily identified by their grain patterns. Once you learn the particular characteristics of a species, it becomes easier to recognize every time you work with it.
Generally, cedar’s grain is uniform and straight. Whereas acacia has an irregular grain structure that’s often unpredictable and non-uniform.
Different varieties of cedar will have different tones but an overall characteristic is a pinkish-red color when freshly milled. Once the timber has seasoned, the red hues tend to lessen and silver tones take precedence.
Acacia has a deep, rich brown coloring. The summer growth is often much lighter than the winter growth, with the summer growth being almost yellow.
When people discuss the stability of a piece of timber, they refer to how prone it is to moving when in changing environments. For example, temperature or humidity changes can cause wood to move, twist, warp, and bow.
Acacia is very susceptible to environmental changes, in particular, high temperatures can cause the timber to crack. When there are large swings in temperature, from cold to hot, the damage that high temperatures cause is exacerbated further. Alongside this, in high humidity, acacia will swell.
Cedar is very stable for a number of reasons. However, the main reason that cedar can resist environmental pressures better than a lot of timbers is because of the high amounts of oil that naturally occur in the wood.
All timber requires maintenance for it to last a long time. However, some types of wood will degrade much more quickly than others.
The natural oil within cedar means that it resists moisture very well, which helps protect it. When paired with a maintenance schedule, cedar can last for an extremely long time. Similarly, acacia is also a durable timber in the right conditions.
When to Use Cedar Wood?
The natural properties of cedar make it great for some particular uses. For instance, the oil content, stability, and moisture resistance of cedar make it a fantastic choice for saunas.
Cedar is considered by a lot of woodworkers to be very attractive and, because of this, cedar is usually celebrated and shown rather than being hidden within a structure. For instance, cladding, decking, trim, and fencing are all good uses for cedar. Similarly, cedar is used in wardrobes or boxes for fabrics because of its natural bug and moth-repelling ability.
When to Use Acacia Wood?
You might see acacia used in a lot of different situations. Because acacia timber is quite expensive, it’s rare to see it in cheap, low-quality work. One of the most common uses for acacia is in furniture making. Indoor environments are usually consistent enough for the instability of acacia not to be a problem.
Another use of acacia is in hardwood floorboards. The strength of this wood is perfect for high-traffic areas where softer materials would compress down, and the beautiful grain patterns of acacia look great when cut into floorboards.
Alternatives to Cedar and Acacia Wood
Sometimes it’s difficult to source the timber we want, it can take too long to arrive or cost too much. In these situations, there are alternatives to cedar and acacia that you could look at using instead.
Larch is widely respected because it is resilient, can resist moisture, and is fairly stable. Some common uses for larch are cladding, paneling, and building boats.
Douglas fir has increased hugely in popularity over the last decade, partly because disease caused a large decline in the larch population. Douglas fir is a softwood coniferous tree that has a very high strength-to-weight ratio.
Douglas fir is used in a range of situations, from structural beams and joists to furniture and cabinet-making applications.
Cedar and acacia are both fantastic timbers. But depending on the project at hand, one will be better suited than the other. Price will play a large part in what wood you’ll use, with acacia usually more expensive than cedar.
For environments with large temperature changes, cedar is a more suitable option than acacia. However, for pure strength, acacia is much stronger.