What Is Cedar Wood? Your Beginner’s Guide to This Awesome Material!

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Have you ever wanted to know more about the wood you want to work with? I mean, what is cedar wood really? Is there anything you need to know to use it properly?

Well, hey there, my crafty friends! Today, we’re diving into the wonderful world of cedar wood. I’m going to answer these questions and more.

You might’ve seen it cedar wood at the lumberyard or maybe admired a friend’s pretty cedar chest.

But what exactly is it, is it easy to work with, and why should you care about it for your next project?

First things first, cedar is a type of evergreen tree, kind of like a fancy pine. But unlike your typical pine, cedar has some pretty special properties that make it a dream to work with for us crafters.

There are a few different types of cedar, but the most common ones we’ll be using are Western Red Cedar and Eastern White Cedar.

Now you might be wondering, what’s the difference between these two types of cedar? Well, listen up!

Here you can see a picture of a western red cedar, looking straight up the trunk of the tree.

Western Red Cedar leans a little more towards the reddish side of the wood spectrum, kind of like a warm cinnamon roll. It’s also a natural champion when it comes to holding up outdoors.

Image Curtesy of Oregon Capital Chronicle (very interesting article, actually!).

Eastern White Cedar, on the other hand, is lighter in color – think vanilla frosting! While it might need a little extra TLC for outdoor projects, it’s usually easier on the wallet and can be a good choice for thinner cuts of wood.

Image Curtesy of Muskegon Conservation District.

You can see this eastern white cedar in the mid distance and how large these trees can get.

But no matter which cedar you pick, you’re getting a wood that smells amazing, works like a dream, and will last a long time!

Here’s the lowdown on what makes cedar so darn special:

What makes cedar so special?  Well, you can see one of the ways its special by how lovely this red cedar epoxy river table looks.
You can see this and more like it at Prime and Precision.
  • The smell good factor: Can we talk about that amazing cedar scent? It’s like a woodsy breath of fresh air, and it repels moths too! So say so-long to smelly mothballs and hello to your beautiful cedar chest!
  • Cedar’s a natural superhero: This wood is naturally resistant to rot, bugs, and even moisture. That means your cedar projects can handle being outside a little longer than your average pinewood derby car.
  • Light as a feather, strong as an ox (almost): Cedar is a softwood (ya’ll can learn about the other softwoods here!), which means it’s nice and lightweight, perfect for beginners who don’t want to wrestle with heavy beams of wood. But don’t let that fool you – cedar is surprisingly strong and stable!
Naturally rot-resistant: Perfect for outdoor projects!Can be soft: Might dent more easily than some hardwoods
Bug and moisture resistant: Long-lasting and low maintenanceMay need staining/sealing: Especially for outdoor projects exposed to harsh sunlight
Lightweight: Easy to work with, especially for beginnersNot as strong as some hardwoods: May not be ideal for heavy-duty furniture
Pleasant aroma: Repels moths too!Color can fade over time: Regular maintenance helps
Relatively affordable: A good value for the price

Cedar Wood Sounds GREAT But Where Do I Find It?

A picture of a bunch of lumber and tree trunks.  Not necessarily cedar.

The good news is that cedar is a widely available wood, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it at your local lumberyard or home improvement store.

They’ll typically stock cedar in a variety of thicknesses and lengths, perfect for all sorts of projects.

If you’re looking for something more specialized, like live edge slabs or pre-cut boards for specific projects, you might try a specialty lumberyard or woodworker’s supply store.

But I’ll be honest and say I don’t think something like that should be your first (or even second) project. Just sayin.

Don’t Worry, You Don’t Need a Fancy Workshop!

This picture shows some woodworking tools that you can use with cedar wood, such as a plane.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “Uh oh, expensive woodworking tools? No thanks!”

But guess what?

You don’t need a whole garage full of the latest equipment to get started with cedar. Here are the basic tools you’ll likely use for most beginner-friendly cedar projects:

  • Safety First! Safety glasses and a dust mask are a must. Cedar dust can be irritating, and safety glasses will protect your eyes from sawdust and flying bits of wood.
  • Measuring Up: A tape measure is essential for making sure your cuts are accurate. For smaller projects, a ruler can also be handy.
  • Mark It Up: A pencil for marking your cuts is key. A carpenter’s square will help you ensure your lines are straight and your angles are perfect.
  • Cutting Time: A good handsaw will get you by for many projects. A miter saw can be helpful for making precise cuts, but it’s not essential for beginners. If you’re feeling ambitious, a jigsaw can be useful for making curved cuts.
  • Smoothing it Out: Sandpaper in a few different grits (like 120 grit and 220 grit) will help you smooth out any rough edges and get your project ready for finishing. You can use sandpaper by hand, or a sanding block can make things a bit easier.
  • Making Connections A screwdriver and some wood screws in a few sizes will be essential for fastening your wood pieces securely together. An inexpensive power drill will make this task much easier.
  • Hammer Time (Optional): A hammer might be handy for some projects, like nailing together a cedar box. Though you’ll probably want a good screwdriver and some wood screws

Remember, this is just a basic list to get you started. As you get more comfortable with cedar and woodworking in general, you can always add more tools to your collection.

But don’t be afraid to dive in with what you have – the most important thing is to have fun and get creative!

What Kind Of Finish Is Best For Cedar Wood?

When it comes to finishing cedar wood, it really depends on what you want to achieve and where your project will live. Here’s a quick rundown to help you decide:

  • Natural beauty? Go light! For that gorgeous cedar look, a simple clear coat will do the trick. This could be a sealer, a varnish or some Tung oil, and it will help protect your wood from moisture and dirt without hiding its natural beauty.
  • Color boost? Stain is your friend! Cedar takes stain really well, so you can add a pop of color if you want something a little more vibrant. Semi-transparent stains will let the wood grain show through, while solid-color stains will give you more coverage.
  • Going grey is okay! Cedar naturally weathers to a beautiful silver-grey color over time. If you like that rustic look, you can let it happen naturally or speed up the process with a special weathering stain.
  • Protection first? Paint it up! For maximum protection, especially outdoors, a good quality exterior paint is the way to go. Just remember that paint will completely hide the wood grain.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Cedar is oily: This can sometimes make it difficult for stains and finishes to adhere. Make sure to clean the wood properly before applying anything.
  • Always test first! Apply your chosen finish on a scrap piece of cedar first to make sure you like the way it looks.

If you want to learn more about different types of stains, boy have I got a whole lot more information for you here!

Alright, alright, but… what can I build with cedar?

This picture shows one of the options that you can build using cedar wood, like a cedar wood root table.
You can see this and more like it at Value For Money Furniture.

The possibilities are endless, my friends! Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Classic Cedar Chest: This is a perfect beginner project. Cedar’s natural moth-repellent properties make it ideal for storing blankets, clothes, or anything else you want to keep safe from creepy crawlies.
  • Blanket Box: Not feeling up to making a full blown cedar chest? Why not give this scaled down version a try first? It’ll keep your blankets (or anything you choose to keep in it) smelling wonderful and bug free!
  • Rustic Chic Planter Boxes: Cedar’s natural weather resistance makes it a great choice for outdoor projects. Imagine a row of beautiful herbs or flowers thriving in your handmade cedar planters!
  • Slat Wall Art: Thin cedar strips can be easily arranged into geometric patterns or inspirational words for a unique and aromatic wall hanging. (Hint: this is a great thing to do with those leftover bits of wood from your other projects!)
  • Aromatic Sachets: Fill small fabric bags with cedar shavings for a lovely sachet that keeps drawers and closets smelling fresh. These are also great little gifts! (Again… Why throw it out when you can use it? This is a great use for that lovely cedar sawdust you just made!)
  • DIY Spice Rack: Wall space feeling a little bare? Craft a handy spice rack out of cedar for easy access to your favorite seasonings while adding some warmth to your kitchen not to mention cleaning out a drawer in the process.
  • Classic cedar fence: Cedar is a fantastic choice for fences – it looks beautiful, stands up to the weather, and keeps those pesky critters out of your garden.
  • Rustic outdoor furniture: Imagine cozy Adirondack chairs on your porch, built with gorgeous, weather-resistant cedar. Sounds pretty darn dreamy, right?

These are just a few ideas to get you started.

If cedar isn’t the wood ya’ll were hoping it’d be for your project, check this out and see if one of these suit ya’ better.

With cedar’s amazing properties and versatility, the only limit is your imagination! So grab your tools, and let’s get building something beautiful with cedar wood!

And remember, if you have any questions about working with cedar, just leave a comment below. Happy crafting!