Western Red Cedar
Clear vertical grain Western Redcedar is the top grade.
Although not a true Cedar, Western Redcedar shares many of the same properties and has therefore been given the cedar name. The Redcedar is actually from the Cypress family, and it is often spelled "Redcedar" as one word as a way of indicating this.
Western Redcedar has a wide growth range along the west coast of the US and Canada, but despite its numbers, scarcity has been a concern due to the ever growing demand for this outstanding exterior species. Through greater awareness and more responsible forestry practices, however, the supply is becoming much more balanced. These days, the replanting rates are 5 to 1, which means that we will have more Redcedar in 50 years than we have ever had before.
Enter a caption (optional) The long bole of the Western Redcedar means plenty of top quality straight grain lumber free of knots.
Redcedar is naturally rot resistant due to high levels of extractives which act as a natural fungicide. The tree has a very straight bole and high branches, which result in very few knots and a dead straight grain. Western Redcedar sapwood is very narrow, usually only 1 inch wide, whereas common trunk diameter is 2 to 8 feet. This yields large quantities of lumber with very little wastage during sawing. The lumber is very stable once dried, and although the drying process can be rather tricky, J. Gibson McIlvain's specialists are trained to pay close attention during the kiln drying process.
The beauty of Western Redcedar is in the strength imparted from its long, straight grain combined with its low density, which makes it very light. The straight grain lends itself to riving, hence the common nickname "shingle wood." The heartwood has a low sap content and does not blunt or gum on cutting tools.
Today, Western Redcedar is used extensively in the production of cedar shingles, exterior siding and trim, outdoor furniture and structure, decking, and even interior millwork and trim for those who desire a great rustic look. Its weather resistance allows for direct contact with the ground, so it is often used as fence posts, garden pergolas, and sheds, as well as in trellis applications.
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This continuation of the Wood Species series is written by Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker and founder of The Hand Tool School. It has been provided courtesy of the J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber Company, where Rogers works as Director of Marketing.