Alaskan Yellow Cedar grows along the Pacific coast of North America from Oregon up into Canada and Alaska. It likes moist climates, and thus it is only found along coastal areas.
Slow growth means closely packed rings for a very strong and consistent wood grain.
Due to the colder temperatures and high rainfall of its local climate, Yellow Cedar grows very slowly with closely packed growth rings and very little distinction between early wood and late wood rings. This makes for a dense, consistent color and a high degree of stability throughout the tree. Moreover, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is highly rot and insect resistant and very hard.
The consistent grain structure means Yellow Cedar works very well either by hand or with machine. The tree is slow growing and very large so it is common to find heavy timbers and long and wide boards.
Alaskan Yellow Cedar is not actually a cedar but is from the Cypress family. Much like Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is often associated with Cedars because of its texture and aromatic nature.
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Yellow Cedar grows in similar areas as Western Red Cedar, though Western Red is spread over a wider area to include inland areas. Yellow Cedar has some similarities with Western Red, but in every area, Yellow Cedar is superior to Western Red in stability, strength, and weather resistance; these qualities make it a premium option for exterior siding, ceilings, flooring, and trim work.
Traditionally, Yellow Cedar is used in boat building, because of its extreme weather resistance and strength. This strength is counter balanced with a light weight, and because of this, Yellow Cedar is also found in aircraft construction.
Yellow Cedar is a prime pick for saunas and pool house construction, since the wood thrives in wet environments. It is also commonly found in Japanese designs for gardens and architecture; its light weight and high strength allows it to be worked in small and intricate construction like Shoji but also in large garden and outdoor structures like pergolas and gazebos, due to the availability in large timbers.
J. Gibson McIlvain maintains a constant stock of Alaskan Yellow Cedar in common 4/4 and 5/4 sizes, but we can always get special order products in greater thickness and even large timbers, generally within a 2 week window. In most cases, we are asked to mill the Yellow Cedar in paneling, flooring, or siding, and we can match whatever needs your project demands, before we ship it out to the job site.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.