Cedrela huberi, odorata, fissilis
Despite its name, Spanish Cedar is not only a hardwood (and therefore not a Cedar at all), but it is also not Spanish. Spanish Cedar actually comes from the Meliaceae family, along with Mahogany; Spanish Cedar is similar to Genuine Mahogany in its beautiful coloration, attractive grain pattern, and great workability. The wood's grain is usually quite straight and works well with both hand and power tools.
Spanish Cedar is also known as Cigar-box Cedar, as this was one of its traditional uses. The wood's natural aroma repels insects, and the high resin count makes it very weather and rot resistant. Due to its low density, the lumber is quite lightweight, which makes this wood highly sought after as a high quality exterior grade species.
However, because of its low density, which is caused by its slow growth rate, Spanish Cedar is not quite as stable as some of the types of wood for which it is often substituted, including Genuine Mahogany.
If special attention is paid during kiln drying, Spanish Cedar's tendency towards warpage and weeping can be avoided; not every lumber wholesaler, though, has the right equipment for properly drying this wood. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we have some of the only kilns in North America capable of achieving the right temperature to set Spanish Cedar while not overdrying and hardening it, which can cause stability problems later on.
Spanish Cedar has been listed as a CITES appendix II species due to its increasing popularity (combined with its slow growth rate), and, although availability is still high, the quality of some lumber dealers' Spanish Cedar is dropping.
At McIlvain, we focus on finding the right balance between environmental protection and customer satisfaction by sourcing from both plantation and certified sources that grow high quality Spanish Cedar. The positive attributes of the wood are what make it so popular, and compromising those characteristics for the sake of obtaining greater quantities at a lower price is not a step we are prepared to take. Our customers tell us that we carry some of the finest Spanish Cedar they've ever encountered, and we intend to keep it that way.
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.
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