Western Red Cedar
red cedar siding is probably the number one use of red cedar in
the home constructions industry. It typically comes in a number
of different profiles from cedar shake siding and shingles to western
red cedar log siding cut in a profile to offer the visuals of a
real log home.
At one time it was widely used for telephone and transmission poles
although I believe today it has somewhat been replaced by man made
Western red cedar sign blanks are probably the largest "craft"
use of this wood. It makes fine lumber for decorative uses, such
as interior wall paneling in both knotty and clear grades especially
for those passionate about building a sauna. Small quantities are
used for craft projects, window parts, pencils and other manufactured
products, and as suggested earlier, large quantities of cedar sign
Other applications include caskets, wooden pipe and tanks, outdoor
patio and greenhouse construction, and small outdoor structures
where exposure to weather is severe. It is one of the better boat
and canoe building woods and in thin veneers is the principal wood
selected for covering racing shells. It is used extensively for
sawn shingles, split roof and siding shakes, fence posts and rails,
because of its natural durability.
That being said its rot resistance has come under scrutiny lately
as a number of buildings thought to be good for 30 years are now
showing rot after only 6 years... current research is differentiating
between the resistance of "sapwood" vs "heartwood
and finding significant life expectancy differences between old
(heart) and young (sap) wood.
The Tree: Thuja Plicata Family
Western Red Cedar, as the name would suggest, is predominantly a
west coast species, growing from Oregon all the way up to Alaska.
It has been called canoe-cedar, shinglewood and Pacific cedar.
Under the most favorable growing conditions, it can attain heights
in excess of 200 feet with diameters up to 16 feet. The trunk in
older trees is buttressed, often fluted, and rapidly tapering. The
Western red cedar is a prodigious seed producer.
The heartwood is reddish brown or pinkish brown to dull brown, and
typically much darker than sapwood which is nearly white. The wood
is almost always straight-grained, easily split, and has a uniform
but rather coarse texture. It is moderately soft, light weight and
low in strength.
Its heartwood is very resistant to decay, an important feature
if you are interested in installing western red cedar siding, shakes
or shingles. Sapwood, more common today as we harvest younger and
smaller trees is not nearly as rot resistant as suggested earlier,
and may explain why the life expectancy of some cedar log siding
installations are not performing as would be expected.
Western Red Cedar dries easily with very little shrinkage, another
feature significant to the success of the red cedar siding, shakes
and shingle market.
It has a very distinctive smell, in fact the aromatic oils can
adversely affect some individuals with lung sensitivities.
It glues up easily with traditional PVA glues, although you may
want to utilize waterproof PVA glues like Titebond III or Helmiten
805 for exterior western red cedar sign blanks.
Weight: 24 lbs. Per cubic foot.
Western Red Cedar is rated the best softwood in paint holding ability.
Its ability to receive paint and stain finishes allows a wide range
of effects to be achieved.
Machines easily with either hand or power tools and planes to a
smooth finish that is rich and lustrous. Western red cedar is easy
to cut or split along the grain. The long fibers can cause tearout
on cross grain routing. It nails easily without predrilling, but
if you want a clean hole, it is best to predrill countersink holes
Western Red Cedar is difficult to turn, due to its coarse, fibrous
structure, but of course given that most of us use it as cedar shake
siding and shingles, or cedar sign blanks, its turning ability is