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 HOME WOOD LIBRARY Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar
Siding, Shakes Shingles & Cedar Sign Blanks

Western 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At one time it was widely used for telephone and transmission poles although I believe today it has somewhat been replaced by man made alternatives.

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 blanks.

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.

Wood Description:
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 for screws.

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 somewhat insignificant.


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theWoodbox.com Jan 2007