How to Work With Cedar Wood


Cutting into a nice piece of cedar is a joyous experience for a woodworker. The smell that is released, the color, texture and softness of this wood make it fun and easy to work with. It is all of these enjoyable characteristics that lead to some of the challenges when designing a wood piece using cedar. There are easy ways to overcome the limitations associated with this wood by taking a little extra time in design and assembly.

Things You'll Need

  • Cedar wood material for your project
  • Nuts, bolts and washers for assembly
  • Wood glue
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Measuring tape
  • Socket set or adjustable wrench
  • Sharp finish carpentry wood saw

Building with Cedar

  • Design your cedar wood projects making proper allowances for shrinkage, expansion and contraction. Allowing for a slightly thicker stock of cedar will provide the needed strength to overcome the softer wood characteristics.

  • Determine the grade of cedar lumber that is appropriate for your project. According to the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, there are specific uses of different grades of Cedar.

  • Pre-drill all holes for fasteners that will carry any significant loads. Pre-drilling the holes for the fasteners will create uniform round holes that distribute the loads where pieces are joined together.

  • Use nuts and bolts with washers to hold components together. The compressive action of a nut and bolt compared to using a wood screw add the holding power required to overcome the significant expansion and contraction of cedar.

  • Use high grade wood glue along with the nut and bolts at all joints. Most high grade wood glues actually penetrate into the surface of the wood and it is this action that helps to counteract the soft wood characteristics of rapid expansion and contraction.

Tips & Warnings

  • When cutting Cedar use a fine tooth and sharp saw blade.
  • Allow for shrinkage with outdoor projects
  • Cedar turns a silver/gray color when exposed to the elements
  • Cedar is infamous for splinters; it's a good idea to wear gloves

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