Western Red Cedar Lumber
Western Red Cedar

Botanical Name: Thuya plicata

Family: Cupressaceae

Other Common Names: Arborvitae, Canoe cedar, Giant arborvitae, Giant cedar, Pacific redcedar, Shinglewood

Uses: Outdoor furniture, Boat building (wood strip canoes), exterior millwork.

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Western Red Cedar

Distribution: Western Red Cedar is reported to occur in Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. It is reported to form widespread forests with Western hemlock, and also with other conifers.  It prefers moist, slightly acid soils. Western Red Cedar is also reported to be cultivated (from seedlings in nurseries) as a source of timber in Britain and France.

General Characteristics: General Characteristics: The tree is described as often large to very large, producing a tapering trunk that is buttressed at the base. The height of the mature tree is reported to be 100 to 175 feet (30 to 53 m), with a trunk diameter of 2 to 8 feet (0.6 to 2.4 m). It produces a clear bole that is usually free from side branches for many feet up, which means the outer layers of the tree are knot free and clear. This feature is reported to make Western redcedar timber especially suitable for high-class joinery and woodwork. The freshly-cut heartwood is reported to vary in color from dark chocolate-brown to salmon pink, sometimes variegated. The color ages to reddish brown and eventually to silver gray. The wood is much sought after for its 'weathered' appearance; the narrow sapwood is whitish in color and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Sapwood width is reported to be seldom greater than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in mature trees. Texture is coarse, and is reported to be much coarser than in Redwood. The grain is typically straight, and even. The wood is reported to have a sweet, fragrant or cedary smell, and a faint bitter taste.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) 0.32; air-dry density 22 pcf.

Working Properties: Cutting resistance is reported to be small, but the wood has a tendency to fray during cross-cutting. Western Red Cedar is reported to have excellent planing properties. It is a very popular timber and is considered to be one of the major lumber species in the United States and Canada. The material is reported to turn very well. Moulding qualities are rated as very good. Western Red Cedar is reported to respond very well to boring. The wood is reported to have very good mortising characteristics. Red Cedar is reported to be highly favored for riving shingles and shims since its straight grain allows it to be split easily and predictably. The material is reported to have excellent resistance to splitting in nailing. Nail holding properties are good. Screwing properties are rated as excellent and screw-holding qualities are good. Gluing characteristics are rated as excellent. The wood is reported to have good polishing characteristics. The wood is reported to stain well. Steam bending properties are rated as poor. The wood is reported to work well with hand tools.

Durability: Western Red Cedar is reported to have very high natural resistance to decay because of large amounts of extractives. It is reported to perform very well in contact with the ground, under most climates, without any kind of preservative treatment. The mild winters in the British Isle are reported to be an exception, since they tend to promote decay. Seasoned Western Red Cedar wood is also reported to be susceptible to attack by the common furniture beetle.

Preservation: It is resistant to preservative treatment.

Mechanical Properties

(First set of data based on the 2-in. standard; second on the 2-cm standard)

Bending Strength:

Green : N/A
Dry: N/A

Modules of Elasticity:

Green : N/A
Dry: N/A

Maximum Crushing Strength:

Green : 2,560 psi
Dry: 4,990 psi

Drying and Shrinkage:

Kiln Schedule T10-B5 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T10-B3 for 8/4.

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