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Cedar Wood in Traditional Craftsmanship: A History of Versatility

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

Cedar Wood in Traditional Craftsmanship: A History of Versatility

The world of woodworking is as vast as it’s fascinating, with a rich history woven into its very grain. 

At the heart of this history lies a material cherished for centuries for its versatility, durability, and beauty: 

Cedar wood. 

From the ancient Egyptians to modern-day artisans, cedar has been a cornerstone of traditional woodworking, and its popularity shows no signs of waning. 

In this article, we delve into the history of cedar wood in traditional craftsmanship, exploring its unique properties, uses, and enduring appeal. 


The Origins of Cedar Wood in Craftsmanship

Cedar Wood in Ancient Civilisations

Cedar wood's journey in craftsmanship began thousands of years ago. The ancient Egyptians revered cedar for its resistance to decay and insects, using it to construct their elaborate tombs and coffins. 

Further, the Phoenicians, renowned for their seafaring prowess, built their mighty fleets from cedar, valuing its lightweight yet robust nature. 


Cedar Wood in the Middle Ages

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, and cedar wood became a material of choice. It was used extensively in the construction of cathedrals, castles, and homes, and its natural resistance to rot and insects makes it ideal for these long-standing structures. 


The Properties of Cedar Wood

Durability and Resistance

One of the critical reasons for cedar's enduring popularity in traditional craftsmanship is its exceptional durability. Cedar has good resistance to decay, rot, and insect damage, making it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture, decking, and fencing. This resistance is due to natural oils in the wood, which deter insects and help prevent decay.



As a further bonus, cedar is also highly workable, making it a favourite among artisans. 

The wood is easy to cut, shape, and finish, allowing for high precision and detail in the finished product. Moreover, this workability and natural beauty make cedar popular for intricate carvings and detailed joinery work.


Aesthetic Appeal

Cedar wood is renowned for its beauty, and depending on the species, its rich, warm colour ranges from a light honey hue to a deep reddish-brown. As you may know, the wood also has a distinctive, pleasant aroma, adding charm. 


Cedar Wood in Modern Craftsmanship

Despite the advent of modern materials, cedar remains a staple in traditional craftsmanship. It’s used extensively in furniture making, cabinetry, and joinery. This is because its natural beauty and workability make it a favourite among artisans. 


Cedar Wood in Furniture Making

If you’re looking for a piece of furniture to put outside, cedar is often used in furniture making for its aesthetic appeal and durability. It’s specifically trendy for outdoor furniture, where its natural resistance to decay and insects is a significant advantage. 


Cedar Wood in Cabinetry and Joinery

Cedar's ability to be cut and shaped precisely allows for intricate designs and detailed work, making it ideal for cabinetry and joinery.


Cedar Wood's Influence on Indigenous Craftsmanship

Beyond the annals of traditional European craftsmanship, cedar has held an indispensable place in indigenous cultures, particularly amongst the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. These tribes utilised cedar extensively due to its abundance and outstanding attributes. From constructing totem poles and canoes to weaving baskets and crafting ceremonial items, cedar wood was fundamental to their way of life. 


Cedar Wood in Boat Building

The history of cedar wood in boat building is a remarkable narrative of human ingenuity. As the Phoenicians demonstrated in antiquity, cedar was prized in naval architecture due to its natural buoyancy, strength, and resistance to decay. 

Moreover, even in contemporary applications, cedar strip canoes and kayaks are appreciated for their lightweight strength and aesthetic appeal. They capture the harmony between form and function, showcasing the historical continuity of cedar wood's use in marine environments.


The Therapeutic Role of Cedar Wood

Historically, the unique aroma of cedar, resulting from its natural oils, has been more than just pleasing to the senses. Various cultures have harnessed cedar's scent for its therapeutic potential. From Native American sweat lodges to contemporary aromatherapy, cedar wood's aroma's relaxing and grounding qualities have been widely recognised. 

As you can see, this multifaceted dimension of cedar's sensorial and therapeutic appeal adds another layer to its historical versatility.


Cedar Wood in Architectural Elements

In architecture, the use of cedar extends beyond structural components. Its aesthetic appeal and workability have made it popular for decorative elements like mouldings, panelling, and window frames. 

Similarly, especially in traditional Japanese architecture, using cedar wood for shoji screens and other design elements highlights the global appreciation for cedar's unique characteristics. 


Cedar Wood's Role in Sustainable Craftsmanship

In the modern era, cedar wood is cherished for its beauty, functionality, and contribution to sustainable craftsmanship. 

The cedar tree's relatively rapid growth rate and the ability of cedar wood products to be recycled and composted align with the growing emphasis on environmentally responsible practices in the craft and construction industries. 

Ultimately, this facet of cedar wood's history underscores its future relevance in a world increasingly aware of its ecological footprint.


Cedar Wood: A Symbol of Resilience 

Finally, it's worth noting that cedar trees are often amongst the oldest living trees on the planet, with some reaching well over a thousand years. This longevity, mirrored in the durability of cedar wood products, has made cedar a symbol of resilience in many cultures. 

Moreover, this symbolic aspect enhances the narrative of cedar wood in traditional craftsmanship, linking the material to timeless themes of endurance and adaptation. 

In summary, the history of cedar in traditional craftsmanship is a multifaceted tale of functionality, aesthetic appeal, cultural significance, and environmental sustainability. 


The Role of Woodshop Direct in Cedar Wood Craftsmanship

At Woodshop Direct, we have a deep appreciation for the history and versatility of cedar wood. We source our cedar from sustainable forests, ensuring that we provide high-quality wood and contribute to preserving these magnificent trees. 


Experience the Finest Cedar Wood Products with Woodshop Direct

Cedar's history in traditional craftsmanship is a testament to its versatility, durability, and beauty. From the ancient Egyptians to modern-day artisans, this remarkable wood has proven its worth time and time again. 

At Woodshop Direct, we are proud to continue this tradition, providing high-quality cedar wood products that honour the rich history of this material. So, whether you're a professional craftsman or a DIY enthusiast, we invite you to explore our range of cedar wood products and experience the unique qualities of this material for yourself.