Belonging to the 'Thuja' family of trees, the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a deciduous tree with a history of use dating back up to 8000 years. Its long history of use is not surprising when you consider that it is the single most widespread tree in the North-Westerly regions of continental North America, which includes Alaska and Canada, and that it also has a naturally high resistance to decay.
There are 5 different types of tree in the Thuja family, 2 of which can be found in America and 3 that can be found in Asia. The fact that they are evergreen, as nearly all deciduous trees are, is not the only thing that makes the Thuja family remarkable, as they are also able to reach up to 200 feet tall and release a pleasant smell that fills the air around them; which has earned them a place amongst some of the most popular and highly sought after decorative, ornamental trees.
As stated, the wood that comes from the Western Red Cedar is highly resistant to decay and decomposition, which ensures its longevity, but this is not the only reason why you may want to use it. Aesthetically speaking the wood has a neat, tightly held grain, very few knots, and a sublime mellow light-brown colouring that makes it ideal for ornamental use. Additionally, vestiges of the aforementioned pleasant aroma that the tree releases is trapped inside the wood, giving it a very soft, natural smell.
The wood of the Western Red Cedar is also lightweight – being roughly 30% lighter than mahogany, for example – which makes it easy to handle and work with in large volumes. For many low weight indicates low strength, and whilst this is almost always an entirely inaccurate presumption, it is even more so in this instance; as Red Cedar has been used in the past to build boats and ships from; which would undoubtedly require strength and resilience.
Regarding its workability, the strength of Western Red Cedar is a great benefit, as is the ease with which it can be drilled, cut and glued, especially with epoxy adhesives. The ease with which it can be worked and shaped to suit its handlers desire, in addition to its stunning visual appearance and pleasant odour, has allowed Western Red Cedar to retain its popularity amongst woodworkers for many centuries, and if treated correctly, furniture made from it, such as chests and cupboards, will remain popular for just as long.
Because of its many qualities Western Red Cedar is a understandably a very popular DIY material for experienced woodworkers, but it's workability also makes the ideal choice for beginners; so if you're thinking about taking up woodworking as a hobby – and you have all the necessary tools – this would be a great choice for you. For spotlights on some of the other types of Planed All Round Timber that we have to offer on Woodshop Direct, such as American White Oak and American Ash, please visit our Blog page.