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Northern White Cedar

2748 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  TwoSkies57
I"m lookin for a little feedback on northern white cedar. Particularly successful finish schedules for exterior use...

I"d be interested in any experience, good or bad..

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Thanks Stick...

I ran across that last night and read up............leaning towards just leaving it alone......
I've tried varathane and as Stick's article suggests it didn't hold up that well (on red cedar that is). I've had the best luck with opaque oil stains. The red cedar turns gray in sunlight. There have been and may still be a few split cedar shake roofs in the area that were 100 years old and still not leaking. Cedars that were killed in forest fires and then split last the longest of all. Same goes for fence posts made out of those trees. Farmers would split them 8 feet long and after 25 to 30 years drive them in another 12-18" and they would go for a total of 50 years or more. The fires case hardened them a bit and made them more weather resistant for some reason.
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The local lumber yard advised me not to use Cedar for any furniture with glued joinery. They said screws do ok, but cedar is not very good for furniture. I am planning on making a patio set and was hoping to use Cedar, but was told to use White Oak instead and the higher cost would be offset by the longer life of the much more expensive wood. Does anyone know if Walnut does well as outdoor furniture ???
On Cedar fences and decks I have used Cedar stain or just wood sealer and love the look. The sealer however must be re-applied regularly depending on your climate.
yes on the Walnt... (black)...


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Cypress may be a good wood. If you get walnut that hasn't been steamed it cost a lot to. I have been paying $5.25 a board foot for steamed walnut but not anymore. I don't like it.
Found this article might help,
Have you ever seen a farm fence with cedar post? After a few years, the heartwood will be standing, but the white wood will be rotted away and the post will be loose in the ground. In another few years, the fence will be holding the post up.
Second growth red cedar (young trees) last from 6-8 years as fence posts. If you cook/heavily scorch them in a fire 8 years, maybe a little longer. Old growth red cedar (200-300 years plus) last much longer. If those same 200-300 year old trees were killed in a fire first then double as long. Why that is I don’t know but there is an an abundance of local experience to back that up.
Just to kind of follow up on this... I did go with Northern white cedar. A true 2" x 10" x 10' board w/only a handful of smallish knots I could easily work around for around 30 bucks. A clear board would have added to the cost considerably. And it wasn't readily available. The wood itself was super easy to mill up and work with. Kept a surprisingly sharp edge but was exceptionally susceptible to dings and dents on the flat surfaces. Just the nature of the beast I suppose.

The project itself was a roadside cross. Not something I was terribly fond of doing since I'm not a big fan in the first place since folks tend to make them more of a shrine than a memorial. However, in this case, it was intended to be as much a reminder to other truckers/drivers in the industry as it was a tribute to her husband. I agreed to do it with the stipulation that it would be clean, simple and NOT ornate. The wood itself would be left bare and would age naturally and not last forever. I was pleasantly surprised when the widow agreed completely.

The build itself was straight forward. The only thing was to get the correct dimensions for the cross. Once I found them I set about doing the milling up and lettering. Milled the cedar to 1 3/4" x 3 1/2" x 33" and 22". The horizontal is 2/3rds of the vertical centered 1/3 of the way down on the vertical. A very, very nice half-lap for the joinery.
Using both of Rocklers lettering kits, the lettering turned out to be nicer than expected. This time around I changed the spacing to be a little closer together. Took a bit more time setting things up one letter at a time, but I found it helped get rid of that state park sign look, which essentially these letters are. (((emphasis on "help")))
The cedar routed beautifully without a single burn on any of the letters or art work. A NEW bit certainly didn't hurt here. I had offered to paint the letters if she would have like but she declined that idea which was fine by me. So what I did was route the lettering 5/16" deep so as to take advantage of shadow lines.
Added a piece of 3/16" angle iron on the back to stake the cross into the ground and still keep it up off of the ground just enough so that it wouldn't act like a wick for ground moisture/snow/frost etc....

The Mrs. presented her with the cross and she was just overwhelmed. No doubt the flood of emotions were intense to say the least. They cried and hugged, hugged and cried. Im just glad i wasn't there. When the Mrs. was getting ready to leave, they got down to the "what do I owe ya" part. I had suggest that we just gift it. Kind of the thing to do. Thats what she did. More hugging and more crying... A couple days later the widow handed the Mrs. an envelope. She said it was from the "family" and not just her and she had no choice but to take it. Kinda cool I thought. Who says no good deed goes unpunished. Kinda ties in with another recent thread on how what we do as woodworkers can have an impact on folks.
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