#34: Spanish Cedar

Bird number: 56
Date: April 5, 2012
Wood: Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata)
Source: Trade

The name “Spanish Cedar” is confusing. The tree isn’t a cedar and it doesn’t come from Spain. Cedrela is a genus of seven different species in the Mahogany family. I suspect it’s called “cedar” because it has a distinctive odor.

Cedrela odorata is the most common species. It is an important timber tree, providing a light, strong wood that is resistant to termites and other wood boring insects. And it smells good. You’ve probably smelled it if you’ve ever had a wooden cigar box or been in a humidor at a cigar store. The wood is also commonly used for small articles to be stored with clothes–much as we use Eastern Red Cedar for chests, closets, and things that we store in closets or clothes drawers.

Cedrela is also used for the necks of some guitars.

As I did with the Eastern Red Cedar bird, I left this one unfinished. I sanded it smooth but didn’t want to put anything on the wood that would mask its odor.

The scratches and pits you see are from the carbide bit on my Foredom power carver. The wood turned out to be a lot softer than I realized, and I was a a little too aggressive when carving. I could have sanded the scratches out, but the bird was already thinner than I had planned.

Cedrela odorata is CITES-listed, meaning that there are restrictions on international trade of wood from its native habitat (southern Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean). The wood has become naturalized in some parts of Africa, Asia, and Hawaii, and is also used as an ornamental tree. As I understand it, there are no restrictions on trading in wood from those areas. For reasons I don’t understand, it’s apparently not possible to grow Cedrela commercially (on a plantation).

The other six species of Cedrela, by the way, have similar wood but they’re not commonly used due to scarcity.

I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for more of this. I’d like to try knife-carving it, and I love the smell.