#39: Western Redcedar

Bird number: 62
Date: April 30, 2012
Wood: Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata)
Source: Western Canada

This is the fourth bird I’ve carved from wood called “cedar.” Of those, two were junipers, one is in the Mahogany family (Spanish Cedar), and this one is in the Cypress family, Cupressaceae. None of them are true cedars. I’m beginning to think that the word “cedar,” as commonly used, means, “wood that smells good.”

Western Redcedar grows in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a big tree, typically more than 200 feet tall and often exceeding 10 feet in diameter. It was an important tree for the area’s indigenous peoples, who used it for housing, totem poles, canoes, masks, boxes, baskets, ropes, ceremonial objects, and many other things.

The wood is straight grained with few knots, is strong and light (although it can be brittle), has a pleasant smell, and is exceptionally resistant to decay. Today it is used extensively for outdoor construction, for the framing of lightweight boats, and for lining closets and chests. It’s also a popular wood for making guitar soundboards.

It makes a nice bird, too.

I’ve carved three of these birds from the Western Redcedar. I did the first in my tutorial, using the power carver. This one, I carved with a knife. The wood really is a joy to work with a knife. It’s relatively soft, and cuts cleanly provided your knife is sharp. The straight grain is nice, too. End grain is a bit harder to cut, and it really shows when your knife is dull. Sanding this wood is also very easy. Plus, it smells nice when working it.

I have a few more small pieces of Western Redcedar that I’ll do something with, and I’m also going to see about getting more at some point. It’s not much harder than basswood, and it’s much prettier. I can think of many things I’d like to make from it.