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5 Different Types of Cedar Wood for DIY Projects (with Pictures)

Cedar Wood Wall

If you are a woodworker and like to do DIY projects, you likely want to learn as much as you can about the different types of wood available. Hardwoods can be useful for some projects, while others require soft varieties. Here, we look at several different varieties of cedar wood that are especially good for DIY projects. Keep reading as we discuss hardness, color, grain, and more.divider 1

The 5 Different Types of Cedar Wood for DIY Projects

1. Eastern Red Cedar

Taxonomy: Juniperus virginiana L.

Eastern red cedar is a soft wood, so it is easy to cut and carve. Many people use it to create attractive projects with nothing more than hand tools. It has a deep red color and is perfect for benches, fences, and many other projects.

The downside to eastern red cedar is that it is one of the toxic varieties to cats.

  • Deep red color
  • Easy to work with
  • More toxic than other varieties

2. Western Red Cedar

Taxonomy: Thuja plicata

Western red cedar is a fantastic wood variety for new woodworkers because it’s easy to cut and shape. This variation doesn’t have the deep red color of the eastern red cedar, but it has an attractive well-pronounced grain that is perfect for any project, and it pairs well with the eastern red cedar if you need more contrast. It’s not super toxic to cats, and you can stain it in many colors. Most woodworkers use it to create benches, shelves, and more because it’s extremely durable.

The only downside to working with western red cedar is that it can be difficult to find in some areas.

  • Not super toxic to cats
  • Easy to work with
  • Can be hard to find in some areas

3. Eastern White Cedar

Taxonomy: Thuja occidentalis L.

Eastern white cedar is a popular variety of cedar that many people use for many types of projects, including canoes, fence posts, shingles, furniture, and even paper. It’s easy to work with and has a light color with an attractive but more subdued grain than the western red cedar. Since this variety is so popular, it’s usually easier to find than some others and might also be less expensive.

The only downside to this variety is that it is a little softer than the others, and it might not be well suited to projects that contain many screws.

  • Attractive pale grain design
  • Easy to work with
  • Too soft for screws

4. Spanish Cedar

Taxonomy: Cedrela oderata L.

The Spanish cedar is a popular and easy-to-find variety that works great for any project. It’s a dark-colored wood that resembles the eastern red cedar more closely than the eastern white. It’s extremely resistant to humidity, so you will see it in many cigar boxes and humidors. It’s also a popular variety to use for window and door frames and shingles.

There is no downside to Spanish cedar other than its dark color limits staining possibilities.

  • Easy to find
  • Resistant to moisture
  • Dark color

5. Alaskan Yellow Cedar

Taxonomy: Palicourea croceoides

The Alaskan yellow cedar is a popular variety of wood that woodworkers have been using to create projects for thousands of years. It was and remains popular among many Native Americans, who use it to create baskets, rope, canoes, totem poles, and more. It’s a relatively easy-to-find variety that is light in color, so it makes a great accent to darker colors, and you have more options for staining. The grain is not too prominent, so you can use it for almost anything.

The only downside to this variety is that it can be expensive.

  • Light color
  • Easy to work with
  • Expensive

Cedar Wood Dangers

One danger to using cedar in the workshop is that it can be harmful to cats. Cedar contains phenols and terpenes that can cause health issues if ingested. There are no serious concerns about a finished project, as cats don’t generally chew on wood, but while you are cutting and sawing, you will create sawdust, which can be much more dangerous.

What Variety Should I Choose?

Any variety of cedar will provide you with a great experience as a beginner woodworker because most varieties are soft enough to cut with hand tools while remaining durable enough to last many years. Experienced woodworkers will also find plenty of uses for this fantastic wood because of its extreme durability, moisture resistance, and attractive grain.

However, if you have cats that visit your workshop, we recommend avoiding eastern red cedar because of its high toxicity.

Is Cedar Wood Toxic to Me?

Many varieties of cedar are mild to moderate irritants to humans, which usually results in burning eyes, headaches, and stomach cramps. Some varieties might also trigger an asthma attack. Only Alaskan yellow cedar is listed as a mild irritant of the varieties on this list.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The best way to protect yourself when working with cedar or any other wood is to wear the proper safety equipment. A face mask will help keep sawdust out of your lungs. Safety goggles can help keep the sawdust out of your eyes, which is especially helpful when working with cedar, an eye irritant. Finally, heavy work gloves will prevent you from getting slivers and keep your skin from contacting any oils that might cause a reaction.

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The varieties of cedar on our list should provide you with a great entry point to working with this fantastic wood. They are soft and easy to carve and cut yet durable enough for outside benches and shingles. These varieties are attractive, pair well with each other, and are relatively easy to find in any home repair store or lumber yard.

Featured Image Credit: CentrArredo, Pixabay


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