Cedarwood is commonly used for outdoor projects or generally projects that need to be resistant against moisture, rotting, or insects. So it´s mostly used for fence posts, fences, barns, cabins, garden furniture, and so on.
Cedar, however, is not commonly used for carving. Mainly because Cedar is a softwood and normally softwood is not that great for carving but that doesn´t mean, that softwood can´t be carved at all. I personally never used Cedarwood for carving before so I asked around and I bought some Cedarwood to see how well it can be carved.
In this article, I will tell you everything about carving Cedarwood especially the advantages and the disadvantages and waht you have to watch out for.
In short, Cedar can be used for carving. However, only a few types of cedar, like Eastern Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Eastern White Cedar are good for carving and Cedarwood can´t be used to carve integrate details and it is hard to get a smooth finish because of its loose open grains.
So Cedarwood is not perfect for carving but it can still be used for some specific projects like carvings that need to be resistant to moisture or projects that will be sitting outside where they are exposed to the elements.
Cedarwood is commonly used to carve duck decoys or garden sculptures.
Advantages of Using Cedar Wood for Carving
I will start with the advantages of cedarwood mainly because I feel like they are more important than the disadvantages.
If you are searching for a type of wood that has all of the advantages of cedarwood then simply use cedarwood and don´t get hung up on its disadvantages. You can work around the disadvantages rather easily and most of the time the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
So let´s start with the amazing advantages that cedarwood brings to the table compared to other types of wood.
Cedar is Naturally Rot Resistant
This is probably the most commonly known fact about cedar.
Cedar is indeed naturally resistant to rot and moisture. The natural cedar oil present in the wood is also a very good insect repellant.
So if you need your carving to withstand a lot of moisture or if you have insects in your area that love to eat wood then cedarwood would be an excellent choice for you.
Very Good For Carvings That Will be Sitting Outside
If you plan on creating a sculpture or another type of carving that is going to sit outside or might be exposed to the elements in some other way then cedarwood is your best choice out there.
Because of its natural rot and decay resistance, it is simply perfect for outside projects.
You can further extend the life of your cedar wood carving by treating it with some varnish before you put it outside.
Cedarwood is Very Light Weight
Cedarwood is very lightweight when compared to other types of wood commonly used for carving.
Most wood types used for carving are hardwood. Meaning they are naturally denser and therefore also heavier than cedarwood.
So if you are searching for a wood that is lightweight then cedarwood is one of your best options out there.
I know one woodworker in particular who is using cedarwood for sculptures that are on house walls outside. Cedarwood is perfect for projects like these because it doesn´t rot easily outside and it is light enough to easily fix it against the wall.
Disadvantages of Using Cedar Wood for Carving
As I mentioned above, there are also a few disadvantages to using cedarwood for carving but in my opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages most of the time.
But still, here are the biggest distances of using cedarwood for carving.
Not Every Kind of Cedar is Good for Carving
This first point is probably one of the most important ones.
Don´t simply go to the hardware store and buy just any old cedarwood post for carving.
Most types of cedarwood are actually bad for carving.
The best types of cedar for carving are Eastern Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Eastern White Cedar.
While it is possible to carve other types of cedar you will get the best results by using one of these.
It is Very Soft Compared to Other Wood Types Usually Used for Carving
Cedarwood is a softwood. Most wood used for carving, however, is hardwood. And for good reason.
When using hardwood for carving it is easier to control just how much material you remove because of how hard it is.
When using softer types of wood like Cedar you will actually need to be more cautious and more in control because you wil be able to remove more material faster than with hardwood.
This often leads to problems where you accidentally remove too much material or you slip up and damage the wood significantly.
Difficult to Carve Sharp Details
Because Cedar is a softwood it can also be difficult to carve sharp details.
You should avoid thin or integrate areas when carving Cedar because they can easily break off.
If you want to carve a sculpture or relief with lots of intricate detail then cedarwood would not be the best choice.
The Best Type of Cedar for Carving
As I already mentioned above, not every type of cedar is good for carving. Choosing the right type of Cedarwood for carving might actually be the most important part of carving Cedar.
Most Cedar variants will be too soft or will be too loose or open-grained to carver properly.
There are a few types of cedar that can be carved successfully but the three best types of Cedar, that I personally tried are Eastern Red Cedar, Yellow Cedar, and Eastern White Cedar.
Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern and Western Red Cedar are not the same!
I would highly recommend staying away from Western Red Cedar when it comes to carving. While it is possible to carve Western Red Cedar you won´t do yourself a favor. I personally had a very bad experience when I tried to carve Western Red Cedar.
Eastern Red Cedar, however, was like a different world when compared to Western Red Cedar.
Eastern Red Cedar is much denser which makes it, amongst other things, much better for carving.
It is also much harder than most other Cedar variants. This also makes it the best choice among the cedar variants if you want to create a detailed carving.
And Eastern Red Cedar has a very nice red color to it that I personally really like. Especially when I carve Sculptures.
Yellow Red Cedar is a little softer than the other variants but it also accepts treatments better than others.
It is also a little bit lighter than other cedar variants which makes it perfect for carvings that need to be light weight.
Like carvings for doors, for example.
And, as the name suggests, it has a very nice yellowish tint to it.
Eastern White Cedar
Eastern White Cedar almost white in color and quite easy to carve too.
It is medium hard and good if you want to create a medium detailed carving that needs to be light.
It is also a little bit cheaper than red Cedar (depending on where you live of course) which makes it a good alternative.