Fairly new to the softwoods market (compared to our 200+ years of experience with hardwoods), J. Gibson McIlvain has learned a lot about the specific needs of softwoods over the past decade. Because we now realize the distinct needs of softwoods, we’ve established a distribution yard dedicated to softwoods. One of our most requested species we keep in stock there is Western Red Cedar.
Growing along the Western US and Canada, Western Red Cedar has a fairly wide growth range. We typically source our Western Red Cedar from either Western Canada or the Pacific Northwest of the US, where many of our partner mills secure premium lumber for us. Even though this species is plentiful, increased demand has led to concerns regarding scarcity; as a result, more responsible forestry practices (particularly by the Canadian government) have contributed to more balanced supply. The current 5-to-1 replanting rates foreshadow a more prolific crop of Red Cedars in 50 years than has ever been available. Like another popular softwood species, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Western Red Cedar is actually a Cypress, rather than a true Cedar; sometimes its name is spelled “Redcedar” in order to clarify the issue.
A huge benefit of Western Red Cedar is its ability to be naturally resistant to decay due to natural fungicides. The straight bole and high branches combine to give the tree a perfectly straight grain with very few knots; that straight grain contributes to the great strength of this species.
The narrow sapwood is only one inch wide within the trunk diameter of between 2 and 8 feet and has a low sap content, allowing for lack of gumming or blunting of cutting tools. As a result, large yields are possible, with very little waste during sawing. Although the drying process can be complicated, once properly kiln-dried, the lumber is stable.
Because of the strength that comes from the long, straight grain and its light weight that comes from its low density, Western Red Cedar is sometimes referred to as “shingle wood.” In addition to shingles, common applications include decking, outdoor furniture and structures, exterior siding and trim, and rustic-looking interior millwork and trim. Because this species’ rot-resistance allows it to have direct contact with the ground, it’s also commonly used for trellises, fence posts, sheds, and pergolas.
Here at J. Gibson McIlvain (visit website), we source our Western Red Cedar from our partner mills, many of which specialize in finding us clear vertical grain, STK (select tight knot) boards graded C or better. At the same time, we do carry a variety of grades for various applications. To discuss your project’s particular needs or order your Western Red Cedar, our softwoods specialists are standing by. Call us today toll free at (800) 638-9100.