Aromatic Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Aromatic Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

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Common Name(s): Aromatic Red Cedar, Eastern Redcedar

Scientific Name: Juniperus virginiana

Distribution: Eastern North America

Tree Size: 100-115 ft (30-35 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 33 lbs/ft3 (530 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .44, .53

Janka Hardness: 900 lbf (4,000 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 8,800 lbf/in2 (60.7 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 880,000 lbf/in2 (6.07 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,020 lbf/in2 (41.5 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.1%, Tangential: 4.7%, Volumetric: 7.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.5

Color/Appearance: Heartwood tends to be a reddish or violet-brown. Sapwood is a pale yellow color, and can appear throughout the heartwood as streaks and stripes.

Grain/Texture: Has a straight grain, usually with knots present. Has a very fine even texture.

Endgrain: Resin canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition gradual, grain moderately uneven to moderately even; tracheid diameter small to very small; zonate parenchyma (double ring).

Rot Resistance: Regarded as excellent in resistance to both decay and insect attack, Aromatic Red Cedar is frequently used for fence posts used in direct ground contact with no pre-treating of the wood.

Workability: Overall, Aromatic Red Cedar is easy to work, notwithstanding any knots or irregularities present in the wood. It reportedly has a high silica content, which can dull cutters. Aromatic Red Cedar glues and finishes well, though in many applications, the wood is left unfinished to preserve its aromatic properties.

Odor: Aromatic Red Cedar has a distinct and tell-tale scent: the wood is commonly used in closets and chests to repel moths and other insects.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Aromatic Red Cedar has been reported to cause skin and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Large and/or clear sections of Aromatic Red Cedar are much less common, but smaller, narrower boards with knots present are readily available at a modest price.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Common Uses: Fence posts, closet and chest linings, carvings, outdoor furniture, birdhouses, pencils, bows, and small wooden specialty items.

Comments: Although Aromatic Red Cedar is included in the cypress family (Cupressaceae) which includes many species of cedar, it’s perhaps more closely related in junipers in the genus Juniperus. In tree form, it is more commonly called Eastern Redcedar, while the wood itself is usually referred to as Aromatic Red Cedar.

Though Eastern Redcedar trees are widely distributed throughout the eastern half of the United States, it is a very slow-growing species, and most trees harvested tend to be fairly small in diameter. Because of this, Aromatic Red Cedar boards tend to be knotty and narrow.

Related Species:

Scans/Pictures:

Aromatic Red Cedar (sanded)

Aromatic Red Cedar (sanded)

Aromatic Red Cedar (sealed)

Aromatic Red Cedar (sealed)

Aromatic Red Cedar (endgrain)

Aromatic Red Cedar (endgrain)

Aromatic Red Cedar (endgrain 10x)

Aromatic Red Cedar (endgrain 10x)

Eastern Red Cedar (29" x 5.8")

Eastern Red Cedar (29″ x 5.8″)

  • bill

    I made a custom floor in my 49 chevy pickup of 3/8 aromatic cedar t&g and sealed it with linseed oil. The oil picks up dirt and I just finished sanding it back to natural. What can I use to seal this wood? Bill

  • Bill, a lot will depend on how much durability you’re after, and what type of look that you want. You could use Polyurethane for better protection, and if you only use a few coats of satin it could still look natural. Otherwise pile on some glossy coats for maximum protection.

    For the most minimal finish, you could just seal it with shellac. I prefer to mix my own, but I know Zinsser SealCoat is a good product; just make sure the date on the bottom of the can is less than a year old.

  • Kyle Dickson

    In my experience red cedar likes evaporative finishes like shellac or lacquer much more that curative finishes like any sort of oil based product. Linseed oil, polyurethane, spar varnish and such can remain tacky for a long time or adhear poorly due to red cedar’s high resin content. That’s why it has a strong smell. Same goes for “heart pine” as far as finishes, especially if the wood has streaks of “fat lighter” in it. If a wood has a strong “resiny” smell use shellac or lacquer. You can also seal the wood with a dewaxed shellac and then pile on an oil finish. Most any finish will stick to dewaxed shellac.

    • Raven Youngblood

      I have never had any issues using a Marine Spar Varnish on any type of Cedar….and I have made hundreds on Hope Chest.

  • Kyle, I’ve had the very same experiences with oily tropical woods too. I have a feeling that the oils in the wood somehow change the chemistry of the finish, so that polyurethane and other reactive finishes simply will not cure… ever. They just stay gummy. Again, sealing with several coats of shellac seemed to remedy this, and allowed me to then use polyurethane as a more durable topcoat. (I really should write an article about all of this.)

  • Catherine Futch

    I have noticed a significant dulling of my band saw blade when I cut bowl blanks from cedar. I assume this is due to silica build up. What is the best way to minimize dulling of the blade?

    • Dave Miller

      It might be a little late for an answer but I’ve read that debarking the trunk with a draw knife is supposed to help.

  • Catherine,
    I’d recommend a different blade. Bi-metal blades are pretty affordable, and seem to last a good while longer than regular steel blades. I really like Lennox Die-Master 2 series of blades. Otherwise, if you really want to get something nice, look into carbide tipped bandsaw blades, though they will easily run $100 – $200 per blade.

  • Vytas

    Can I use Aromatic Red Cedar in living rooms. Thank You. Vytas

  • TED

    CATHERINE DOES TNE CEDAR HACE THE BARH ON IT THERE IS A LOT OF SAND IN THE BARK.

  • Greg

    Hi,
    I am considering using t&g cedar on a bathroom floor.
    Can I attach the cedar flooring to a concrete slab using an adhesive?
    If not, why not?
    If yes, what adhesive do you recommend?
    Should I seal the cedar on one or both sides?
    With what product?
    The only moisture touching the cedar should be the bottom of the bathers feet when they get out of the tub. If anyone wishes to call me that would be great.

    Thanks, Greg

    phone 336 212 1673.

  • Woodrow

    Greg I put cedar t&g flooring in our bathroom about a year ago. But I put it over a plywood sub floor and put polyurethane on top,so far so good. I dont know about the adhesive, you could attach strips to the floor with concrete nails and the attach the cedar to that.

  • Bobby

    Can Red Aromatic cedar be used as a butcher block or as a counter top? If so what would you use and how to finish?

    • ejmeier

      I honestly wouldn’t recommend it for butcher blocks as it’s pretty soft. But if that’s not a concern for you, then go for it. You could just finish it with mineral oil, just let it soak in, then wipe off excess.

  • AdamKelker

    I am told I can affordably rebuild my entire back deck out of Eastern Red Cedar. Currently it’s 2 × 8 framed with 2 x 6 floorboards. Supported om 4 x 6 columns. The railings utilize all 2 x 4, 2 x 6 and 4 x 4 posts. It’s all butt ugly and in the shade and northern exposure in Northwest Arkansas. Lots of humidity too.

    Question: Would I benefit from replacing in all cedar with the exception of changing out the horrid railing from construction site style horizontal 2 x 4 railing to 2 x 2 cedar spindles?

    I always liked the color variances and patterns of aromatic red cedar. Would I seal or stain and if so with what? Lastly any serious pros and cons.. Thank you!!

  • Emily

    3-5 thin coats of rub in polyurethane work great on sealing this wood and only enhance the colors. Its also relatively cheap.

  • sheikh abraham

    I was wondering if red cedar can be used in electric guitar making.And if so what part of the guitar it is best suited???

    • Steve

      You can make the neck of the guitar with cedar but you need to choice a part of a cedar lumber without knot and you need to put a 1/2 inches to 3/4 inches piece of a solid wood like hard maple, rosewood or ebony into the center of the neck(laminated with the cedar) with the grain of this wood perpendicular to the grains of the fingerboard(the grain of the cedar parallel to the grain of the fingerboard) or a truss rod or a metal bar under the fingerboard to assure than the neck is not arch with the strings tension. Make your fingerboard with a hard wood! You can also make the body of the guitar with cedar but this will give you a smooth sound without a lot of treble for sure(to correct it, you can make the center of the body(under the strings) with a hard wood laminated too with the cedar for find trebles) and you will probably need to color this body(if the cedar is not laminated) or accepting the knots. Anyway… this guitar looks great!

      Good luck on making!

  • bob

    Thank you for this I had a strange red STRONG smelling peice of wood and I was wondering what it was. It was the Aromatic Red Cedar. It was SO strong I sanded it and turned it into a stick of deoderent. LOL :P