We consider acacia and cedar some of the best types of wood. They both come with multiple benefits. Both are hardwoods, but cedar is relatively more expensive than acacia. Although acacia produces less natural oil than cedar, it is relatively durable and we use both types of wood for woodworking projects, construction, flooring, and furniture.
Acacia vs cedar is a frequent point of discussion amongst woodworkers. Acacia is a favored choice for making furniture as it is a highly durable and dense wood. We also use it for flooring and various other woodworking applications. Cedar is another great alternative for making different items and structures. While cedar grows in the United States, acacia comes primarily from Africa.
Acacia vs. Cedar
Acacia grows abundantly enough to make it readily available and cost-effective. The wood has a pleasing light-brown-to-reddish-brown shade. It has a curved or interlocking woodgrain pattern. If finished properly, acacia can take on a striking appearance.
There are almost a thousand species of acacia and till today it has proven impossible to classify and record all the various species effectively. However, due to the vast range of species, the Janka hardness rating of acacia fluctuates vastly between 1,100 lbf. (Acacia mangium) and 4,270 lbf. (Acacia cambagei).
Therefore, while working on acacia, you need to be prepared to work on an extremely hard type of wood that might make your cutting tools and blades blunt.
You will find it easy to apply glue and finish to acacia, and it holds nails and screws well. However, it can be a considerable challenge while sanding it.
Coming to cedar, is an aromatic wood, unlike acacia. It grows throughout the United States, making it a cost-effective and easily available option. Cedar is also another durable wood and is particularly resistant to insect attack thanks to the resins it produces. You can use cedar for indoor and outdoor applications. However, using cedar for flooring is not advisable due to the softness of this wood.
As we mentioned above, acacia comes from a group of almost 1,000 species, which means that standardization of its classification has proven to be impossible. When traders sell acacia, they allude to a broad range of wood species.
Acacia has historical roots. The Ark of Covenant more commonly known as Noah’s Ark is believed to have been made from red acacia. The other name of acacia is “wattle” which means “to weave.” This word originated in 700 C.E. when acacia was widely used to make baskets.
You will find Acacia growing in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Today, it also grows across the United States. The wood varies in weight according to its widely fluctuating hardness and density. You will find some extremely hard varieties of acacia like waddywood (Acacia peuce). So, check the hardness of any acacia you buy before working on it.
With cedar, you get various species that you will find growing across the United States. The most widely-occurring cedar species is western red cedar. The reddish-brown color makes this wood quite appealing. It gives off a resinous odor while working on it.
It is also a durable type of wood and resists insects due to the natural resin that it produces. Cedar trees are particularly tall and can reach as high as 200 feet, whereas the tree trunks can grow as wide as 13 feet in diameter!
Cedar is a conifer and evergreen, meaning it does not shed its needles or leaves during winter. Cedarwood technically belongs to the cypress tree family.
You can make good fine furniture and cabinets from western red cedar. But you need to take note of the extreme softness of this wood with a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf. We also use cedar for outdoor trim, decking, siding, outdoor furniture, and small outdoor structures.
Acacia vs. Cedar: Appearance
The heartwood of acacia is medium-to-dark brown and is demarcated from the paler sapwood. The woodgrain occasionally exhibits figured patterns Australians allude to as “ringed.”
Regarding western red cedar, the reddish-brown color is the most common that you will see but there are lighter pinkish shades available as well. The grain pattern of this wood also exhibits streaks and bands from time to time. The sapwood is pale yellow compared to the brown heartwood but you won’t see much demarcation between the two.
Acacia vs Cedar: Durability
Acacia is a tough and durable type of wood and one of the strongest in the world. The fact that shipbuilders used acacia to build their ships and boats in ancient times bears testimony to the strength and reliability of this wood. Acacia also has a fair degree of resistance to moisture. Therefore, you can use it for outdoor applications for making decks and patios.
Cedar is a soft type of wood. The hardness rating varies between 320 lbf. (Northern white cedar) and 900 lbf. (Eastern red cedar). Cedar makes good furniture, but you would have to think carefully if you wanted to use it for flooring due to its inherent softness.
Acacia vs Cedar: Maintenance
We consider acacia an outdoor wood but you still need to maintain it for the best performance. There are certain procedures you can follow for maintaining acacia furniture. You can use commonly-available household materials to do the job. Applying boiled linseed oil (BLO) or tung oil further enhances the life of the wood.
With cedar, the tannins that it contains can bleed into top coats. Therefore, while applying a stain or finish, you need to use a stain-blocking primer first. You must use such a primer even if you want to paint the wood.
If you leave cedar unfinished it fades into a subtle grey hue that is liked by some and disliked by others. You can maintain the wood according to your taste and preference and be satisfied with the results either way.
Acacia vs Cedar: Workability and Uses
Freshly-cut acacia lumber is quite flexible. It makes it a good choice for making furniture parts. You can cut the softer varieties easily with hand tools, but machine tools are recommended for the harder types of acacia wood.
Acacia is also dimensionally stable, meaning that it doesn’t crack, warp, or shrink easily. But you would still do well to avoid exposing acacia to excessive moisture.
Acacia is particularly useful for kitchen accessories like cutting boards, kitchen counters, and food bowls. You can also use it to make bathroom cabinets and other wooden structures.
Because of its extreme strength and hardness, acacia is a good choice for construction. It also carves well so you can make various sculptures out of it. The Hawaiians use koa, a type of acacia to make canoes and other wooden watercraft.
Koa is a tonewood. Therefore, it makes good musical instruments as well, particularly the famous Hawaiian ukuleles. Acacia wood also has medicinal uses and is also used to produce essential oils for perfumes.
Western red cedar is also easy to work with because of its extreme softness. But it may develop fuzz while using high-speed sanders. You can remedy this by reducing the speed of your power tools.
You can make good outdoor furniture, fences, posts, boats, decking, boxes, crates, and musical instruments with western red cedar.
Acacia vs. Cedar: Price
Although acacia is widely available and even grows in the United States today, there are some expensive varieties of acacia. Nevertheless, acacia normally costs less than many other types of hardwood like walnut or cherry.
Western red cedar is native to the United States therefore it is generally cheaper than acacia. But there are some high-quality grades of cedar that can prove to be rather expensive.
Acacia vs. Cedar: Sustainability
Neither wood features in the IUCN Red List or the CITES Appendices. Both Acacia and cedar are considered sustainable wood species.
Acacia vs. Cedar: Any other characteristics
Cedar is an aromatic wood. Acacia produces water-soluble gums that the food industry uses as thickening agents.
Acacia vs. Cedar: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||No standard classification||Thuja plicata|
|Color||Medium to dark brown||Pinkish to reddish-brown|
|Durability||Highly Durable||Highly durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,430 lbf. to 4,630 lbf.||350 lbf.|
|Strength||Strong to extremely strong||Strong wood|
|Maintenance||Low maintenance||Needs regular maintenance|
|Suitability for outdoors||Yes||Yes|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Good||Easy to work with|
|Smell||Odorless||Aromatic scent while working with it|
|Availability||Abundantly available||Easily available|
|Special features||Used in the food industry as a thickening agent||Aromatic wood|
There, you have it! Two great kinds of wood to choose from and several interesting characteristics, some of which you perhaps were not aware of. We hope the information provided here will give you a better insight into acacia and cedar. By understanding more about them, you can get the best out of them and use either acacia or cedar for your next woodworking project. You can get satisfactory results by using either of them.