Is Cedar Good for Carving?


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If wood carving is your area of interest in woodworking, you will come across all wood types. Although we can use almost any kind of wood for carving, some serve better than others. You need to consider several factors depending on the particular type of wood that you want to use for carving. In this post, we take a look at the various aspects of carving Cedar wood.

Is Cedar Good for Carving?

Cedar wood
Cedar wood (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As we mentioned above, almost all types of wood can serve as wood for carving. A question that commonly appears on woodworking forums and in the woodworking community is whether cedar wood is suitable for carving. Cedar is both soft and brittle. It is a cheap and durable wood. If you are a novice, you will find this wood easy to work on.

Although you can find up to nine different cedar species, the most popular varieties of wood are western red cedar, northern white cedar, eastern red cedar, Alaska cedar, and Spanish cedar. The most sought-after type of cedar is western red cedar.

Cedar has some extremely wild color variations in its grain, which imparts a striking appearance to most items carved out of this wood. You can take advantage of these color variations to add character to your carvings.

Tips For Carving Cedar Wood

Spanish Cedar Bowl Blank (6" x 6" x 3")
Cedar Bowl Blank (See on Amazon)

Cedar plays a prominent role in woodcarving projects. You can find a variety of items carved from cedar. Cedar is soft, but then, it also exhibits a certain degree of brittleness, which makes it prone to cracking and tearing. It becomes challenging to carve highly-intricate designs. If you need to create a carving that calls for extremely minute detail, you would be better off using a harder wood like mahogany.

But if you want to carve simple designs out of cedar, you can do much with this wood. Cedar carving calls for sharp tools and applying specialized carving techniques. With a little practice, you can get some satisfying results.

You can follow these tips for carving cedar wood:

Use Sharp Tools

Before you begin working on the wood, ensure that your chisels and gouges are razor sharp. A dull blade will tear the wood. Also, the cutting edge of your gouge should be free from blemishes. A nick on the cutting edge will scar the wood as you carve. Sharp blades leave behind a smooth and shiny surface. If your tools are sharp, they will create finer details, accentuating the depth of the wood in the carvings.

Consider The Grain Direction

Cedar planks

Another important factor worth mentioning while carving cedar is the direction of the grain. The grain of cedar wood orients itself in a straight direction. If you move your blade against the grain’s direction, you stand a chance of tearing or chipping the wood. You will feel the impact the most while carving intricate details. At this stage, you should use very shallow cuts. If you notice the wood tearing, change the direction of carving.

Avoid Making Stop Cuts

A stop cut is a perpendicular cut that woodworkers make with a sharp chisel for outlining their designs. The cut will be perpendicular to the grain of the wood. The stop cut prevents wood from chipping off beyond the cut, creating a nice clean edge wherever required. However, the downside of this type of cut is that it crushes and compresses the fibers because of the fibrous texture of cedar wood. So, avoid using stop cuts if you want your wood carvings to look sharp and detailed.

Maneuver Your Tools Correctly

Your final result will depend on how you use your tools. Pay special attention while applying finishing touches to a carving. Use a twisting action for your gouge, in such a way that you roll the edge away from the remaining wood. Try not to dig the gouge into the wood any more than necessary. If you don’t twist the handle this way while carving, you stand a chance of creating minor cracks. These cracks can develop into major damage at a later stage.

Cedar Wood Carving Ideas

Wood) Four Eastern RED Cedar Bowl Blanks Lumber Lathe Wood 6 X 6 X 3"
Carved bowl from red cedar (image: Amazon)

You can get an amazingly wide range of wooden carved items in cedar. Here are few hugely popular cedar wood carving ideas:

Figurines And Statuettes

These wooden items occupy a prominent place in cedar wood carving projects. You can take advantage of the color striations in the wood grain to enhance these cedar carved objects’ appearance.

Cups And Bowls

Carving cups and bowls from various types of cedar present some unique challenges due to the wood’s brittle nature. A unique example of a typical wooden utensil in cedar is the kuksa traditionally made from a birch burl. It has Nordic origins, but today you can find these in all wood varieties, including cedar.

Carved Signboards

Cedar carved signboards have long been a popular choice among wood lovers. It has given rise to a significant industry in the woodworking world. Woodworkers make carved signboards from different types of wood, as well as cedar.

Knife Handles

Knives with cedar handles occupy a position of pride in many a kitchen. The striated grain pattern, coupled with a beautifully polished surface makes an attractive-looking knife.

Carved Relief Panels

With a suitable grade of cedar, you can create some tantalizing wall relief panels. You can get a variety of carved cedar masterpieces from the online market.

Wood) Four Eastern RED Cedar Bowl Blanks Lumber Lathe Wood 6 X 6 X 3"
Red Cedar Bowl Blanks (see on Amazon)

Wooden Jewelry

Another favorite cedar product is wooden jewelry. Wooden trinkets always offer a rustic alternative to conventional jewelry, and cedar items occupy a prominent role here.

Household Ornaments

We get a wide range of wooden cedar ornaments for decorative purposes. Figures of animals, flowers, and other such objects will add class to your home.

Chainsaw Carvings

Here’s a big one. Literally! Cedar provides stock for some massive but striking chainsaw carvings. You can even get chainsaw-carved furniture on the market. Some of these carvings can be over 1,000 lbs!

Carved Candle Holders

A smart cedar candle holder is another woodworking product you can get in this wood. A cedar candle holder adds a rustic touch to your surroundings.

Trim And Molding

Cedar is cheap and easy to come by. Hence, it is suitable for mass production of trim and molding. If you go to a hardware store to buy some trim or molding, in all probability, at least some of your purchases will be made of cedar.

Conclusion

If you ever had any doubt about cedar’s suitability for carving, your questions should be answered right here. Cedar makes good wood for carving. Of course, as with all types of wood and especially when it comes to carving, you need to consider some factors.

In this post, we have covered the various aspects of carving with cedar wood. We also feature some of the several carved objects that you can get in cedar. We hope that this information will encourage you to get involved in cedar carving sometime in the future.

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