Is Cedar Good For Carving? (Everything You Need To Know!)

One of the first questions any new wood carving hobbyist asks is; ‘is XX wood good for carving’? And it’s a really good question.

What with the wide range of wood types and species on offer, its almost impossible to figure out which one is best for your carving project.

Which is why if you’ve been considering cedar as your carving wood of choice, you are on the right track.

Cedar wood remains a long time favorite with wood carvers, because Cedar is a good option for wood carving. This sweet-scented wood is durable, and naturally resistant to decay.

But not all cedar wood species are good for wood carving projects.

For example, Northern White Cedar, a lightweight softwood, becomes very brittle when kiln dried. Which means it can splinter if worked on with power carving tools.

Now, most people are familiar with cedar in and around the home. For example, Western Red Cedar is commonly used on outdoor structures (such as decking and construction work).

But can this North American softwood also be used for whittling crafts, and chip carving?

Cedar Wood Carving 1

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Is Cedar Good For Spoon Carving?

If you are planning on making some home spun kitchen utensils, such as spoons and bowls, then using cedar wood is a perfectly fine.

The wood is sturdy, and it can hold up well against damp (so dipping your spoon into soup isn’t going to cause any rot in the wood).

Just be sure to properly seal your spoons and bowls before use.

Do You Have To Seal Cedar Wood?

If you want your cedar wood piece to keep its rich color, then you are going to want to give it a layer of protection in the form of a coat or two of a good sealant.

Without that protection, cedar will lose its natural oils, and its ‘fresh’ look will begin to fade.

An oil based sealant, particularly one that can seep deep into the timber, will add an extra layer of protection from rot and decay.

But, it is worth noting that if you love the fragrance of cedar wood, using sealant will lock away that scent.

What Is The Best Sealer For Cedar?

You will want to go for a clear penetrating finish, one that (once dry) will seal the grain, keep those knots from seeping out sap, and leave behind nothing but a natural looking wood surface.

For this job, I would recommend you use Linseed Oil or Danish Oil (a type of Tung Oil) as a sealant.

I wrote a post that dives deep into all of the advantages and disadvantages of using Danish Oil. You can learn more about this natural finish by clicking here.

Is Red Cedar Better Than White Cedar?

Well, it depends on how you define ‘better’ when it comes to what you need it to do.

If you want to make a large sturdy woodwork project, then Red Cedar is a better option as it is a bit stronger than White Cedar, (and it is generally less knot-riddled too).

On the other hand, White Cedar has a bit more in-built flexibility, making it great for outdoor fencing and the like.

Plus, White Cedars durability means that it can last up to a decade longer than Red Cedar.

Cedar Wood Carving 3

Is Cedar Wood Expensive?

Cedar Wood is far from expensive and pales in comparison to truly high-end lumber like Sandalwood (Sandalwood oil can cost up to $2,000 per kg).

Still, when compared to most other types of softwood timber, cedar can start to feel a little overpriced.

A Western Cedar Wood Fence is priced around $6 to $15 per linear foot.

Compared that with say Pine ($3 to $7 per linear foot), or Redwood ($4 to $7 per liner foot).

Still the durability of cedar may well be worth handing over that extra cash.

Is Cedar Wood Waterproof?

While cedar is resistant to rot it is not 100% waterproof. The wood can still warp if it is not properly air-dried, treated and sealed.

When it comes to moisture, cedar wood acts just like any other timber; it expands when it takes in moisture, and starts to shrink down as it dries.

This expanding/shrinking process will twist the wood as it hardens, so giving cedar a seal coat will safeguard it from warp damage.

Final Thoughts

From all the various softwoods on offer, you won’t go too far wrong in deciding to go with Cedar Wood.

However, it is worth noting that White Cedar may be a little too brittle for chip carving.

Otherwise, this wood type is perfect for carving your next hand-crafted masterpiece.

If you want some wood carving instruction, ideas, or just some plain old inspiration, you should click here to check out my article: 11 Surprisingly Simple Wood Carving Projects for Absolute Beginners.