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CEDAR, AROMATIC RED
(technically, this is Eastern redcedar)

Juniperus virginiana

Juniperus virginiana of the family Cupressaceae, the cypress family

The more technically correct name is Eastern redcedar (NOT "red cedar" but "redcedar") but lumber stores are far more likely to call it aromatic red cedar, so that's what I call it. Actually even that is not quite right, since it should be "aromatic redcedar" with no space but it just isn't often used that way. To further confuse things, it isn't really a cedar at all, but as is indicated by the genus name (Juniperus) it is variety of juniper which is part of the cypress family.

A somewhat brittle, albeit relatively soft, wood that works quite well if you can avoid chipout, this is the wonderfully aromatic wood that people put in closets and dresser drawers to make things smell good and to mask the smell of wool so that moths don't deposit their larvae in it (it is the larvae that eat the wool, not the moths themselves).

After exposure, the smell fades but it can be restored with some sanding. Also, the color fades quite badly with exposure to UV and oxygen and untreated old aromatic red cedar will generally be very pale, dull pink even if it started out as a fabulous reddish-purple (and fresh-cut wood color can be a real pleasure to behold as can be seen in many of the pics below). A finishing agent with a UV blocker will slow the process but over enough time even that isn't much help.

my samples:




both sides of a sample plank of Eastern red cedar / Juniperus virginiana --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. This piece has the labeled side being sapwood and near-sapwood whereas the other side is pure heartwood.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern red cedar / Juniperus virginiana --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


first face and the end grain of a sample of aromatic red cedar (listed as pencil cedar) / Juniperus virginiana. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION A


the second face, before and after sanding, showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep. You can see, however, how the fading from fresh-cut purple to duller brownish red persists.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


both sides of a sample of aromatic red cedar (listed as just "red cedar") / Juniperus virginiana. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION A and is one of the few pieces from that collection that were too skinny to do end grain pics.


This is 2 sides and the end grain of the same piece and it was sanded just before the picture was taken so as to show the difference in freshly exposed heartwood vs wood that has been exposed to the air for a while, as in the samples below. Because the end grain sucks in air more readily than the sides, I would have had to sand off quite a bit more wood to make the end grain have that freshly sanded look as opposed to the slightly faded look it still retains.




end grain closeup (upside down) and END GRAIN UPDATE from the piece directly above --- color on the closeup is a little dull but the update is just right.


samples that have been exposed to the air for some time (years, actually, but it doesn't take years for the purple of newly exposed heartwood to fade into a slightly purplish/reddish brown or dark tan).


another plank and end grain that have been exposed to the air for some time


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank and end grain --- this piece has the dreaded "blue stain" (aka "sap stain") which is discussed in the " ... wood terms described ... " page. This piece was contributed to the site by John Saxon of The Cedar Store --- thanks, John !


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above. Part of the reason for the color change is that the update was done many years after the closeup and the purple has faded to more of a brownish-red, as it always does.


small plank and end grain --- I noticed as I was cutting up pieces for my bowls that this one has some nice ray flakes, which I do not often see in this species


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above (I got them reversed relative to each other). The browner color of the update is because the piece has aged considerably since the original pics were taken and the whole piece is now red-brown rather than purple.


sample plank and end grain


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


two pictures showing both sides of a set of flats all cut from the same plank. In the left picture, the side facing the camera is one that has only been lightly sanded after having been exposed to the air for years whereas in the right picture, the side facing the camera is newly exposed and freshly sanded wood. The colors in both cases are quite accurate. On the bottom piece in the left picture, the sanding has progressed far enough that some of the fresh color is beginning to show through, particlarly at the top of the piece.


yet another set of flats cut from the same plank as those above. The bottom one is turned so that the surface facing the camera is one that has only been lightly sanded after having been exposed to the air for years whereas the top two pieces are turned to show freshly exposed wood.


plank and closeup with carefully corrected color


plank and closeup with carefully corrected color


plank and closeup with carefully corrected color


plank and closeup with carefully corrected color


plank and closeup with carefully corrected color

a set of planks that range in thickness from 1/2" to 2" and were chosen to show here based on variety of color and grain --- these were surfaced just a few days before the pics were taken and many of them have a very strong purple cast and areas of exceptionally clear white sapwood



a set of planks that range in thickness from 1/2" to 2" and were chosen to show here based on variety of color and grain --- these were surfaced just a few days before the pics were taken and many of them have a very strong purple cast and areas of exceptionally clear white sapwood


three of the planks shown together to emphasize the difference in color. The bottom one is what I think of as "normal" for this wood, while the middle one has a yellow tint that is fairly common and the top one has a deep violet tint.


another set of planks --- I would say that I now have officially taken too #&$^%@ many pics of aromatic red cedar !



The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
aromatic red cedar (Juniperus virginiana, listed as red cedar and pencil cedar) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views

web pics:


flat cut, quartersawn, and end grain


log cross sections with fresh-cut color


freshly milled slab and freshly milled bookmatched planks


planks with believable color (clearly, some are fairly freshly cut, some are aged, thus darkened)


bowl blanks and turning stock


four views of a fresh cut bowl blank


plank with wet and dry sections


flitch cut pieces with believable, but somewhat faded, color


slab


plank with very unlikely color


For the color in these to be accurate, the pics would have to have been taken just after the lumber was cut, which I find unlikely, so probably the pics have been doctored to show what the lumber DOES look like when freshly cut, and even then there's too much purple to be believable.


3 views of the same set of planks --- you can see how much color variation there is just in this set of pics, and that's pretty common. Getting the color right on wood pics is a lot of work and most vendors don't even bother to try. I suspect the color in the last pic is fairly accurate and the other two are off by varying amounts.


planks with color that is correct for pieces that have been exposed to the air for at least a few months. The second one is a little too faded too look quite real to me until I had a bit more experience but I now know that aromatic red cedar can get even MORE faded than that.


a distance shot of some planks --- color is very believable if wood is freshly planed


figured Eastern red cedar slab, moistened for the pic


pen blanks --- although it did not say so, these appear to have been moistened, possibly waxed


veneer --- all of these colors are completely beleivable, the purple being fresh-cut veneer and the more faded colors after it's been exposed for a while.



products


slab chair listed as Eastern red cedar


bowls


Eastern red cedar bowls turned and photographed by Tom Pleatman, whom I thank for these pics and other contributions to the site. Big enlargements are present.


bowl that is so freshly turned it hasn't even been taken off the lathe yet


two views of a freshly turned bowl


two rough bowl blanks


nifty little box made from a small log with what I would guess to be Forsner bits. It appears that the outside is finished and the inside is raw.



a bowl with aromatic red cedar in the front. The left pic is just off the lathe and the right pic is after a coat of natural stain --- the cedar piece was chosen because it was a nice solid knot area. To the left of the cedar is cocobolo and to the right is morado. The base is also aromatic red cedar.


vases


a cedar highlight in a turned, laminated, bowl. I specifically chose a piece that had both heartwood and sapwood. This really shows up better if you click to enlarge.


laminated bowl with what I feel is very nice use of a section of aromatic red cedar chosen specifically for the combination of sapwood backing and swirly knot section in front. To the left of the cedar is a piece of maple burl and to the right is curly red maple. This pic was taken after the application of one coat of natural stain.


a coat rack I built for my daughter. It's coated with polyurethane. The color is quite accurate. I specifically chose pieces with as little sapwood as I could find, because I wanted a fairly uniform red color on this piece.


A doll-rocker for my daughter. The yellow is overemphasized in these pictures but that was the only way I could get the red to come out just right, which it did. It's coated with polyurethane and the bottom (which looks exactly like cerejeira in these pics) is philippine mahogany plywood (aka luan) which is NOT yellow but tan. It is 27" long at the very top and 14" wide at the top rails. I specifically chose the pieces with the particular mix of heartwood and sapwood to get the multicolor effect.