Value and Uses of Eastern Red Cedar

The sawing and drying forum kicks around the question of tailoring red cedar products to meet market demand. February 14, 2006

If I am sawing some ERC for resale, what thickness is best - 3/4 or 4/4? Should I plane 2 sides or leave the rough surface? If I have a select trunk of ERC which the heartwood saws out to 8" x 8" x 6' should I try to air dry this for a fire place mantel or just saw it 3/4 or 4/4? A large amount of checking might be the issue there. My last question is, what is a good selling price for 3/4 or 4/4 ERC in the southeast?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
With ERC the market is for just about everything. I saw it from 1/4 thick up to 6x12's and sell as much green off the saw as I do dried and planed. Most of what I sell planed is 3/4 thick and I saw it 7/8 thick if 7" of less in width and 1 inch thick for 8" and wider. Some hobby folks like it planed smooth at 3/8 so you can never tell what they will want. Since it dries easily I just stack it in a room with a box fan and it is down in just a few days. It will change fast with the moisture in the air and checking is min.

For your large piece just seal the ends and set it off out of sunlight and weather. You can plunge cut the back with a skill saw so what checking there will be will be to the back. The heart wood is about 50% MC green so it dries quickly.

From the original questioner:
I coated the ends well on the large piece and its stickered on top of the 3/4 pile. I've dried a small amount of short cedar in this room before and it came down to 12% in a short while. What moisture content should I reach for before selling it, is air dried MC ok?

Any ideas on a retail price/board foot if I don't plane it? I used a new blade when sawing this large ERC trunk so the sides are fairly smooth.

From contributor A:
Green off the saw up to 12 feet I get $0.80 a board foot up to 8 inches wide, 8 to 12 is $1.00 a board foot. If I dry and plane then it is $0.45 a board foot more. If less then 3/4 thick then I just drop the rate a little so a 1/2x4x4' would be $0.60 a board foot or $0.78 a board.

From the original questioner:
If I reach 10-13 MC would this be stable enough for interior wood projects (in case a buyer asks)? Being it is a softer wood a higher MC might be more normal. Do you like to use a soap/water lube when sawing your ERC?

From contributor I:
Here are a couple of reasons you can/should use air dried ERC. The wood has very low shrinkage values and is pretty stable, so even if it dries more in use it has little effect. If the wood is kiln dried the smell, which is part of its value, is driven off by the heat of the kiln.

From contributor A:
ERC requires very little lube but I use the same dish soap and pine oil mix I use for every thing else. I saw it with a 10 degreee 0.045 WM blade.

When I build with ERC if it is an outside project I just use wood stickered outside and do not worry about MC. It changes very quickly with the humidity but moves very little. Inside projects I skip plane and place inside of my office for a few days and it will stabilize. I have built some fine detail work without any checking of the MC and it turns out fine.