Yellow Cedar

Yellow Cedar

A few weeks ago, on a rainy morning, I drove down to Faridabad's industrial area, making my way through rutted lanes, past enormous container trucks and railway crossings to a furniture factory. Waiting for me were two enormous beams of Yellow Cedar donated to me by the Canadian agency (FII) for promoting British Columbian forest products.

A helpful manager at the factory agreed to cut the beams to fit my car's dicky. With their massive table saw and a bandsaw, the beams were quickly cut down to four foot long pieces and most of them fitted in the dicky and the back seat.

I have been slowly milling some of the pieces and have found that Yellow Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)  is indeed yellow in colour and a rather interesting species, the likes of which few of us in India would have seen.

For one, the wood gives off a strong spicy smell, unpleasant to some but not to me or anyone else at home. In fact the smell seems to repel flies, which is a bonus during the monsoons.

The wood is not heavy but is reputed to be one of the world's most durable woods. It has a lot of exterior uses, including posts, poles, marine pilings, small boat hulls, oars and paddles, water tanks, exterior doors, and window boxes.

The Canadian agency, Forestry Innovation Investment or FII for short, considers Yellow Cedar to be a premium wood species, "valued for its strength and extreme durability, yet having a fine texture and a beautiful, distinctive yellow colour".

Some interesting points about Yellow Cedar:
It takes 200 years for the wood to reach marketable size.
Organic materials in the wood make it resistant to decay and insect attack.
The wood is fine textured and straight grained, allowing for high quality finishing.
It is also extremely workable, making it ideal for carving.
Yellow-Cedar is subject to only 5% shrinkage making it ideal wood for all seasons, including the dreaded Indian monsoons.

Looks rough initially but works easily

I found the wood to be extremely workable, even though the grain has a tendency to reverse suddenly and the knots in the wood are large and often loose. The trick is to cut out parts as required and then mill them. A sharp hand plane moves through the wood like butter leaving an exceptionally clean and smooth surface. I can now see why the wood is so sought after.

The Canadian agency gave me the wood on condition that I make something nice with it. Sounded like a very good deal to me given that I usually have to spend a lot of time and good money to get decent timber for my projects.

Knots and reverse grain

I have decided to design and make a dining server on wheels with the Yellow Cedar. I might use some contrasting wood to highlight the colour and experiment with polyurethane and Shellac finishes.


The design is based on existing servers or kitchen trolleys but the dimensions have not been finalised. The milling as usual is taking a long time and perhaps I should take the big pieces to a local lumber yard for initial processing.

In all it's a pretty interesting challenge and I hope to surprise my wife one of these days with a very useful addition to the dining room.

Indranil Banerjie
4 August 2015


  1. It looks like Pine. What is difference between pine and cedar ? I am always confuse. I have never seen any cedar wood while I have many pine species in my scraps. I like its texture, grains even knots. Best of luck for a new project. Eager to see what will come out of it.

    1. Yes, I too am looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Let's hope everything goes smoothly but one can never tell.
      As for Pine versus Yellow Cedar, the wood of the two are very different. Perhaps the photographs do not show the wood very well. One big difference between Pine and yellow Cedar is that Pine has these very prominent growth lines which are alternately hard and soft while Cedar is very uniform and very very smooth once planed. In all it is a much nicer wood to work than Pine. The colour too is very different although I must add that I have never seen any type of Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) and could not tell how yellow Cedar is by comparison.

  2. a very good teaser sir - eagerly waiting for the project writeup. Really envy you having access to so many varieties of wood to work with!

    1. Thanks, Sid. Yes, I must admit it is a treat to work with different kinds of wood. They are so distinct and different. Nowadays I can make out a lot by looking at the wood, feeling it and planing it. Very satisfying!

  3. "the condition that I make something nice with it..." sigh... How I envy you...


Post a Comment

Thanks for your message.