View Full Version : Suitability of Western Red Cedar for...

01-24-2012, 06:45 PM
O Lordy, Lordy Lordy! I just ran across a pile of Western Red Cedar that would bring tears to your eyes. 1x8s, perfect vertical grain, in 8 or 9 ft., for hardly more than HD junk prices.

Thwarts: any good? I have seen it on canoes...what about my Coquina? This would include a mast partner on the forward thwart. I actually stopped at this shop to look at some cherry for thwarts, but this stuff is much cheaper than cherry. And lighter.

Washboards? I have seen it, but would the toxic splinters be an issue? I have a two year old.

Oars: wouldn't one of those 9ft 8/4 x8s make a fine pair of carved oars? Is WRC too prone to fracture, like redwood, for oars? I know that AYC is suitable for oars, but I have not run across any WRC oars, IIRC.

I am inclined to go buy it all and use it for the above.

Any comments?

01-24-2012, 06:50 PM
Rip and strip Dave ? Just buy it- you'll find lots of uses for it over time. I have three sheds full of stuff that will be useful one day. My wife pleaded with me not to leave her everything when I die :) JayInOz

01-24-2012, 07:00 PM
I have used it for thwarts- including the mast partner on the forward thwart. I reinforced the partner with a thick piece of marine plywood epoxied onto the bottom. I tapered the edges so it could not be seen from seated height in the boat. The results? It works fine but is soft. If you need a perfectly smooth varnished thwart then it is not for you. There are some dings and dents and a few little checks because it sat in the sun without finish for too long during a refit. They work well and look pretty good too. I prefer an oil finish on the cedar thwarts as it handles dings better. Walter Simmons, builder and designer of many small trad boats, has used cedars for thwarts. I don't remember if any of it was WRC.

01-24-2012, 07:06 PM
Ive had luck with it Bead and cove route. Be mindful of how toxic the stuff is while your working with it.

Tim Marchetti
01-24-2012, 07:12 PM
It's not good for anything. So, send it to me.

David G
01-24-2012, 07:19 PM
Yes, I'd grab it. Don't use it for oars, though.

01-24-2012, 08:04 PM
Yes, it's a bargain, and very good looking stuff. I'm going to buy some or all of it, but sounds like I need to purchase some other stuff for the immediate requirement, which is washboards and thwarts.

Bob Smalser
01-24-2012, 08:25 PM
Au contraire. Western Red Cedar makes a very fine oar if you reinforce the tip with a hardwood spline and pad the oarlocks. And also thwarts, seats, and even transoms. You just have to use it a tad thicker than the specs when substituting it for spruce or Doug Fir. It doesn't hold screws well, but you can dribble hot epoxy into the pilot holes to solve that shortcoming.

About the only parts I wouldn't use it for are parts where hardness, strength-to-weight ratios, or screwholding are especially critical. Spars. Stems. Partners. Deck beams. Clamps. Risers. Floor boards. Deck planking on larger boats. Runners. Stretchers... You get my drift.

The advantage of WRC over Doug Fir and spruce where you can use it is that coatings tend to last longer because it moves less seasonally, and once the coating has worn off it doesn't check or shell as readily.

Here's a good example of the abuse WRC can take:

And all WRC:






01-24-2012, 08:41 PM
1x8x17' cedar might make nice planks for a 16' glued lapstrake dinghy of some sort. You did say clear vertical grain, 25 rings to the inch or more. We're a tough crowd out here; we do let a little of the good stuff get away, however, from time to time, just to keep the reputation high! / Jim

Jamie Orr
01-24-2012, 09:10 PM
I'm using a pair of 8 foot red cedar oars right now that have been through two other users that I know of (I don't say owners because I don't technically own them). They have that patina of use that says they've been around for a lot of years. These are semi-spoons, curved along the blade, but not hollowed out across. They are tipped with copper sheeting.

Very nice and light to use.


David G
01-24-2012, 09:41 PM

I stand corrected. I've never made oars from wrc, and didn't imagine it'd be a good choice. Wrong again.

However... it seems like the vertical grain stock he's looking at would leave blades quite prone to one of wrc's main drawbacks - tendency to split. I suppose one could slice & dice the stock so as to make the blades into rift/flat grain.

01-24-2012, 10:49 PM
"prone to one of wrc's main drawbacks - tendency to split. "

This has not been my experience to date. Always willing to learn, however. / Jim

Gib Etheridge
01-25-2012, 01:54 AM
"prone to one of wrc's main drawbacks - tendency to split. "

This has not been my experience to date. Always willing to learn, however. / Jim

Nor has it been mine (Sorry David).

It is quite soft though, and not nearly as strong as spruce, which is why it's not used for airframes (someone's going to prove me wrong). If I thought I was ever going to need to pull really hard or push off from a rocky beach with the oars I would increase the loom diameter by 10 or 12 percent and wrap the ends of the blades in glass cloth in epoxy, then apply heavy leathers and paint over the epoxy to protect it from the UV.

These are AYC, but you can see the ends of the blades are treated as described. I KNOW they will be put to hard use.


Tom Robb
01-25-2012, 07:46 PM
Glued clinker is a bad idea. One glues ply clinker, WRC plank would probably be better rivited or clinched.

01-25-2012, 08:25 PM
"Glued clinker is a bad idea." Tks Tom, I had been thinking of small dinghies with narrow planks and epoxy sealed. Planking on a 16' might be a little much for this, for sure. / Jim

01-25-2012, 09:34 PM

I really enjoyed working with the stuff (wear gloves and a respirator, though, really!) Planking, thwarts, floors all WRC.

01-25-2012, 10:44 PM
I'd put in a vote for cedar floorboards. I used it in Cricket for her removable floorboards.


It does ding up a bit, but I sand and oil them each spring, and they feel nice and warm under bare feet!
I'm glad to hear that people use it for oars. I've got a stash that's been sitting on a rack for 15 years. I'll have to try it out on a new pair.

01-26-2012, 07:48 AM
I'd like to see more of Cricket.

01-26-2012, 01:32 PM
I'd like to see more of Cricket.

Cricket is a stretched Windward 15, modified sharpie type crab skiff. She appears in various locations on this forum, and the build log is here (http://jimluton.com/boats/).



Its a Karl Stambaugh design, and I love this boat!

Tom Robb
01-26-2012, 01:56 PM
Nice boat. Love the picture.
Jim, how and how much did you stretch her? Space the molds a bit farther apart?

Edited: Ah, I looked at the build log under "here." Question answered.

01-27-2012, 08:41 AM
Thanks all. Bob, if you are still with us, fracture/shear strength not really an issue on oars, but rather, wear on the soft tips? These planks seem very light, so I would like to make a set of oars.

Bob Smalser
01-27-2012, 08:54 AM
There's nothing uniquely weak about cedar's shear strength. For example, while it's 150psi weaker than Doug Fir, but about the same as Baldcypress and almost a third stronger than Eastern White Pine.

So if you avoid using your oars as a boat hook, you can skip reinforcing the tips. But my boats are used by large teenagers, and I use a simple spline: