Oh Red Cedar how I hate thee

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Blog entry by sw_iowa_sawyer posted 03-02-2009 07:23 PM 1670 reads 2 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have enjoyed visiting Lmberjocks so much I thought I would try the blog feature. I own a small portable bandmill and cut logs for myself and from time to time for other folks. I had a guy that I carve with ask if I would cut up a couple cedar logs for him. Since he is a friend, I said yes in a moment of weakness. Why you ask do I say that, it is because I hate red cedar. I hate the smell, and I hate the mess they make when you cut them. Why people line a perfectly good cedar chest with them has always been one of life’s greatest mysteries to me. I mean who wants their clothing, blankets, and priceless family heirlooms to smell like that? In addition the touted properties of keeping bugs out apparently is a marketing ploy started by cedar lovers as it was also a lovely home to a bazzillion carpenter ants you have now frozen to death as I detroyed their home. In addition to those facts of why cedar should be burned in the fires of woodworking Hades is I think I have an allergic reaction to it. So I have to make sure I am wearing a respirator (which I always do anyhow and long sleeve shirt). So back to the logs, they were nice as far as cedar logs go, straight and big and they came with as warranty, I was assured “ABSOLUTELY” no metal in them. In fact I was assured that no metal object had come within 1 mile of this tree. Now of course it was in an old farm homestead’s yard about 10 feet from the house but since I was assured of the 1 mile no metal guarantee I starting cutting. So here is the process which I used to cut the logs.

Loading the logs is a labor intensive process.

Log loaded and ready to cut

First slab off the log and my job supervisor in the background

So much for the 1 mile metal free zone around this log!

It is really pretty wood from a vile weed tree isn’t it

The finished product a big heavy pile of red cedar. Oh by the way the metal free zone tree and about 20 nails in it, I think it had some sort of magnetic properties that attracted nail from nearby counties as well. All joking aside it was really pretty wood and my friend was happy and the mess is cleaned up and the wood is gone so I am happy. Next up maybe some basswood or butternut

15 comments so far

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 03-02-2009 07:43 PM

well i enjoyed your first blog and hope to read more of them

-- Paul , Calfornia

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3848 days

#2 posted 03-02-2009 08:05 PM

This was a nice blog. You have a winning combination here. Your friend got some nice lumber to work with and you helped prevent this log from being converted into firewood. I have to agree with Paul. More of these would make interesting blogs.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3553 days

#3 posted 03-02-2009 08:18 PM

Great blog. I must admit when you work it the smell can over power you. However I do enjoy the slight aroma it gives to the blankets stored in a cedar chest. My daughter does not like the smell either. I guess it’s a personal thing.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3900 days

#4 posted 03-02-2009 08:40 PM

I enjoyed the read and the photos too. I think also part of the reason people line chests and closets with it is because it keeps out moths (as well as people like you who don’t like the smell ;)

-- Happy woodworking!

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 3401 days

#5 posted 03-02-2009 08:57 PM

Very well written and very interesting! I have to agree with you on red cedar … not a big fan and I’m also slightly allergic to it.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View sw_iowa_sawyer's profile


39 posts in 3403 days

#6 posted 03-02-2009 08:57 PM

Yes that would keep me out. I have built several hope chests/blanket chests for people and they always want them cedar lined. I have built one for each daughter and a couple for my wife. I never ever open that stinkey thing up and so you are right it keeps me out of it. hhhhmmmm maybe I should see what she could be hiding in there.

View wiswood2's profile


1138 posts in 3722 days

#7 posted 03-02-2009 09:21 PM

best thing you did was freaze them ants .up here all they do is kill good loging trees.

-- Chuck, wiswood2

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3584 days

#8 posted 03-02-2009 09:28 PM

Man I can’t believe you guys. I love the smell of cedar and I like working with it. Sawyer, you got any big pieces that a guy could turn some bowls from? I’d like to find a few of them.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3749 days

#9 posted 03-03-2009 03:53 AM

Nice work. I wish you were closer to PA! I really could use your services.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3241 posts in 3738 days

#10 posted 03-03-2009 07:13 AM

So, how many blades did you go through? You didn’t say if you used a metal detector to find the nails or what happened. We’d be interested to know.

We’ve never found a sawyer willing to mill any tree that was growing in close proximity to a building. We have found that even trees in the middle of no where will have fence wire growing in them and nails from deer stands. Occasionally the lead from a bullet will even snap an already weak blade. But it is oh! so satisfying to see the resulting lumber from one’s own trees!

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View sw_iowa_sawyer's profile


39 posts in 3403 days

#11 posted 03-04-2009 06:37 PM

I try to stay away from yard trees but I have cut quite a few, some have metal some don’t. I cut a huge walnut log for a guy a while back that he had cut into two pieces as it was too big to move. It was a great log and I told him he should have tried to sell it to a walnut mill. I cut that thing up and it had a hardware store inside it, but it was worth it as the slabs were thick and clear. He paid for any blade damage and I think he got his money’s worth as the lumber will be high dollar stuff. But I heard the same old line “this tree ain’t never had any metal anywhere near it” right!!!
I cut up some real nice ash a few weeks ago and I threw out the lower log. It had blue stain on it which is almost a sure sign of metal in the log. I could have cut it for firewood but I didn’t want to have to split it so it is in the burn pile. I don’t use a metal detector because I have found that the best metal detector is a “brand new blade” it will almost always find any metal in the log often on the first or second pass in the log. If I used a detector and found metal you would have to toss the log out or cut it up as you can really dig the metal out and then cut it.
As far as metal goes it just kind of goes with the sawmilling thing you hope you won’t find any but if you do you deal with it. Dig out the metal and mark the board and go on. I have two good walnut logs I need to cut but I am guessing they have some metal in them as they came out of a backyard in the city. The owner tried to sell them to me at first using the “These logs are walnut and I see walnut for 7.00 a bdft in the store” so the yare worth X line I often hear. I always am real positive and say “you bet and I hope you get someone to buy it from you”. I usually get a call at some point with a lower price. Eventually they will usually call and say do you just want the log for free and then I will go get it if it is a good log. These two were so I did. When I cut them I will have to blog about it and you can all see some wonderful Iowa walnut and maybe I will get lucky and they will be meatl free, Any Bets?

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4186 days

#12 posted 03-24-2009 12:31 AM

great blog. Oh but the wood is so pretty… so very very pretty.. :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View spj's profile


3 posts in 3361 days

#13 posted 04-22-2009 06:40 PM

We all enjoy doing favors for our friends but when your safety, equipment damage and worry exceeds the favor factor I suggest the following:
1. Invite them to provide the muscle to schlep the logs, sticker the slabs and cleanup.
2. Agree to cut the tree with Thier Blade. Always have a new one available that they can purchase before the first log goes on the carrige.
3. Never, ever process wood without personal protective equipment. Hearing and eye protection at minimum. This means if you react to cedar oil (known carcinogen) a minimum includes all skin covered, HEPA particulate rating—organic vapor rated half-mask or full-face respirator (protects eyes) and don’t allow children anywhere near the operation without PPE and competent supervision.

I love making sawdust most of all but those activities seem to have the greatest risks and dangers.

“Practice safe sawing” Wonder if that is worth a copywrite? Good luck, spj

-- SPJ, Summit, Wisconsin Great White North

View fred4999's profile


107 posts in 3510 days

#14 posted 07-09-2009 11:45 PM

My 2 cents worth – I’ve been sawing for over 10 years now and metal (foreign objects) in logs is something I make very clear to the customer that he/she is responsible for any damage to blades or the mill. I charge $25 for each blade that is ruined.

Now that the bad is out of the way, I have to say I cannot get enough of sawing. I love opening a log to see the grain and smell the aroma of fresh wood. I’ve gotten away from production sawing and now my typical customer is one who has a couple of logs they bring to my place for me to saw special cuts for them. But I do sell lumber and specialty cuts from logs off my place.

Cedar is fine, but my experience has been that once the log get bigger than 18 inches or so in diameter it tends to be rotten in the center.

My favorite to saw believe it or not is poplar. It is amazing how the wood’s color changes as it is exposed to air.

My real headache is sawing heart pine beams from old barns/factories, but I have pretty much stopped doing that too.

For those that are looking for a local sawyer contact Wood-Mizer, they maintain a list of sawyers sorted by location.

-- Fred, Georgia

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4426 days

#15 posted 07-10-2009 12:57 AM

So great pictures.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

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