My wood is too dry.

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Forum topic by tyskkvinna posted 01-26-2011 04:30 PM 2121 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1310 posts in 3192 days

01-26-2011 04:30 PM

I have a fairly large inventory of cedar. It was originally wall panels, of the tongue and groove kind. So… a little over 1/2×4 or 6 in long lengths.

It’s really, really dry. It is, however, still very aromatic and in otherwise excellent condition. I’d like to use it for some small projects- interiors of boxes, is the first thing that came to mind.

How can I sturdy it up a bit? Right now it is so brittle that I think if I tried to use a router on it, there would be a lot of chipping or flaking.

I’d like to keep one surface of it as-is (for the inside of the boxes) but the part that would be adjacent to the hardwood nobody will see. Is there anything I can apply to it to help sturdy it up? Or anything else I can do to improve it? I don’t mind if it is a slow process but I’d prefer to keep it under a month…

also it has not changed atmosphere or anything. It was in the building we just got, and has been for several years. And will stay there until it becomes a finished “thing”.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

14 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3854 days

#1 posted 01-26-2011 04:34 PM

since it has changed environment, the only thing would stabilize it is letting it acclimate to your shop. you could use a humidifier to increase the humidity in the air that would soak in the lumber, but eventually the lumber will have to even out with the existing humidity where you are at.

that said. cedar is indeed a very brittle wood.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3192 days

#2 posted 01-26-2011 04:36 PM

No, it hasn’t changed environment.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3126 days

#3 posted 01-26-2011 04:41 PM

Once I tried scrolling cedar to make those layered baskets that look like woven ones. The scroll work wasn’t very intricate, with nothing being under about 3/8” in thickness and usually closer to 1/2”. However, the cedar was so dry and brittle if you looked at it wrong, it broke. It was extremely disheartening and frustrating.I think that cedar in itself is just not that dense and quite fragile. Using it for lining boxes may be the best best. I would keep it as thick as aesthetically possible to minimize breaking. I will also be interested in seeing suggestions to ‘sturdy it up’.

I wish you well in your venture!


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3854 days

#4 posted 01-26-2011 04:55 PM

I meant changing environment from the house it was used in to your shop – from your post ”It was originally wall panels…”

and again, it IS a brittle wood and mostly seen in applications of tongue and groove or simple boards use with little to no joinery/intricate cuts involved.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Edziu's profile


151 posts in 3257 days

#5 posted 01-26-2011 05:07 PM

That’s just the way Cedar is. I just worked with a whole ton of it making 20 huge storm windows. It will rout just fine and cut nicely, if you are doing crosscuts, make sure you use a high-# tooth blade, like 80.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4334 days

#6 posted 01-26-2011 05:09 PM

What you are describing is within the nature of cedar.
If you treat the cedar BEFORE it becomes too dry with a penetrating oil such as linseed (BLO) or tung oil, this can help keep the cedar pliable. However, cedar sometimes contains natural chemicals that cause these oils to dry (polymerize) much slower than usual.

Note: I have cedar objects in my home made by my grandfather more than sixty years ago. Cedar is a tradition in our family.

You might try oiling the cedar and see what happens. I have had limited success in resurrecting old cedar this way. First, oiling then shellacking. Note: You will lose the cedar smell if you finish both sides. You can purchase cedar oil to freshen the smell or use new cedar to line your project(s).

Good luck, Tenzin.

-- 温故知新

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3192 days

#7 posted 01-26-2011 05:31 PM

Yeah, the wall panels were in my shop when I got it. :) They had been there for 10+ years.

I will try oiling a piece and see what happens. I’d like to keep the smell, if possible, but that’s not a requirement.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View mpounders's profile


903 posts in 3101 days

#8 posted 01-26-2011 05:32 PM

I have never tried it for boards or for routing, but carvers often use a mixture of alcohol and water sprayed onto a piece of wood that is too hard or trying to chip out. Wouldn’t hurt to experiment with it a bit.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View wiswood2's profile


1138 posts in 3902 days

#9 posted 01-26-2011 05:55 PM

sand it and the smell will come back.

-- Chuck, wiswood2

View Brian Havens's profile

Brian Havens

196 posts in 3312 days

#10 posted 01-26-2011 08:08 PM

Similar to what mpounders noted, I have read that applying mineral spirits to wood can have a temporary softening effect, temporary, but long enough to help mitigate tear-out and chipping while it is worked. I have not tried it myself, so I cannot testify to how well it works. (Mineral Spirits will not raise the grain either.)

-- Brian Havens, Woodworker

View gljacobs's profile


76 posts in 2893 days

#11 posted 01-27-2011 03:31 AM

The first thought that comes to mind if your going to route it and it’s to dry that will cause tear out is to use backers for whatever the application.
If it’s inlay stuff or relief carving like you have done for your other projects than you may consider cutting the stock an inch or so over final dimension and then taking thin stock of about an eighth inch or so (luan, thin milled hardwood, whatever) and cutting it to the same dimension, then apply glue around the edge of the ceder and clamp the backer stock to it using cauls all the way around the edge. This may provide enough support to the fibers in order to avoid surface tear out. baring in mind that the crux will lie in the stock and the backer mating each other in the same plane. Any cupping or irregularity between the boards will most likely defeat the purpose.
Then after all is routed rip to final dimension to release the cedar.

Warning: this is just an idea. I have never attempted it and would use caution and practice on non-valued stock to prove the process correct before proceeding.

As for helping sturdy it up. You could glue(epoxy or whatever) some counter laminate or some thin steel sheet metal(anything stiff and thin really) to the non-face side and before you do, lacquer or seal the wood all around to prevent moisture transition. It’s probably as dry as it’s going to get, so you just want to avoid compression set. If the moisture comes back and it’s restrained in place, then it’ll get compression set and that’s when the problems will start if it drys out again.

I hope this doesn’t seem to convoluted and helps opens some avenues of thought.

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4130 days

#12 posted 01-27-2011 10:57 AM

You state “It’s really, really dry.” How dry is that. Do you know the moisture content? What has been the average relative humidity in its location over the last 10 years. As has been said by others some woods are more suseptible to splintering, flaking, chiping and/or brittleness.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3164 days

#13 posted 01-27-2011 07:49 PM

Go to your local hardware store and pick up a can of wood stabilizer. It is basically a thinner-than-water- glue that soaks in incredibly well and will hold the wood together as you machine it. I use it on spalted maple with great results. You might try it on a practice piece first.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 3043 days

#14 posted 01-28-2011 04:15 PM

One thing I don’t understand is why you need to strengthen the wood if you’re using it as an interior liner? If that is your intention, glueing it to the inside of the box is strengthening it.

One thing you do need to do is read a health issue post on this site posted in the “Safety in the Workshop” forum on this site. Read the one by AJchris titled “Wear lung protection”. His problem was caused by cedar dust and it’s scary!

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

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