Tips for Working with Cedar

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Forum topic by CharlesA posted 11-06-2013 01:40 PM 12034 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CharlesA's profile


3312 posts in 1765 days

11-06-2013 01:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question cedar milling finishing joining sanding

I’m about to build a cedar chest, made with all cedar. I’ve worked enough with cedar to know it is a different animal. What are your best tips to successful building with cedar? It appears to me, for instance, that using a smoothing plane on the face of boards is pretty difficulty with all the knots, etc., so I assume I’ll use the ROS more than usual.

Thanks for what you can contribute.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

15 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4687 posts in 2319 days

#1 posted 11-06-2013 02:18 PM

I built a cedar chest w/ a cedar body and made a cherry plinth and cherry lid for it. The two woods go well together and once the cherry reaches it’s final patina is very similar in color to the cedar. The cherry was much easier to work with.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2889 days

#2 posted 11-06-2013 02:20 PM

I work with eastern red cedar a lot. About 350 board feet a year. My experience is that there are so many knots in most of it that they are hard to avoid. Often a slight crack will appear through the middle of these knots. I fill them with a mixture of sanding powder and white glue applied with a credit card used as a squeegee. Sand flat and to check to see that I have removed all the surface glue I wipe it with mineral spirits. Any glue sill on the surface will be readily apparent. Without this step I miss some excess glue and it will show up later when applying a finish to the project.

-- Website is

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3111 days

#3 posted 11-06-2013 02:24 PM

Don’t wear any clothing of which you are fond!

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View CharlesA's profile


3312 posts in 1765 days

#4 posted 11-06-2013 02:38 PM

I would have preferred a cherry chest with cedar lining, but it’s not what my friend wanted. Jim, I’ve used epoxy to fill in knots before, why do you use the sand powder and glue? Is there a particular advantage to that method?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2078 days

#5 posted 11-06-2013 02:40 PM

I always have an allergic reaction to breathing cedar. It is much much worse than other woods.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2297 posts in 2337 days

#6 posted 11-06-2013 03:46 PM

I refinished a cedar chest and built a new top for it using cedar. (there are pictures in my projects). Even though it does have knots, as long as they are small, I didn’t have any issues just sending them through the planer (reallllly light cuts, like 1/128) and then using the ROS. I didn’t fill any, but none were big/loose enough to need it.

Another tip : If you end up hand-planing any of it, save the shavings, bundle them in some cheesecloth or a nylon stocking, and stick them in a closet, dresser drawer, or even under the seat of your car (that’s what I did and my truck smells great).

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View CharlesA's profile


3312 posts in 1765 days

#7 posted 11-07-2013 08:16 PM

Jim, is this what you use as sanding powder?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View okwoodshop's profile


448 posts in 3142 days

#8 posted 11-07-2013 08:24 PM

Charles, I always just used a little sanding dust(cedar) and some wood glue. that may be what Jim meant??

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2889 days

#9 posted 11-07-2013 11:30 PM

Sanding powder/dust and white glue fills cracks well and is ready to sand in 20 minutes. Larger voids I use epoxy.

-- Website is

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2040 days

#10 posted 11-07-2013 11:42 PM

The only tips I have, is get it good and dried. Not often sold KD, it air dries quick when sticked and fanned. If you can get it pretty dry, even though it won’t stay that way, it works alot easier. IMO

-- Who is John Galt?

View coachjohnson's profile


24 posts in 2300 days

#11 posted 12-10-2013 05:26 PM

Man I know this is late, but Jim is talking about the powder from his ROS dust collector. Mix it with white glue and put it in small knots cracks, etc. I work with cedar a lot too. It can be a pain sometimes.

-- Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

View Bill729's profile


241 posts in 3049 days

#12 posted 12-10-2013 06:52 PM

How about a “scraper” instead of ROS? It may be equivalent—maybe worth a try on a scrap piece.


View WDHLT15's profile


1732 posts in 2444 days

#13 posted 12-11-2013 03:36 AM

The planers with the spiral heads with the carbide inserts are wonderful…............very wonderful. You get a smooth surface with no chip out.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 1831 days

#14 posted 12-11-2013 04:04 AM

Cedar is toxic to the lungs…so wear a mask when sanding or cutting.

-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View Thuzmund's profile


148 posts in 1596 days

#15 posted 12-11-2013 05:32 AM

The advantage of using sanding dust from the project you’re working on is that it should be a good color match.

-- Here to learn

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