Monday, February 23, 2009

Western Red Cedar - A Multi-Purpose Softwood

Whether you’re building a sauna, gazebo, greenhouse, patio deck, canoe or casket, odds are against you finding a more suitable softwood for your project than Western red cedar. Just ask any of the expert craftsmen who for years have been using Western red cedar to build high-quality wood products for their own use as well as for the enjoyment of other discerning people around the world.
Also known as canoe cedar, shinglewood and Pacific cedar, Western red cedar is the lightest weight softwood in common commercial use today. Its unique cell structure and low density give it an insulation value superior to most other species. Rated the best softwood in both paint holding ability and natural durability against decay, Western red cedar responds very well to cutting, sawing, nailing, planning, boring, screwing, mortising, moulding, gluing and staining as well. In addition to laying flat, staying straight, and retaining fasteners well, Western red cedar is renowned for its high impermeability to liquids; natural oils encourage water to run off instead of soaking into the wood.
Western red cedar’s warm, rich coloring, which ranges from a light straw color to a reddish pink, is complimented by a uniform, fine-grained texture with a satin luster, and its aroma is unmistakably cedar. An exceptionally durable wood whose ability to receive paint and stain finishes allows a wide range of effects to be achieved, Western red cedar is ideally suited for use in high humidity and other severe weather conditions. Given all of its strengths, it’s no wonder Western red cedar is so widely used in sauna construction.
Centuries ago, native North American Indians carved their totem poles and split lumber for their lodges from Western red cedar, and today it continues to be a popular choice for home saunas, gazebos, outdoor decks, and, interestingly enough, utility poles. Society’s long dependence on it proves without a doubt that Western red cedar has endured as a multi-purpose softwood.
Pertti Olavi Jalasjaa is the Finnish-born author of “The Art of Sauna Building,” an acclaimed reference book on sauna construction. He is also the general manager of Great Saunas, which has been manufacturing and selling high-quality saunas and sauna kits to sauna enthusiasts around the world since 1974. Visit Great Saunas online at
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