Is Cedar Good for Carving? — Advantages & Disadvantages

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We all know that cedar is a typical product in every local hardware store. And while experts put this softwood material in high regard because of its workability, is it stable enough to hold its shape as you carve finer details?

Let our resident woodworkers solve this mystery and deliberate if cedar is good for carving, then determine its value in a regular workshop. 

Is Cedar an Ideal Wood Type for Carving? Is it Easy to Work With?

Despite its softwood properties, did you know that cedar wood is a durable and strong material? Because of its excellent strength, it’s no surprise that it works well with different wood carving projects. You can also expect it to hold its form as you cut fine details on its surface. 

Besides its smooth and shiny surface, the feature that makes cedar perfect for wood carvings is its soft and brittle construction. And since it has a straight wood grain evenly scattered on the material, the cuts it yields are cleaner than other woods. 

As long as you’re carving wood along its grain, you won’t experience any chipping problems during your project’s construction. 

Red Cedar lumber

Although its softness resembles poplar, you need extra patience when dealing with cedar carving. If you skip the proper methods and techniques, its soft structure can leave you with a bad experience and a ruined carving project. 



Good Properties Cedar Wood for Carving


For those asking if cedar wood is expensive, it’s a highly available wood carving material, unlike most hardwoods. Thanks to this, it showcases a price tag lower than different species in today’s market. 

It’s a good wood for beginners because it won’t cost too much to practice on this material. If you plan on using this wood type, we suggest checking out cedar wood prices first. 


One reason that makes cedar good for carving is its stunning aesthetics. If you plan to add wood carvings to your house walls, its color range of pinkish to purple hues can give the space a distinct and modern look. 

Durable and Long-lasting

On top of moisture resistance, cedar wood produces oil that can stop infestations from damaging its structure. Its natural repellent against external elements allows a cedar wood carving project last longer than most other types of softwood. 

bird feeder made from Cedar wood

And while almost all types of cedar trees are easier to carve than hardwood options, you must know that not all of them carry the same comprehensive and bending strength. 

Here’s a brief chart to detail the differences between Western red cedar, white cedar, and aromatic red cedar. 

Cedar Wood SpeciesComprehensive StrengthBending Strength
Northern White Cedar3960 PSI6500 PSI
Western Red Cedar4560 PSI7500 PSI
Aromatic Red Cedar6020 PSI8800 PSI


Carving cedar wood is less challenging than others because of its lightweight construction. The carved workpieces from these materials can hold themselves firmly during the procedure, so you’ll have no issue controlling their shapes.

Cedar wood blocks

The carved woods are also light enough to carry their weight when hung as decorative items in the household.   

Soft and Easy to Work With

Newbies won’t have difficulty wielding tools in cedar wood carving since the material is smooth enough for the blade to glide into. You don’t have to exert excessive pressure when making carvings on the wood, even when cutting intricate details.  

Easy to Finish

When you carve cedar wood, you don’t need to add over-the-top finishing products to yield a stunning workpiece. This material has natural aesthetics that you can enhance by simply sanding or applying oil to cover its surface. Besides, cedar wood take stains well so it should be fine. 

Natural Moisture-Resistance

It features natural rot and decay resistance, guaranteeing moisture protection for your cedar wood carving if exposed to external elements. Because of these attributes, these woods are popular for outdoor projects like fences, benches, or wooden floors.  

Disadvantages of Cedar for Carving

All Cedar Lumber Aren’t the Same

As mentioned, carving cedar can be challenging. If you want to create a nice clean edge during the process, the best species to consider are Eastern red cedar, yellow cedar, and white cedar. 

Cedar cutting board

So while it’s tempting to buy the first cedar wood you see on the shelves, some materials under this specie require more effort and pressure from you and your tool. 

Prone to Dings and Dents

Sure, eastern and yellow cedar materials are easier to carve than others. However, they’re also prone to bruising and denting when handled poorly. 

Hard to Maintain Tight Detail Work

Although cedar is a wood that holds its form well, you must observe caution when you carve tiny details on it. One wrong move and your workpiece can crumble and break.

Can You Use Cedar for Whittling?

Yes, you can use cedar wood for whittling due to its softness and flexibility. You don’t need to worry about chipping or tearing as long as your cutting tools are sharp enough. 

Is Red or White Cedar Good for Carving?

Both red and white cedar species are excellent wood carving selections. However, the white variation lasts longer than its alternative. Meanwhile, red cedar boasts more strength than white ones. 

Cedar for wood carving

Is Cedar Wood Ideal for Spoon Carving?

Thanks to the sturdy construction of cedar wood species, you can count on them as carving materials for kitchen items like spoons and bowls. 

However, types like eastern cedar can be harmful when utilized as spoons or other utensils because they produce toxic resins [1] exposed to cooking procedures. If you must use this material, our experts recommend non-toxic sealants. 

Other softwood species you can use to carve spoons without worrying about chipping and tearing are birch, maple, or alder lumber pieces. 

Carving Ideas With Cedar Wood


Given that cedar has distinct color curves on its grain, you can bank on this attribute and craft stunning figures made of wood.  

Cups & Bowls

While these are typical woodworking projects, using cedar for bowls and cups can be challenging because of its brittle structure.

wood carving Cedar bowl

Carved Signboards

Another typical project carving beginners can try with cedar wood without worrying about chipping or tearing the material up. 

Knife Handles

If you polish cedar correctly, it can produce aesthetically pleasing and functional knife handles. 

Relief Panels

Specific cedar species can make beautiful relief panels thanks to their natural color and grain pattern. 

Wooden Jewelry

Most wooden jewelry pieces nowadays are made from cedar materials. Why? Because they offer rustic aesthetics that everyone loves.


Considering cedar’s durability and longevity, it’ll fit well as decorative home items like figurines.  

Red Cedar wood carving

Chainsaw Carvings

You can also carve significantly bigger furniture pieces with cedar using powered chainsaws. Some workpieces in today’s market even reach up to 1000 lbs. 

Candle Holders

Since it adds a rustic touch to any workpiece, cedar can blend well as a candle holder material.  

Trim & Molding

Its availability makes this material the muse of most mass-produced wooden trims and moldings. 

Tips for Carving Cedar Wood

Tip #1: Carve along the Grain

Remember to execute very shallow cuts as you carve along the wood grain. It should work fine as long as the material won’t show any signs of tear. If it does, you must change the direction of the wood carving process. 

Tip #2: Use Sharp Tools

Whether using electric-powered or hand tools, razor-sharp blades are the only option when you carve cedar wood. You may not know, but a nicked cutting edge can damage the remaining wood.

carving with BeaverCraft S13

Tip #3: No Stop Cuts

It’s not easy to avoid making stop cuts when handling softwoods like cedar. And while a stop cut helps carve intricate details, it can split your material.

Tip #4: Use Your Tools Properly

If you’re using a gouge, ensure you’re twisting the tool’s edge away from the excess material.  If not, cracks may develop as you carve the wood. 

Alternative Wood Types for Carving

Besides cedar, you can count on other stable wood species like basswood and pine to create carving projects. Black walnut and butternut also include flexible attributes suitable for this task. 

Do You Have To Seal Cedar Wood? What’s The Best Sealer to Use?

It’s not mandatory, but adding a sealant in cedar can prevent its rich color from fading. It also adds to its durability and extends material life. You can enhance its protective properties by applying oil-based wood sealers. 

preparing wood sealer

Is Cedar Wood Waterproof?

Cedar is not waterproof but has excellent moisture resistance to fight against water damage. You still need to finish and seal the wood properly if you want it to last under damp conditions.


As we establish that cedar is good for carving, it’s also worth noting that other types under the same specie are more challenging to shape than others. 

You must use suitable wood and sharp cutting tools for better results. Keep going even if your first carving project falls through. Remember – utilizing cedar requires practice and grit. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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