Is Cedar Good for Carving? — Advantages & Disadvantages

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Cedar, a softwood well-known for its aromatic qualities and resilience, is a staple in many workshops. Its workability makes it a favorite among experts, but how does it fare when it comes to carving, especially for intricate details? 

Join me as I unravel the potential of cedar for carving and help you assess its place in your workshop activities.

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, I 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

Beginners will find it easy to use tools for carving cedar wood due to its smooth texture, which allows the blade to effortlessly glide through the material.

This smoothness eliminates the need for excessive force when crafting intricate designs, making the carving process more enjoyable and precise.

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, I 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

In addition to cedar, a variety of other stable wood species stand out as excellent choices for carving projects. Basswood and pine are popular among carvers for their softness and ease of handling. 

Black walnut and butternut also bring flexible attributes to the table, providing carvers with a range of options to suit their specific needs and preferences. Each wood type has its own unique characteristics, ensuring that there is a perfect match for every carving endeavor.

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?

While cedar possesses impressive resistance to moisture, making it a durable choice for various applications, it’s crucial to note that it is not completely waterproof. 

To ensure its longevity, especially in damp conditions, proper finishing and sealing of the wood are imperative. Taking these steps will significantly enhance the cedar’s durability, helping it withstand the elements and maintain its integrity over time.


Recognizing cedar’s potential for carving is crucial, yet it’s imperative to acknowledge that not all cedar varieties carve with the same ease. Some types of cedar can present more of a challenge to shape than others.

For optimal outcomes, it’s essential to choose the right type of cedar wood and ensure your carving tools are sharp and well-maintained. Don’t be disheartened if your initial attempt at a carving project doesn’t go as planned. 

Remember, mastering the art of carving with cedar takes practice and perseverance. Keep pushing through, and you’ll see improvement over time.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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