Cedar wood comes from several different trees that grow in different parts of the world, and may have different uses.
Eastern Red CedarEdit
The fine-grained, soft brittle pinkish- to brownish-red heartwood of Eastern Red Cedar is fragrant, very light and very durable, even in contact with soil. Because of its rot resistance, the wood is used for fence posts. The aromatic wood is avoided by moths, so it is in demand as lining for clothes chests and closets, often referred to as cedar closets and cedar chests. If correctly prepared, it makes excellent English longbows, flatbows, and Native American sinew-backed bows. The wood is marketed as "eastern redcedar" or "aromatic cedar". The best portions of the heartwood are one of the few woods good for making pencils, but the supply had diminished sufficiently by the 1940s that it was largely replaced by incense-cedar. Juniper oil is distilled from the wood, twigs and leaves. The essential oil contains cedrol which has toxic and possibly carcinogenic properties. The cones are used to flavor gin and as a kidney medicine. Native American tribes used juniper wood poles to mark out agreed tribal hunting territories. French traders named Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (meaning "red stick") from the reddish color of these poles. During the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the Prairie States Forest Project encouraged farmers to plant shelterbelts (wind breaks) made of eastern juniper throughout the Great Plains. They grow well under adverse conditions. Both drought tolerant and cold tolerant, they grow well in rocky, sandy, and clay substrate. Competition between trees is minimal, so they can be planted in tightly spaced rows, and the trees still grow to full height, creating a solid windbreak in a short time. A number of cultivars have been selected for garden planting, including 'Canaertii' (narrow conical; female) 'Corcorcor' (with a dense, erect crown; female), 'Goldspire' (narrow conical with yellow foliage), and 'Kobold' (dwarf). Some cultivars previously listed under this species, notably 'Skyrocket', are actually cultivars of J. scopulorum. In the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks, eastern juniper is commonly used as a Christmas tree.
Northern White CedarEdit
White Cedar is a tree with important uses in traditional Ojibwe culture. Honoured with the name Nookomis Giizhik ("Grandmother Cedar"), the tree is the subject of sacred legends and is considered a gift to humanity for its myriad uses, among them crafts, construction and medicine. It is one of the four plants of the Ojibwe medicine wheel, associated with the south. The foliage of Thuja occidentalis is rich in Vitamin C and is believed to be the annedda which cured the scurvy of Jacques Cartier and his party in the winter of 1535–1536. Due to the presence of the neurotoxic compound thujone, internal use can be harmful if used for prolonged periods or while pregnant.
Northern white cedar is commercially used for rustic fencing and posts, lumber, poles, shingles and in the construction of log cabins. White cedar is the preferred wood for the structural elements, such as ribs and planking, of birchbark canoes and the planking of wooden canoes. It was used for the original Au Sable riverboats, known as the pickup trucks of the Au Sable River in Michigan. These craft are now made of marine grade plywood and are a little shorter than the originals, which were typically 25 feet long.
The essential oil within the plant has been used for cleansers, disinfectants, hair preparations, insecticides, liniment, room sprays, and soft soaps. There are some reports that the Ojibwa made a soup from the inner bark of the soft twigs. Others have used the twigs to make teas to relieve constipation and headache.
In the 19th century, Thuja was in common use as an externally applied tincture or ointment for the treatment of warts, ringworm and thrush. "An injection of the tincture into venereal warts is said to cause them to disappear."
Western Red CedarEdit
The soft red-brown timber of Western Red Cedar has a tight, straight grain and few knots. It is valued for its distinct appearance, aroma, and its high natural resistance to decay, being extensively used for outdoor construction in the form of posts, decking, shingles and siding. It is commonly used for the framing and longwood in lightweight sail boats and kayaks. In larger boats it is often used in sandwich construction between two layers of epoxy resin and/or fibreglass or similar products. Due to its light weight—390 to 400 kg/m3 (24 to 25 lb/cu ft) dried—it is about 30% lighter than common boat building woods, such as mahogony. For its weight it is quite strong but can be brittle. It glues well with epoxy resin or resorcinol adhesive.
It is also used to line closets and chests, for its pungent aromatic oils are believed to discourage moth and carpet beetle larvae, which can damage cloth by eating wool and similar fibres. This is more effective in a properly constructed redcedar chest(sometimes made entirely of redcedar), since the oils are confined by shellac and leather seals. A well-sealed redcedar chest will retain its pungent odour for many decades, sometimes for over a century. Its light weight, strength and dark warm sound make it a popular choice for soundboards