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Any Advice on Japanese Cedar?

17159 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  iozl
Hi Folks,
A question for you: has anyone out there worked with Japanese cedar before? I am going to salvage a few logs of it later today from the grounds of a condo I own. (The 2 trees didn't need to be cut down, but that's another story.) I was going to take it to a local person to have it milled and then was planning on air drying it for the appropriate amount of time.
I was doing a little searching on the Internet, and I came across one article that said it's too soft to use for furniture. I didn't think a wood could be 'softer' than western red cedar, which I've used quite a bit for my outdoor furniture. I had hoped to use the Japanese cedar for an outdoor bench or maybe even something for indoors in a few years when it dried. (I had also hoped that perhaps this species would be 'harder' than western red, but it looks like those hopes are dashed.)
If anyone out there has any experience working with this species I would greatly appreciate any feedback. I'd really hate to just see it turned into woodchips, but then again I don't want to spend all the time, effort, and money for naught.
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Iozl. gosh I have never used Japanese cedar. but all the cedar I have used is soft. scratches and such. I do love how cedar holds up to the weather though. maybe, you could just try a piece and see if it could hold up to what you wont it for. but as far a fire wood, no way. it is really pretty wood. you can do tons of things with it out side of furniture if you wish too. even furniture. there is many ways to support screws, nails, etc that will hold tight. that would be my only worry. just a guess.
Don't let them discourage you iozl.

The original name for what you call Japanese cedar in the West is "sugi" ( if your computer can display japanese characters). "Sugi" has been the prime material for building high end furniture in Japan for centuries. It has one of the best smells of any wood I've ever smelt and it has natural properties that prevent its decay.

Although it is light and soft you can see plenty of examples of its use if you search for either the keywords "sugi kagu" or, even better, "sugi tansu" in Google Images. Most of them have survived a few centuries in one of the most humid and wood-unfriendliest climate you can find.

Good luck and don't forget to show us the final result of your efforts.
Thank you so much Jojo & Evie! I didn't know that this was the same species that was used extensively in tansu furniture. While I don't know if I'd tackle a project as ambitious as tansu, it's great information to know that one can work with it for projects both indoors and out.
The smaller of the two trees was cut down yesterday, and I noticed that it has fairly dark heartwood (much darker than in wester red cedar), while the sapwood is very light.
The larger tree is coming down today, and I'll be transporting it all to a local urban harvester tomorrow to be milled into 8/4 & 5/4 stock.
Thanks again, especially for the encouragement! I will perhaps try to post some pictures of the logs in a blog format.
I have an Eastern Cedar board with a lot of voids and holes.

About 6 ft tall by 3/4 thick by 5 1/2 wide. I am going to make a sort of Green and Green style Japanese latern for my front yard post light.

Can't do a lot more with the board maybe a box.

I am stating it today.
I was also wanting to ask a question about Japanese Cedar, and hoped iozl that you may be able to assist given your experience with it now.

Is it okay to airdry? And how long can you wait to mill it?
Sugi can be used for all kinds of furniture, as long as your joinery game is good. No pocket holes.

You don't have to make traditional japanese furniture, but take a look at how japanese joinery works before you decide on your designs. A lot of it is designed to eliminate pressure points and weak areas in sharp angles specifically to make working with softer woods like Sugi easier.

Even if you don't use japanese joinery to put it together, you should be able to get a good idea of what to avoid in order to make your own design durable.

Here's a good place to get some quick ideas.

And keep in mind that a lot of japanese joinery typically doesn't use glue, so you can make these joints even stronger than necessary.

When in Rome, work your wood like a Roman?

Or something…
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I air dryed mine in the backyard under a tarp for about 6 months (6/4) and it was pretty dry at that point. Super soft wood so it seems to dry out quite quickly. It was just so light and brittle - even moreso than cedar, but similar. The only thing I made with it was using one piece as a headboard for a bedframe, so I didn't really 'work' it. I don't regret having it milled - it was very pretty wood and when I someday get back to it (I live out of the country now) I will try to make something else with it. But nothing that would rely on its strength. Again, it was like cedar, but not nearly as pungent (the thing I never really liked about
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