Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) as wood

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Forum topic by Bob Babcock posted 06-05-2018 04:27 PM 1752 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4688 days

06-05-2018 04:27 PM

I’m not sure how many of you have had a chance to use it but for some purposes I’m finding it to be a great species to work with. it’s obviously not all that commonly available but I think it could be worth searching out for some projects and if you hear of someone losing a big one in a storm maybe seeing if you can get some…:)

One problem seems to be identifying it… gets confused with some other cedar or juniper species easily. This is the widely used landscape species. They’ve been selling it in droves for landscape screens for a long time. Many of those trees are reaching their age limit. At the moment I have what looks to be an overabundance of it. The string of nor’easters this winter took down about 20 trees on my property that were 60+ years old…. making lemonade out of lemons I have a lot planned for it.

I’ve worked with some of it I cut down last summer. Carving projects only to this point but you can’t help but notice the woods most outstanding quality when you are moving logs…’s crazy light. So light I’m having boards cut to try and build a standup paddleboard from it. It also seems pretty strong and dense for such a light wood, it cuts and shapes easily. I’m going to hoard any boards I do get for special projects that require light weight. It carves like butter. I’m going to have lots of chunks to carve. Much of it is hollow or punky in the center but that can be used for some funky projects. I’m building a fairy house for my soon to be born 2nd granddaughter. It also makes for awesome easy to build birdhouses, and I’ve built a couple of interesting wooden drums with/for my 8 yr old granddaughter. I rebuilt the cupola on our garage and added a weathervane with a carved whale….he held up through the nor’easters….:)

The tiki…my helper, carved, finished.

Fairy house from tree to current….one side (front) will be fixed on a piece of ply, the back will hinge open. Building interior and furniture too….should be done for 1st birthday….:)

Whale weathervane.

Anyone else with experience with the wood. I’m wondering what I can expect for warpage in the boards in particular.

When I have a better idea of just how much I have and need for the projects on my list I’ll likely have a bunch of extra to give away, particularly some chunks for carving. I’ll post when I know.

-- Bob

4 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


2648 posts in 2400 days

#1 posted 06-05-2018 07:37 PM

I do not recognize the tree nor the white stuff on the ground.:) The carvings look great I really like the totem pole.

-- Aj

View Karda's profile


1952 posts in 1156 days

#2 posted 06-06-2018 12:00 AM

I have been curious about arborvitae and cedar so i googled Thuja the arborvitae family name. I found that the Thuja occidentalis ( arborvitae is also know as the Eastern white cedar. I love your totem polesI think it is great that you daughter is joining in the craft Mike

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4688 days

#3 posted 06-06-2018 01:59 AM

With all the mix of popular names for different species it’s not surprising there is sometimes confusion. Arborvitae, as you noted, sometimes known as eastern white cedar is actually a Thuja, a member of the cypress family while a species it’s often confused with, popularly known as eastern red cedar, pencil cedar, or just red cedar is actually a juniper…..:)

I realized after posting that the whale is actually carved from a piece of that eastern red cedar (juniperus virginiana). I’m always on the lookout for logs of it. I love using it for outdoor projects. I had a bunch of logs that I used as fence posts and for some outdoor projects I built 20 years ago. Amazing when you use it as posts with just the bark stripped. No treatment, just stuck them in the ground 20 years ago….other than some dry rot at the top the posts are still solid today.

That’s actually my granddaughter….awesome kid…I’m biased obviously but she is a joy to have around. She likes carving a lot. She actually did a large part of the hand. I’m going to buy her a set of small Flexcuts for her birthday….along with some kevlar gloves….:)

-- Bob

View Grumpy's profile


25946 posts in 4453 days

#4 posted 06-08-2018 12:09 AM

Nice carving Bob, nice to see the young one involved.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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