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Alaskan Yellow Cedar

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I've not had the opportunity to work with Alaskan yellow cedar, but I did buy a piece to experiment with it a bit, especially since Chuck and Syren are stocking it in billets.  My first impressions are that it is very fine grained, and has a nice yellow-cream color that resembles boxwood.  It's soft, but not as soft as basswood.  I'm interested in other people's experiences with the wood.  What do you use it for?  Does it stain and finish well or is it blotchy like pine can be?  Is it suitable for frames in a POF model?  All answers appreciated!

 

Chuck: You've probably had the most experience.  Can you weigh in?

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Hi Dave,

 

I have worked with Alaskan Yellow Cedar quite a bit. It is a beautiful wood to work with, but soft. I built a bit of furniture with it decades ago and it always stuck with me how nice it was to work with. It planes like nothing else. It holds an edge well, sands nicely (although with coarser grits it will get furry) and takes stain fairly uniformly. It does not bend nearly as readily as boxwood but maybe I just haven’t figured out the best way to do it. It has a very distinctive smell that many like, others dislike (I’m one of the latter). Your observation that it is a bit harder than basswood is how I’d characterize it. For that reason one has to take care not to mar it using undue clamp pressure. I have decked two models with it and find it perfect for that application since I use my fingers to hold it in place while the glue dries. I love the colour and hue of this wood like no other. 

 

Regards,

 

Ian

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All I cann add is that it is soft....but not as soft as basswood.  The difference being that is will hold a sharp edge very very well.  It is also very strong and bends wonderfully.  It wont rot.  As far as finishing goes....it wont take a penetrating stain very well at all.  But it will take a gel stain just fine.  In fact I have experimented with many and found that general finishes New Pine gel stain works really really well.  It tones down the yellow and really makes the wood look similar to boxwood and less yellow.

 

But I have seen a lot of yellow cedar and the stuff varies a great deal depending on where it comes from.  The stuff from the pacific north west/Oregon is more yellowish while the stuff farther north in canada is much much lighter.  I dont know why but the folks I buy it from tell me its the climate and soil.

 

I prefer not to use any stain at all and rather like just adding some wipe on poly.  The yellow tones down immediately after about a week.  It mellows out.  But you could just use a sanding sealer and it will be less yellow.  To really intensify the yellow/golden color you can use an oil finish.  The wipe on poly is kind of in the middle as far as intensity of color.  It sand smooth as glass with 320 grit.   The end grain doesnt darken like basswood when you apply the poly or sanding sealer.   I like it a lot and its why I am building an entire 32 gun frigate from the stuff at 1/4" scale.  As I progress and plank the hull you will be able to tell really quick whether or not you like it.  Far superior to basswood or maple in my opinion.  More money than both of those but still very reasonable.  Far far less then boxwood.   I buy 2 x 6 boards and rip my sheets from those.  

 

Is it suitable for plank on frame.....absolutely.  Here is my cross section in yellow cedar under development.

 

wipeonpoly.jpg

 

yellow cedar.jpg

 

Chuck

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Ian you are doing such a wonderful job on her...please send me some images by PM from time to time anyway.....I would love to see it.  Please take some photos of her so I can see the outboard details.....:)

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I second...or third and fourth the recommendation about the Alaskan Yellow Cedar.  I like to use it to replicate the yellow look of the ship sides.  Oil finish really brings out the color.  Some black paint on the edges replicates the caulking.

The best part for me is the cedar smell....if you like that sort of thing.

 

Below is a pic of the "Union" 1792 under construction.  Yellow cedar, ebony and Holly for the different colors.

 

 

Yellow Cedar.jpg

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Wonderful work.....beautiful ship model.  I would strongly urge to start a build log for this model if you are still building it.  I for one would love to see more of it.  The cedar looks fabulous.

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Thanks Chuck,

Much of the ship was built several years ago before I put it into storage and no pictures were taken to document the building.  I'm coming up on a household move...again....so when I get settled next year I plan on re-starting the build and I'll document my progress.  Its a unique subject completely scratch built and I don't think anyone has ever built her before. 

 

Until then, I have several pictures in my profile to wet one's appetite.

 

Fair winds.

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You can almost tie planking strips into a knot.  Its very very flexible.  And really strong as well.

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Goodie!!!   I've an area that needs a compound curve so I'm ordering.   Needs to be carved abit so this should be fun.

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It also laser cuts like a dream Mark so if you can create the shape and laser cut it....it would be the way to go if its a complex curve.  The beauty for Yellow Cedar in my opinion is that it takes very low power to cut through even 1/4" thick sheets.  I set my cutter for low speed and lowest power to just cut through it so the kerf is the smallest I can get it.  Because of the natural oils in the cedar it doesnt burn all that much so it works out great.

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Thanks for the tipc, Chuck.   I hope the others with a laser will also try it.   One question though... how long does it take for the wood to "tone down" on the yellow. I read where you mentioned that it does, but don't recall a time frame.

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It depends on the sheet actually.....but a few weeks.  It doesnt ever entirely go away.  It will stay yellowish as opposed to tan.  The finish you use is important.  Sanding sealer keeps it the lightest and less intense.  Then wipe-on-poly makes it a bit deeper.  Oil based finishes really bring out the deepest color.  I have not tried any waxes however.

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Mark,

If you take a look at the pic of my ship “Union” up above about 10 posts you’ll see what it looks like. I used Tung oil on it and it’s sat for about 15 years in a closet. The yellow is nice and warm but not too bright. I used it to approximate the yellow ochre paint that they used on 18th century ships. Either way, what Chuck said. Oils make it a bit darker and poly and sealer a bit lighter. And it sands and carves great with good flexibility in stits. But it will always be yellow, after all, it’s in the name :)

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Thanks Downer.  That's kind of the look I'm hoping for.  I want to use it for some stern carving work, specifically the carvings just under the quarter galleries.

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Hi Guys, I have carved yellow Cedar for many years and it is wonderful to work with. I haven't had good luck turning it but that's about it. I'm also a little allergic to sanding dust from it, it raises little blisters on the sides of my fingers. Also one should wear a mask when sanding as it may make your nose run,same as red cedar. The other thing I've found is that it is sensitive to light and darkens somewhat when exposed to say,window light. I know this because some of my carvings that had been displayed in store windows had price stickers on them and the area covered by the stickers was lighter than the surrounding wood.

    Other than that its great for machining etc. I haven't really tried to bend it. I have a pretty good stash of 4/4 x5" boards I need to use up and I think I'll use em for framing a 3/8 scale Nonsuch.    Bill

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I worked with a master boatbuilder planking and decking a 34' sharpie with AYC years ago. It was great to work with. I took a bundle of offcuts home to my shop with a mind to use it for modeling. It's been "seasoning" for about fifteen or twenty years now. I guess it's ready to use by now. LOL

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I just picked up a whole new load of Yellow Cedar.  I am very happy to see that so many model builders have been trying it out and I think they will be quite surprised at how wonderful it is to work with.  Especially with the price of boxwood going through the roof and so much poor quality boxwood on the market at the moment.

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To give everyone an idea of how Alaskan Cedar ages, the below pic is of a ship I started in 2001. I then put it away in 2003 in a box.  No sunlight on it, but it does have a light coat of Tung oil.  You can see it has aged to a soft golden yellow.  Very pleasing.

 

The rest of the wood is ebony and holly.

 

 

 

Let’s just say the ship has “weathered in frame” as they used to do.  It’s about time it made it back to the lumberyard and onto the shipways to get finished. 😊

2D0BE544-D7D7-4946-875C-0D8A79DC52ED.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

That looks absolutely fantastic Dowmer.  Very nice!

 

Any good sources on where to buy AYC?  As someone mentioned above, it looks like a really nice way of getting yellow ochre by painting with wood.

Edited by Landlubber Mike

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