Northern White Cedar

Mark Adams

all wood nut

Do any of you northeastern types know where I can get some 11' white cedar? I have been trying to plank Rollins Whisper with western red, and I am not happy with the results to say the least. ( I pulled the partially built canoe off the mold and junked it) I need lumber, up to 8/4 thick, and 7" wide or so, by 11' long.

what aspects of the WRC are you not happy with - that is, what is is doing that is giving poor performance?
Hi Andre,

It is splitting to hell and gone.. I soak in boiling water, steam with an iron and a towel, pre-drill, set a tack, and Wham! split planking. It is just too brittle to take the bends on the canoe. One just 1 rib, I had 7 tacks to hold the splits together. NOT quality workmanship. I am building the canoe for my father, so I want it to be nice. I have used WRC before for planking, and have never had this degree of difficulty. There is a large amount of curvature to the hull at the entry, and that is where I am having the problems.

White cedar planking bends like butter.
Thats frustrating for sure, maybe the grain is not running optimally. White cedar is of course the easiest; basswood takes some wild bends too and I've used cypress (like on disappearing propeller boats), its fun to work but wants to be predrilled for sure. Shouldnt be too hard to get white cedar in a 12' lengths. Too bad you had to trash all that work.

If you can't get NWC, what type of grain are you using for these curved areas?

It should NOT be completely "edge grain", as is often used for planking. It should be at least quarter sawn or maybe even more angled for the planks being bent a lot.

Wisconsin White Cedar

I've found several sources for clear white cedar in northern Wisconsin and in da UP. Anything over 8' is going to be a problem though for the following reasons:

Whitetail deer can reach up about 8' (10' if the snow is deep in winter) on their hind legs to eat the tender branches from small cedar trees. It's their favorite food and they will definitely eat it when found. 8' or 10' and down then is the place where the clear lumber will eventually come from as the tree will grow outward without any new branches from that area. The tree above that will send out an overabundance of new branches and boards cut from there will have lots of pin knots.

White cedar swamps are inaccessible except when frozen in winter. So all the logging is done during the winter. As most of the cedar is destined to be made into 1" x 6" x 8' tongue-and-groove panelling in the spring, there is no incentive for the logger to cut anything over 8' long.

If buying from a mill that makes white cedar panelling, you have to contact the mill early in the spring if you want them to hold out the perfectly clear boards for you as they are milling the 1 x 6s into panelling in April and May.

Good luck in your search.

For a source in Wisconsin that does sometimes have clear cedar over 8' long, email me at