Why doesn't my cedar smell? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
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Why doesn't my cedar smell?

Last year, I build a couple of bureaus and lined them with this thin cedar planking that I bought from Lowes that's designed specifically for this purpose. I had to cut it all to fit, and the smell in my workshop was overwhelming and wonderful. I just love the smell of cedar.

So when I recently build a couch, I used cedar throughout, thinking that the area around that couch was going to have that great smell. But even though I ripped, cross-cut, routed and sanded a lot of cedar, there was almost no smell whatsoever. It's still pretty, but I'm disappointed that the strong fragrance isn't there.

Are there different species of cedar that smell more than others? Did Lowes spray my closet liner planks with cedar perfume?
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post #2 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 11:22 AM
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Are you certain it is Aromatic Red Cedar? I assume that if Lowe's marketed it as that then it probably is, but I just wonder if some Aromatic Red Cedar just doesn't quite live up to the name. If you've sanded it and still get no odor then it just may well be gone.

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post #3 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by difalkner View Post
Are you certain it is Aromatic Red Cedar?

Not at all. They simply call it red cedar. Is "Aromatic Red Cedar" a specific species of wood, e.g. "Over there is a grove of aromatic red cedar trees"? Or is some cedar wood simply more aromatic than others, such as clear pine vs. knotty pine?
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 02:08 PM
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What is used for cedar chests to get the sent is not a cedar but Juniperus virginiana. A juniper that somehow got to be called cedar. The scent comes from volatiles that evaporate from the surface of the wood. Over time they evaporate to the point that you no longer detect them. To get that scent back again you will have to expose new wood. Sanding, or using a cabinet scraper should help.
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 09:32 PM
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My local Ace hardware has "Cedar Oil" to bring back the odor to Eastern Red Cedar (or more correctly, Juniper) I love the fragrance also, but it does dissipate over time. The color also turns from red to brown over time.

For years I heated my house with wood and I happened upon a large ant infested log of ERC. I burned it in the out door boiler and even the neighbors a block away asked about the pleasant fragrance.

Yellow poplar is not really poplar. Bob white are not really quail. Bison are not Buffalo, Mountain Goats are actually closer to antelope than goats. Seems we Americans can't keep much straight. .

Last edited by holtzdreher; 07-31-2019 at 09:42 PM.
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-31-2019, 10:21 PM
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The aromatic cedar smell doesn't last forever. All of it will quit offgassing sooner or later. I believe lane cedar chest company had something you could screw in from time to time to splinter the wood so it would start stinking again. About the only thing I can suggest is annually sand the inside with coarse sandpaper to bring new wood to the surface.
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-08-2019, 03:19 PM
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Geez, guys. didn't y'all read the op? First off, he's not referring to a chest. The bureau he made last year smells fine. He's referring to a couch he JUST MADE with cedar he JUST BOUGHT AND WORKED.

So, Enchant, yes, there are numerous woods sold in the market as 'cedar'. They are virtually all either juniper or cypress species. There are only 3 true cedars in the world, none of them from here. What is sold as 'aromatic cedar', or 'eastern red cedar' is usually a species of juniper. Here in Oregon, if I want really fragrant cedar for chests or drawers, I buy what is sold as 'Tennessee Red Cedar'. Our local wood, Western Red Cedar, is commonly available. It also has aroma, but not nearly as strong as the Tennessee Red Cedar. So I do not know which species Lowe's was selling when you bought it, and it is unlikely that anyone at the store could tell you either.

There are some products on the market called 'cedar oil' which you could wipe onto the wood to give it fragrance. Again, many are actually made from juniper, but you can get authentic cedar oil made from cedrus atlantica. It's pretty spendy.
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-08-2019, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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Mark, thanks for all that good info! You're right in that the Lowes people had no idea what I was talking about. If I can find it easily, I might pick up a little of that cedar oil and try a little of it sparingly.

I was talking to a good friend of mine and he remarked that if the wood I had used on the sofa actually DID have the same aroma as what I had put in my bureau, it'd probably be strong enough to drive us all out of the room after all the cutting, sanding and edge routing I did on it. He might have a point.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-08-2019, 03:36 PM
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It's the freshness of the wood that makes the odor. A customer I recently worked for their kids were blown away about the odor of some western cedar shakes used on their house so I thought I would take them some eastern red cedar. On the day I cut the wood I didn't have time to cut a live limb off a tree so I found a limb that had fallen and I split it down the middle and run the faces over a jointer. It was very fragrant at the time but by the next morning you couldn't smell it unless you put your nose on it. Had I cut a live limb off the tree the smell would have lasted for weeks.
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-09-2019, 10:13 AM
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As mentioned before you need to use aromatic cedar - a lot of home improvement stores sell kits for closets. I've heard sanding aromatic cedar will bring back some of the smell.

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post #11 of 11 Old 08-11-2019, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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This is kind of a different subject, but I didn't know if it was worth starting a new thread.

After buying the 1x6 cedar planks, I posted this review on Lowes:


Inconsistent sizing and milling
I only needed 3 12-foot lengths, but had to pass over a dozen boards before finding anything useful. We're all used to picking through damaged boards, but most of these boards weren't ever once good and got damaged. Many of them looked like they hadn't been milled at all and had that very rough finish to them. The three that I went with had inconsistent widths. Usually, 6" boards will all be 5.5". Mine were 5-1/4, 5-5/16 and 5-3/8.
Lowes replied to my comment:

Empire Team 08/09/2019

Pat, thanks for taking the time to write a review and share your honest feedback. We're so sorry to hear you had this experience. Cedar is naturally a rough wood. These boards are run through the mill but they are intentionally left with a rough finish (See product photos) and sanding is recommended. If you're looking for boards with a smooth finish, we recommend whitewood boards as those are a softer wood. Additionally, with boards, sizing may vary. The common measurements of this board is 1 x 6 x 12 but we must also list the actual measurements which are 0.6875-in x 5.5-in x 12-ft. In manufacturing, a nominal size or trade size is a size "in name only" used for identification. The nominal size may not match any dimension of the product, but within the domain of that product the nominal size may correspond to a large number of highly standardized dimensions and tolerances. For lumber boards, they're commonly referred to by their 'common' dimensions, 1 x 4, 1 x 6, etc. The nominal or 'common' measurements are a boards size before it has been planed (surfaced) on all 4 sides. This is why both common and actual measurements are listed; to provide the industry standard size and final size measurements, during this process it's possible that sizes may vary. Hopefully these explanations help.Thanks again for your comments, sincerely ~ Empire Co Customer Care Team
"Naturally rough wood"? Is that really a thing? I've never heard of that. I assumed that cedar was a solid tree like other woods, is cut into rough planks and milled down smooth, like other wood. No?
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