Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t I buy Eastern White Cedar in my local home improvement store?
Eastern White Cedar is a smaller tree than other soft woods such as spruce and pine. Large trees can be cut into boards by large automatic saws, but white cedar logs must be cut by a human sawyer who decides how to cut the log into a maximum number of appropriate-sized boards. This requires a smaller-sized operation, and the big box stores cannot get a reliable source of enough eastern White Cedar boards.
Must Eastern White Cedar be kiln-dried?
No. This is one of the advantages of Eastern White Cedar. If rough white cedar boards 1 inch thick are piled with spacers out of rain, it can be dry enough to plane within a week or two, given warm temperatures and breezes. However, if you try to air dry a wood like cherry for several years, it still will not be dry, so kiln-drying is necessary. White cedar also retains its shape as it dries, and splits much less, compared to other woods.
How do you know when white cedar is dry enough to plane?
White cedar is a very light (low density) wood. An experienced person can often tell by just lifting a board whether it is dry, since the board becomes lighter as it loses moisture. Mills also use a variety of moisture testers to test the % moisture in rough boards. These testers usually check how well the boards conduct electricity, which is higher in a moist board, and read per cent moisture on a scale. We try to get our boards in a 10 to 12% moisture range before we plane them. With our equipment, we find that if the moisture content is any higher than 10 to 12 %, we cannot get a nice smooth finish on the boards when we plane them. The knots especially tend to be a little fuzzy, even though they are sound tight knots.
Do you buy white cedar logs? I want to cut some from my property.
We do buy white cedar logs grown in eastern Ontario. However, we have found through experience that the quality of the logs can vary widely, depending on the growing environment of the tree, and the age of the tree. The best quality logs usually come from trees which are growing close to other trees, not too big in diameter (roughly 7 to 16 inches) and in relatively shallow ground which is not too wet. This is because the tree must be healthy, and bigger, older cedar trees tend to be rotten in the center. If the tree is out in the open, it will have a lot of side branches, resulting in big knots where the branches attach, and a trunk which decreases rapidly in diameter rather than keeping a tall straight trunk. If you have logs to sell, please contact us first so we can explain what we are looking for. We always ask for a few sample logs before we will commit to larger quantities.
Doesn’t cutting down cedar trees harm the environment?
Like all living things, white cedar trees have a life span, and they eventually die of old age and other causes. As cedar trees age, they develop rot in the center, which increases until the tree dies. As the rot increases, the logs become less useful until they are worthless. Harvesting the tree before this stage makes economic sense. It also makes sense since a mature cedar reduces the light around it, and hinders the development of young cedar trees. By harvesting the mature trees before they rot, this improves the growth of younger trees, and improves the overall health of the woodlot. Cedar “leaves” also provide nourishment for forest animals such as deer, particularly in the winter if the snow is deep. The deer can only reach the lower boughs. If the old trees are left to die, then the deer can only reach the very young trees, and can kill them by consuming too many leaves. This would leave a plot of old dying trees, few new young trees and a starving deer population. Selective harvesting of mature cedar trees (NOT clear-cutting all trees of all sizes) will result in a healthier, sustainable woodlot with a variety of animals.
Are your milling operations also environmentally friendly?
As much as we can possibly make them! As farmers and science teachers for many decades, we know the importance of looking after the planet we live on, and carry this into our business procedures.

Slab is the outer part of a round log which is removed by the sawyer in the process of cutting the log into boards. We collect the slab, and bind it with steel bands. We sell it as an excellent kindling; it also makes rough fences and windbreaks for animals.

Excellent quality boards are sold as clear (with no knots), premium select (a few small knots), and #1 grade.

Boards with minor imperfections are sold at a 20% discount.

Boards with more significant imperfections are sold at 50% discount.

Short finished boards 3 feet or less are sold at 50% off.

Shavings from planers are collected in huge round bale bags and sold as bedding for horses.

Sawdust is collected and used as bedding and insulation.

Scrap boards are used as kindling.

Why are white cedar boards more expensive than the same size boards sold in home improvement stores?
Many boards sold at those stores are spruce, which comes from much larger trees than white cedar, so they can be processed by huge automatic saws. While excellent for interior building, spruce rots far more quickly outside than white cedar, making cedar more valuable, hence more expensive. Pressure treated wood will last longer than spruce outside, because of chemicals added to the spruce. Those added chemicals can pose a hazard, which may negate the lower cost of the pressure treated wood compared to white cedar.
What is the difference between red cedar and white cedar?
Please see our “Why White Cedar?” Page