Harvesting and Selling Eastern Red Cedar

      A discussion of the potential market for Eastern Red Cedar logs, boards, or standing timber. April 24, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member)

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Would I be better off milling my cedar logs and marketing the lumber, or just selling the saw logs?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor V:
You have to work really hard with cedar to make any money or to even keep from losing any money. I had rather find something else to do with my time and labor and make more money.

From the original questioner

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I was kind of afraid of that, but the landowner is a sweet ol' church lady and I pretty much promised I'd help her out when the last two guys backed out. So it goes.

From contributor C:
Where you are located will determine whether to log and saw or just log. Finding markets for cedar lumber is more difficult than for other species. But, when you do find markets they pay so much better than pine or hardwoods. I would check with sawmills and see what lengths they need. Sometimes 10' and 12' will sell at a premium because almost all cedar loggers cut them 4' or 8'.

From the original questioner

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I'm in SC Missouri and there is a lot of cedar here but most of it gets cut as a nuisance to clear fence lines, pasture and hay fields before it ever attains a marketable size. This lot has at least 30-35 fully mature ERC trees (45-60 feet and 30 plus DBH) and a mix of oak, hickory and longleaf pine. I do hope to be able to realize some profit custom cutting to the buyers' specs. I have contacted those within 150 miles have yet to hear back. Selling by the ton has to dictate sawing cants on site, don't you think? I'll be able to haul more weight, and have less wasted space. The cedar furniture makers need a lot of sticks for their products, too, I just have to find them. Thanks for your input.

From contributor C:
I would check with any builders and especially remodelers as they may need paneling. We sell a lot of beams and long length lumber to people building pergolas. Find some people that specialize in those. Cedar logs will keep well for over a year, so there is no big hurry to get them sawn.

From the original questioner

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I'm going to town today and will check with the folks that always have pergolas for sale. My next door neighbor does wood floors, so I bet he knows all the remodeling contractors around. I also thought I could build some nice chain swings, using 6-8" sticks for the frame and making the seat/back from smaller sticks and sawn material. I'll see if I can sell them. I just need to get a tenoning setup of some kind, but now I'm getting away from sawing/drying topic, aren't I?

From contributor V:
I just sold 70 tons or so of logs. What I had thought were exceptional logs turned out to be too big and old. Many were doughty in the center or at least part of the butts were. So, bigger is not always better.. The best size for me in this batch was 10 or 12" butts.

From contributor C:
Great big cedars 12" to 16" small end at 12 to 16' can be worth $1.00 to $1.30 , even if they have bad hearts. We didn't do anything except get the bark off. The companies that buy them do the rest. Ever been to any of the Great Wolf Lodges? It is all in the marketing of what you have. All the wood in Bass Pro came from somewhere.

From the original questioner

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Finding the right market seems to be the key to making money. I want to sell these trees as they come from the stump. That will be the most cost-effective for me. The way I see it, the landowner and I are partners with a shared goal; restoring this little forest patch to the best it can be. This means taking the culls, thereby improving the whole system. We won't get wealthy doing it, but maximum financial gain alone is not the point.

From contributor A:
Iím curious as to how eastern red cedar would be for decking? Is this cedar the aromatic type as used for cedar chests?

From the original questioner

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These are what is known as aromatic eastern red cedar (actually Juniperus Virginiana, a type of juniper). I spoke with a guy near Springfield, MO, who used 8/4 ERC for decking on a clientís boat dock at a local lake. He said it was built three years ago and is holding up great, but I haven't seen it myself.

The shrinkage factor from green to dry with ERC is minimal (both tangential and radial), but it does tend to bleed sap when fresh-cut. Season of harvest doesn't seem to matter, these trees are juicy! After air-drying for about a year, the logs or lumber can be pressure-washed and are ready to use, effectively sap free.

From contributor C:
The only time the logs are sappy are within a week of being cut. Lumber dries within a few weeks of being sawn. We have a deck that we put up over 20 years ago. We are starting to see some deterioration of sapwood in spots. But we have done nothing to it except one coat of varnish just after we put it down. It did turn grey, but structurally still just fine. I have never seen a board seep sap after being cut a few days. If the logs have been cut a few weeks, especially in warm weather, I have never seen any wetness in the lumber. Itís very easy to use as it moves very little. We saw from 1/2 to 1 1/2 million feet of cedar per year so we have some experience with it.

From contributor A:
I am on the east coast and have never seen it for sale for the use of decking. My deck is western cedar. I have some of the erc trees on my property and have cut them with a chainsaw and it is much harder than the western cedar. It crackles when you burn it so I don't think it's great for fireplaces or woodstoves, so I would think tree cutters just want to get rid of it. It seems like decking would be a good use for it in my area.

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