A beautiful medium-grained and close-pored softwood, this cedar is actually a member of the "false cypresses." In fact, one of its common names is Lawson cypress, after the Scot who introduced the species to Britain. The lumber has working characteristics that are similar to pine, but it is somewhat harder and takes finishes without the same blotching tendencies. It also releases a pungent fragrance during machining that may be objectionable to woodworkers with allergies to other cedars.
The tree grows up to 180' high along the Pacific coast in northern California and Oregon, and can reach a diameter as wide as a man is tall. The cones are small, at less than 1⁄2" across. Due to several factors, including a Japanese fungus that has attacked the trees of late, plus juniper scales and spruce mites, supplies of Port Orford white cedar are currently quite limited.
Once prized for building Japanese Buddhist temples, Port Orford white cedar's current uses are in boatbuilding, caskets in the Orient, arrows, outdoor furniture, cabinetry, and the making of musical instruments. It seasons with predictable and acceptable shrinkage and has an even, workable grain that reacts well to sharp hand tools and carbide cutters. It also takes a polish beautifully. Most of the prime heartwood is now exported to Japan.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com