Spruce and cedar are two of the popular types of softwood. Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between spruce and cedar wood. Softwoods are procured from conifer evergreen trees. Both spruce and cedar trees look similar but have minor differences. In this article, we will discuss the difference between spruce vs cedar based on appearance, physical properties, and uses.
Did you know both cedar and spruce trees are popular choices for Christmas trees?
What is Cedar Wood?
Cedar is a wood in the genus Cedrus of the family Pinaceae (pine family). There are more than 40 species in this family. Cedar wood has many types – Eastern Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar, Cyprus Cedar, and Western Red Cedar – found all over the world.
The colour of cedar may range from light yellowish to reddish brown, depending on the species. It is a durable wood with good resistance to decay and termites. It is commonly used in exterior applications for building posts, piles, fences, shingles, railroad ties, and outdoor furniture.
Despite being a softwood, cedar is strong, hard and very durable, even more than some hardwoods.
What is Spruce Wood?
Spruce is a softwood with many varieties. Norway Spruce, which is one of the most popular species of spruce wood, is native to Northern and Central Europe. It is creamy white with yellow or red streaks and visible knots.
Unlike Cedar, Spruce is not a very strong or durable wood. In fact, it is very soft and almost non-resistant to decay. However, spruce timber is very easy to work with. It is also easily available and costs far less than popular wood species. It is extensively used in the paper industry and as a construction lumber for making crates, millwork, and soundboards for musical instruments.
Appearance & Identification
Spruce trees are easy to identify by their conical shape. The shape is nearly perfectly conical, especially when the trees are young. They have needles in place of leaves. The spruce needles are prickly and stiff. The tree can also be identified by its cones. The bark is usually thin and flaky.
The colour of the spruce is creamy white or yellowish, depending on the species. It usually has light yellow or red streaks on its sawn surface. The texture of spruce wood is fine and even and the grain is usually straight.
Cedar trees also have a conical shape. The needles are blue-green and the cones are large and shaped like a barrel. The tree bark is brown-reddish and the branches are short and fully covered by needles.
Cedar has a yellowish or reddish-brown heartwood, sometimes with a violet hue in species like the Eastern Red Cedar. It has darker steaks and stripes on the sawn surface. The texture is very fine and even and the grain is straight. Knots are common on the surface.
Both spruce and cedar trees are flowerless. They reproduce through their seed-bearing cones.
As a softwood with low density and hardness, spruce is fairly easy to work with. However, the presence of knots can sometimes create problems when cutting. It glues and finishes well. Staining can be difficult due to closed pores; using a toner or gel stain might solve the problem.
Cedar is also easy to work with because of its straight grain and average density. Knots can sometimes be difficult to deal with. The high oil and silica content of cedar can cause dulling of cutters. It glues and finishes well and can also be used without staining or a finish.
Durability & Strength
Cedar wood produces a special oil which makes it resistant to decay and rot. Most of the cedar species are rated as durable. It is a relatively strong and stable material which weighs less than most hardwoods and is easy to handle. Aromatic Red Cedar requires no pre-treatment when used outside or in ground contact applications because of its natural resistance to insects and decay.
Red Cedar has a 900 lbf Janka score, which makes it a really hard and strong wood. It has 530 kg/m3 average dried weight or density.
With a 380 lbf Janka rating (Norway Spruce), spruce is among the softest woods in the world. The density or average dried weight is about 405 kg/m3. This also means that the wood is easy to handle and transport. It is not a durable wood and is prone to damage by decay and insects.
Availability & Price
As a softwood species, spruce has a high growth rate. Construction-grade spruce, which has high demand, is easy to find and is usually inexpensive. It is found in many parts of Europe and the United States and can be imported as well. Spruce for instruments, such as German Spruce, is not as easily available and can cost significantly more than common spruce types.
Cedar is usually more expensive than spruce due to higher demand because of its outstanding physical properties. Large, knot-free boards are not very common and can be expensive. Smaller boards are easily available at a moderate price.
Spruce vs Cedar : Uses
Cedar Wood Uses
Cedar wood is less expensive than most hardwoods, which makes it a favourite choice of woodworkers. It is a hard, strong, and durable wood which is particularly favoured for outdoor applications, including outdoor furniture.
Cedar has a natural, spicy scent, which acts as an insect repellent, which is why it is often used for making linings for chests and closets. Cedar is also a good construction material and is used for making posts, beams, fences, decks, etc. Cedar wood can absorb moisture and sweat and leaves a spicy scent, which is why it is often used for making shoe trees.
Other than that, cedar is also used in many interior applications, including millwork, interior furniture, cabinets, plywood, and more. Because of its outstanding acoustic properties, cedar wood is also used for making soundboards for various musical instruments. It is also used for carvings and to make small specialty items such as bows and pencils.
Spruce Wood Uses
Spruce is not as strong or hard as cedar. As a softwood with a really soft structure, it is primarily used for making paper. Due to its long fibres, paper made from spruce wood is strong. It is also commonly used for making crates and boxes for storage.
In the construction industry, spruce wood is used for making furniture, shelves, cabinets, wooden aircraft, etc. It must only be used in indoor applications, as the wood is not at all resistant to weathering.
One of the main uses of spruce is for making soundboards for pianos and as tone wood in musical instruments such as cellos, guitars, and more.
Other than the wood itself, other parts of a spruce tree have different uses. Spruce oil, for instance, is used for making spruce beer. The needles of spruce are used for making tea. It is also used as a decorative tree, including Christmas trees.
Spruce vs Cedar : Summary
- Spruce is lighter in colour than cedar wood, which is yellow-reddish.
- Spruce is not as strong or durable as cedar, which has excellent resistance to decay and weathering.
- Original Cedar is found in the Himalayan regions while spruce is common in temperate regions.
- Spruce is suitable only for indoor applications while cedar can also be used for outdoor projects such as outdoor construction.
- Cedar has a distinct, spice-like scent which repels insects. Spruce doesn’t have a distinct smell.
- Spruce is edible and its parts such as needles, bark, and sap can be used for different purposes. Cedar is not edible.
- Cedar oil is prized for its medicinal properties. It is used for making a variety of medicines. Spruce doesn’t have medicinal properties.
Where to buy Spruce Wood or Cedar Timber online?
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