Cedarwood is an extremely versatile wood known for it’s distinct aroma. ShoeTree Project uses it for our bestselling American Red Cedar Heartwood Shoe Trees, but cedarwood is also commonly used to create furniture in woodworking because of its durability, tensile strength, and because its scent acts as a natural insect repellent and deodorizer. The natural oils responsible for its fragrance is also extracted for use in creams, lotions and essential oils.
How do I tell if I have real cedarwood? Are some cedarwoods better than others?
The easiest way is to smell the product – cedarwoods (yes, there are several kinds!) are always aromatic, and different cedars have different aromas. With fresher cedarwood like the ones we use at ShoeTree Project, the aromatic oils in the cedarwood can be so concentrated that they form tiny crystals on the surface of the wood! However, unscrupulous may try to pass off cedar imitations by infusing cheaper, more common woods (such as schima superba) with a cedarwood oil extract. These will smell like cedarwood at first, but the aroma will quickly fade once the extract fully vaporizes since it isn’t present throughout the entire wood. In contrast, genuine cedarwood can be sanded slightly to reveal fresher layers underneath, so its fragrance lasts indefinitely.
Cedar trees only grow in the North, South, and Central Americas, where the high altitudes and cool, dry climates allow it to thrive. Because of this restrictive geography, genuine cedarwood products usually incur significant transport costs to be made available around the world. This means that a product made of genuine cedarwood is going to be more expensive than a similar product made of more readily available woods. If you see an product claiming to be made of cedarwood at an impossibly cheap price it probably isn’t, and will not be as durable, mold-resistant, or have the insect-repelling properties of genuine cedarwood. At best, you might get cedar imitations that will quickly lose their fragrance, and their deodorizing / insect-repelling properties along with it.
At ShoeTree Project, we’ve optimized the way our cedarwood gets from the American Eastern Red Cedar into your shoes. Freshly chopped cedar logs are first dried to reduce weight, then roughly processed on-site to strip the logs of undesired parts before transport to reduce shipping costs. This lumber then undergoes the laborious handcrafting at our factory closer to home to turn them into our aromatic shoe trees. In addition to optimizing the transport and labour costs of crafting our shoe trees, our direct-to-consumer retail model and forgoing of a glamorous storefront means that our cedarwood shoe trees is one of the most affordable around for its quality – every cent paid goes into its creation! As such, an easy way to tell if your cedarwood product is genuine is to compare it by weight to our shoe trees.
However, not all cedarwood is created equal!
Which is the best type of cedarwood?
It really depends on the intended use.
There are several common types of cedarwood and they vary in durability and aroma:
Unlike most other cedarwoods, the Atlas cedar grows in North Africa rather than the Americas. Raw Atlas cedarwood is easier and cheaper to procure, but is lacking in physical durability and also has a weak scent. This wood is great for pencilmaking, where its softness is a plus.
This is the most common cedarwood used for shoe trees because of its cost, though ShoeTree Project prefers the Eastern Red Cedar. The Incense Cedar is a durable wood and has a dry, tart smell – almost like incense! Most people do not find the scent of the Incense Cedar particularly appealing, but it also isn’t repulsive and does help to keep insects away.
Incense cedarwood has a yellow to brown wooden colour, and is more readily available – and hence cheaper than – something like the American Red Cedar. However, one must be on the lookout for Incense Cedar products masquerading as American Red Cedar products. Because Incense Cedar is also native to the United States, less ethical retailers use this technicality to call their Incense Cedar products “American” Cedar because it is also a cedarwood from the Americas. We believe this practice to be misleading at best because American Red Cedars are a specific type of wood with properties that differ from the Incense Cedar. Telltale signs that you are looking at an Incense Cedar product are:
- Colour: Incense Cedar is usually a dull wooden yellow-brown colour, whereas American Red Cedar has a reddish hue and may have streaks of cream sapwood.
- Price: Incense Cedar is typically cheaper because of its relative availability. We estimate that they may cost between $17 to $27.
- Smell: Incense Cedar has a dry, tart smell compared to the American Red Cedar’s fresh, sweet fragrance.
American (Eastern) Red Cedarwood
Lastly, we have our favourite choice for crafting shoe trees – the American Red Cedar (aka Eastern Red Cedar). The Juniperus Virginiana is a specific species from the eastern United States. We believe that it is the best choice for crafting shoe trees because of its high durability, mold resistance, and amazing aroma and so do many quality crafters.
The American Red Cedar has a unique sweet fragrance that smells like fresh pine, and works great as a natural deodorizer in your shoes. American Red Cedar blocks are also used as natural wardrobe fresheners. It also has a beautiful rosy hue that distinguishes itself from other cedarwoods and tells others that you invest in quality.
The colours of the American Red Cedar differ widely even between wood from the same tree. The colour may vary from a rosy pink to a creamy off-white, and sometimes both. ShoeTree Project uses heartwood – wood taken from the core of the tree – to craft our shoe trees because it is extra mold-resistant and durable due to natural preservation processes that occur during the life of the tree.