Some lumber species provide extra challenges, and Spanish Cedar is one of them. Once an exterior-grade lumber species in high demand, Spanish Cedar was known as an excellent alternative to Genuine Mahogany. Similar characteristics are no surprise, considering the fact that the Spanish Cedar trees are actually in the same family as Mahogany. However, sourcing Spanish Cedar has become quite difficult. Why is Spanish Cedar such a difficult species to source? Let’s take a look.
Spanish Cedar’s Origins
The term “Spanish Cedar” actually refers to a collection of four distinct species — all within the same family but originating in different areas of Central America. Just as single species with a particularly wide growth range will have a greater variation of coloring and other characteristics, the variety of species that are considered Spanish Cedar create quite the disparity in characteristics. Plantation-grown Spanish Cedar from The Ivory Coast of Africa display greater consistency in both grain and color, but the lower density of that variety may not demonstrate the same degree of stability. For that reason, J. Gibson McIlvain currently carries only Spanish Cedar sourced in Central or South America.
Because of the potential disparity in quality of Spanish Cedar that may make its way into a single shipment, some customers have begun to shy away from this promising species. Despite the variance in both working properties and appearance, high quality Spanish Cedar is definitely available; the key is to know what to ask for and to work with a lumber supplier that has your best interests in view.
Spanish Cedar’s Challenges
In addition to the variety of lumber that’s referred to as “Spanish Cedar,” there’s another major challenge facing this lumber species. Restrictions on importing have led to greater lead times along with sizing inconsistencies. J. Gibson McIlvain has responded by stipulating quality and size when working with partner mills as well as utilizing our in-house millworks to re-mill lumber to your specifications when necessary. Of course, those added steps add to the overhead, further increasing the price. Because Spanish Cedar performs similarly to Genuine Mahogany, it’s still an affordable alternative to high-priced Mahogany.
Because of its highly resinous nature, we’ve found that Spanish Cedar requires dedicated kilns, which we set to higher temperatures in order to ensure that resins and sap are properly set, leading to greater stability; otherwise, the lumber will weep, leading to interference with glue and other finishing methods and creating quite the mess. (Plantation-grown Spanish Cedar requires even greater caution during the drying process; otherwise, it will become entirely useless.) Our hope is to create a stronger market for this under-appreciated lumber species and that the increased demand would help decrease prices for everyone.
As long as you follow our recommendations, you can still purchase high-quality Spanish Cedar.