Working with Spanish Cedar

QI'm making a cigar box from Spanish cedar and need some information. Do the oils In the wood make it difficult to glue? Will glue hinder the enhancement and aging process of the cigars ? Can I use oil and wax on the outside of the box to finish the wood7 Jack Babtels Harlingen, Texas

A Spanish cedar, which isn't a cedar, but a deciduous tree (it loses its leaves) in the mahogany family, has a lot of natural oils. These oils are what give the wood its wonderful aroma, but they can also prevent most finishes from properly adhering to your project.

GLUING CEDAR. For best results when gluing Spanish cedar, I wipe the area to be glued with acetone, a fast drying solvent. It removes the resin and oil, allowing the glue to adhere.

Once you've removed the oils on the surface, you can use any type of glue. I usually use yellow glue because it provides a strong bond and doesn't leave behind any odors. Once dry, most glues no longer carry an odor.

So the glue you choose won't interfere with the cigars' aging process.

FINISHING. Spanish cedar, a dark reddish-brown wood, will age well without any finish. But if you decide to finish the outside of the box, the best choice is tung oil or boiled linseed oil. Both will mix well with the natural oils in the wood and give the finished piece a warm, aged look. Eventually, the wood will darken more.

I wouldn't recommend a finish that seals the wood, such as polyurethane, because it will seal in the fragrance of the wood.

After you've used your cigar box for a few years, you may notice that the fragrance of the wood isn't as strong. If this happens, you can lightly sand the wood with

400-grit sandpaper to restore the fragrance.

HARDWARE. There are a few other things about this wood you'll want to consider as you make the cigar box. The oils in the wood will stain some metals. So, the best choice for hardware on the box is lacquer-coated brass or stainless steel. These metals will not be affected by the oils in the wood.

CLEANING. Depending on the amount of oil in the wood, oil and resin may continue to seep out for some time after finishing your cigar box. If this becomes a problem, simply remove the cigars and wipe the interior of the box with acetone. After the acetone has had a few minutes to evaporate, you can return the cigars to the box. C9

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If you have a question related to woodworking techniques, tools, finishing, hardware, or accessories, we'd like to hear from you.

Just write down your question and mail it to us: Woodsmith Q&A, 2200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. Or you can email the question to: [email protected].

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hardware & supplies



Cleaning up around the shop will be easier with a brush and broom from the article on page 8. All the brooms were purchased from McMaster-Carr, including the horsehair broom (7167T4), the tampico/horsehair/polypropylene broom (7168T4),the multi-surface push broom (7736T11), and the angle broom (7634T22).

Most of the bench brushes were purchased at Garrett Wade, including the large flare tip brush (95K03.01), the small, round detail brush (95K03.01), and the goat hair brush (53G06.02). The standard bench brush is available at the Woodsmith Store.


The sanders featured in the article on page 10 can help you get a tedious job done faster and easier. They're available from most hardware stores and home centers. On-line retailers also offer a wide selection. For the sanding insert baseplate that fits the Porter-Cable oscillating spindle sander, you'll need to contact Woodhaven (147PCS).

The sandpaper alternatives featured on page 12 may be a good choice for your projects. The Abranet discs (147492) and replacement pad (147512) are

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  • Filmon
    Does tung oil work on spanish cedar?
    8 years ago

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