Cedar log

Eastern Red Cedar

Cutting a tree is a choice ripe with heartache and consequences, but often the path is necessary.

This Eastern Red Cedar began life behind my childhood home on Angel Fork, somewhere between Tornado and Hurricane in West Virginia. Transplanted to our home in Raleigh twenty-seven years ago, it has adorned our backyard through hurricanes, tropical storms, ice storms, and a fluke (and record!) 23” snowfall.

Eastern Red Cedar fancies the solitude of a sunny hilltop, not the dense shade of a suburban lot. It prefers a light loamy soil, not heavy red clay. My scrappy Mountaineer fought to survive as towering oaks snuffed the sunlight and consumed the rain. Falling debris triggered by an ice storm damaged the tree, and I decided it was time to end the struggle.

Cedar logs

Firewood or something else?

I dropped the tree and sat beside these logs to rest to ponder their fate. Sending them to the yard waste facility was not an option. Burning them as firewood seemed inappropriate. Cedar resists insects and rotting, and the sections could become edging for a flower garden.

Why not design a wood project that keeps these treasures in the family? Why not turn firewood into furniture?

cutting a log

Making sawdust.

I trimmed the logs to approximate sizes and pieced them together to see if my idea was achievable. Shawn asked if I was making a “pi”. Every carpenter needs an entertaining sidekick.

Log pieces

Pi, or is it 2 pi?

Slivers and slices tumbled to the floor over several sessions of work. My shaping was done with a combination of hatchet, machete, hunting knife, and a collection of wood chisels.

Shaping wood

Shaping the wood

Wood shaivings

Shavings from smoothing

And then a bunch of other stuff happened.

Time passed

The bench leg structure was assembled with mortise and tenon joints.

red cedar

Beautiful grain.

bench legs

Joining the parts

The top is repurposed barn wood complete with a unique artistic feature contributed by a herd of hungry beetles.

Bench top

The beetles were here.

Cedar bench


Shawn is delighted with the finished product, and several visitors to our home have asked if I would ever make another. Who knows what wood might drop my way?