Alaskan Yellow Cedar


Cupressus nootkatensis


The Alaskan Yellow Cedar grows along the Pacific coast of North America from Oregon up into Canada and Alaska.  It thrives in moist climates and it is only found along these coastal areas. Yellow Cedar grows slowly and in such a way that shows little distinction between early wood and late wood rings. Some trees measuring only 38-50 cm wide may be 200- 275 years old! This makes for a tough, dense, and consistent degree of stability and color throughout the tree.  Alaskan Yellow Cedar is highly resistant to insects, rot and corrosion from acid solutions.

Slow growth means closely packed rings for a very strong and consistent wood grain.

First used by the West Coast Indians for their historic Totem Poles and great war canoes, it is a rare and often difficult to find lumber species. The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest carved their ceremonial masks from Alaskan Yellow Cedar, and it is still used today to make canoe paddles.

The consistent grain structure means Yellow Cedar works very well both by hand or with machine and it turns and carves well.  It holds paint, stains, glues, and finishes well.  The tree is slow growing and very large so it is common to find heavy timbers and long and wide boards. 

Alaskan Yellow Cedar is not actually a cedar but is from the Cypress family.  Much like Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is often associated with Cedars because of its texture and aromatic nature. It has a strong spicy scent when freshly cut. The wood has a satiny sheen creating a nice shine and luster. 


Traditionally, Yellow Cedar is used in boat building, because of its all around endurance, dependability, extreme weather resistance and good dimensional stability.  Boat builders use it for decks, railings, and interior paneling.  Racing boat enthusiasts have often used it for high performance shells.  

Because of its light weight, Yellow Cedar is also found in aircraft construction.  It resists splintering and wears smoothly over time, and so it is often used in stadium seating.  

Alan Powell Design (Taos, New Mexico)

It’s frequently used to make musical instruments including flutes and guitar soundboards.  It is one of the most stable of woods in terms of dimensional change due to moisture content change and so is more immune to cracking than many of the other soundboard woods.  Some classical and flamenco guitar builders report that it imbues the instrument with a “chimey”, clear, articulate tone with great sustain.

Yellow Cedar is a prime pick for saunas and pool house construction, since this wood naturally thrives in wet environments.  It is also commonly found in Japanese designs for gardens and architecture.  Its light weight and high stability allow it to be worked in small and intricate construction like Shoji doors and screens.  Due to the availability of larger timbers, it’s also used for large garden and outdoor structures like pergolas and gazebos.

Yellow Cedar grows in similar areas as Western Red Cedar, yet Yellow Cedar is superior to Western Red in stability, strength, and weather resistance. These qualities make it a premium option for exterior siding, ceilings, flooring, and trim work. It is highly valued for high-class joinery and window frames because of its natural durability in fluctuating atmospheric conditions. 

Alaskan Yellow Cedar currently in stock at Clark’s Hardwood Lumber Co.:

4/4 x 6″ rough Lumber

2″ x 2″ x 27″ Flute blanks

We can also get special order products in greater thickness and even large timbers, generally within a 2 week window.  In addition, we can mill the lumber to your specifications.

Visit us at 700 E. 5 1/2 St. in the Houston Heights or contact us at 713-862-6628 for more information.


Listen to a native flute made from Alaskan Yellow Cedar: