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UK Softwood

Cedar of Lebanon – (Cedrus libani)

Cedar of Lebanon – Cedrus libaniCedar of Lebanon – Cedrus libani 2

A spectacular evergreen coniferous tree, which can reach 40m (130 ft) in height. The bark is blackish-brown with closely spaced ridges and cracks, it’s run through has deep horizontal fissures that peel like small chips. It has a distinct shape, with several trunks and clear horizontal layers in its structure. The trunks of the older trees ordinarily fork into several large erect branches, with the large wide horizontal branches reaching out like umbrellas.


A wonderfully aromatic timber used widely in fine cabinet making and furniture. A fine specimen tree used in parkland settings for centuries. 


Key Uses

Interior - Cabinet making, furniture making, lining draws and wardrobes

Joinery - Some internal joinery details

Utility – Boxes, draw linings



Light, aromatic detailed fine grain, large sizes available



Not grown on a large scale so supplies are scarce


Key Characteristics

Type - True cedar (Cedrus)

Other names - Lebanon cedar, cigar wood

Sources - Middle East and across Europe

Colour - Light brown to pale red

Texture - Smooth with a straight scaliness before finishing

Hardness – Medium

Weight - Light to medium (580 kg/ m³)

Strength - Not strong in small sections

Seasoning and Stability - Seasons well when dried slowly

Wastage - Very little waste due to size

Range and board width - Excellent

Range of board thickness - Very good, tend to be smaller in dimensions up to 50mm (2 in.)

Durability - For internal use remains aromatic for decades when left unfinished


In the Workshop

Milling - Needs very sharp blades due to its soft nature

Shaping - Forms very fine detail well

Assembly - Glues well, needs gentle handling

Finishing - Often left open without a finish to retain aromatic qualities

Sustainability - An occasional tree as not grown here on a commercial scale. Seldom felled unless diseased or storm-damaged

Availability and cost - We have reasonable stocks available for furniture or cabinet making. Very well priced timber considering its fine qualities



Douglas Fir – (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

A tall tree with a distinctive grain, it is famous in Europe for being one of the largest trees. It is valued for its straight grain and stability and is distinguished by its tight rings, like those of the Western red cedar. However, it is paler in colour and not as fibrous.

The growth rings are particularly conspicuous as they produce attractive wavy lines; the grain does not present as many problems as you might expect.

This is a medium- weight softwood, much stronger than European redwood. It is more resistant to bending and has a good resistance to wear when cut on the quarter 


Key Uses

Interior - Construction and structural work

Veneer - Yes

Joinery - General and top quality

Utility - General marine and flooring



Uniform texture



Can be brittle and instinctive patterning splinter Relatively strong knots can be a problem


Key Characteristics

Type - Temperate softwood

Other names - Red and yellow Fir, British Columbian or Columbian pine and Douglas spruce

Colour - Pale yellowy beige contrasting with brighter reddish-orange latewood lines

Texture - It is not fine nor coarse, but uniform and relatively easy to work

Grain - Harder than might be expected for its weight

Hardness - Harder than might be expected for its weight

Weight - Medium (530 kg/ m³)

Strength - Surprisingly strong, especially lumber from the Pacific coast regions

Seasoning and Stability - Good; Douglas fir can be dried quickly and there is little movement once it is dry

Wastage - Medium; there may be some loose knots, but not much sapwood

Range and board width - Good

Range of board thickness - Good

Durability – Moderate


In the Workshop

Milling - Little tearing, but edges must be sharp

Shaping - Takes a good edge

Assembly - You will probably need to pre-drill for nails, as Douglas fir can split

Finishing - Good

Variations - Quarter sawn sides have very tight growth rings, with some speckling from what looks like resin ducts

Sustainability - Not listed as in any danger, but certified supplies are available

Availability and cost - Easy to buy at a moderate cost


Larch – (Larix decidua)

Larch – Larix Decidua

The Heartwood is reddish-brown when dry (although brick red when fresh sawn). The wood is tough and durable, but also flexible in thin strips, it is typically straight grained, but some trees develop spiral grain. It has a fine, uniform texture and saws, machines and finishes well. It does have some loose knots


Key Uses

Interior - Structural beams

Joinery - Staircase elements, door and window frames

Utility - Cladding



Very durable, strong distinctive grain pattern


Knotty and can be resinous


Key Characteristics

Type – Deciduous conifer

Sources - UK and across Europe

Colour - Pale red to a rich orange

Texture - Smooth

Hardness - Medium – Good for a softwood

Weight - Light to medium (590 kg/ m³)

Strength – Good

Seasoning and Stability – Needs careful drying, can be used green

Wastage – Low

Range and board width - Good – Some large trees are available

Range of board thickness - Good

Durability – Excellent – resistant to rot and insect attack when away from constant damp


In the Workshop

Milling - Works fairly well but knots can be an issue

Shaping - Cuts well but knots can damage cutters

Assembly - Needs predrilling for fixings when dry

Finishing - Can be painted and varnished well

Variations - Good even timber

Sustainability - Widely grown across the UK and Europe

Availability and cost - Good, supplies come from our estate and it is well priced


Redwood, Coast and Giant - (Sequoia sempervirens) and Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) 

Redwood (Coast and Giant)

Straight grained softwood for exterior use, this wood is distinguished by its deep colour and by a very straight grain, with close-spaced growth rings that give it a fibrous look and feel. However, lt is not strong and does tend to split; but that makes it ideal for splitting into shingles. Redwood is also durable if it does not meet the ground, it is used extensively for exterior joinery, roofing, decking and cladding.

Watch out for splintering when working the lumber by hand or machine, and check that adhesives will not stain the wood.


Key Uses

Interior - Flooring

Joinery - Exterior joinery, construction, cladding

Utility - Fences, greenhouses, garden furniture, decking, roofing 



Durable outside, easy to work, lightweight



A tendency to split or splinter. Not durable underground


Key Characteristics

Type - Temperate softwood

Other Names - Californian redwood, sequoia, coast redwood, Humboldt redwood

Related species - Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), giant redwood (S. gigantea)

Sources - Pacific coast of the United States

Colour - Dark reddish-brown, with close growth rings but low lustre

Texture - Generally uniform and fine but can be coarse

Grain - Straight

Hardness - Soft

Weight - Light (420 kg/ m³)

 Availability and cost - The supply of redwood is now restricted, and prices have risen to make it expensive for a softwood. Certified supplies are available. Listed as vulnerable by IUCN


Yew - (Taxus baccata) 

Yew – Taxus baccata

An exotic coniferous softwood that is very hard, so you would be forgiven for thinking it was hardwood. The wood was often used for bows because it bends well. Today there is only a limited supply of wide, straight-grained yew. Narrower branches and roundwood now seem to be favoured by turners.


Key Uses

Interior - Furniture

Veneer - Yes

Joinery - Cabinet making

Utility - Luxury and leisure bows and musical instruments  



Strong, superb colour and grain with a fine even texture


Can be difficult to use and some pieces have limited pattern sizes


Key Characteristics

Type - Temperate softwood

Sources - Europe, some parts of Asia and North Africa

Colour -  Heartwood is a light orange-red brown, which darkens considerably with age. The sapwood, which some woodworkers use for contrast is white

Similar species - Pacific or Western yew (I brevifollal).

Texture - Fine and even

Grain - Varies greatly from straight-grained to wavy or even interlocking

Hardness - Hard

Weight - Medium to heavy (670 kg/ m³)

Strength - Bends well when straight-grained, but otherwise only moderately strong and can be brittle

Seasoning and Stability - Seasons well and quickly and is stable in use

Wastage - Can be high

Range and board width – Limited

Range of board thickness – Limited

Durability - Good, but can be attacked by insects and cannot be protected by preservative

Milling - Needs great care and a sharp edge, as yew is hard and does tend to tear where the grain changes direction. Where the grain is straight it is a joy to work

Shaping - Being hard it is unforgiving when it comes to cutting and assembling joints 

Assembly - Yew can be shaped easily with an exquisite effect

Finishing - You may need to use a cabinet scraper for the best finish as yew tears so easily. However, it finishes to a superb lustre and takes all the finishes

Variations - Solid burl yew is very highly prized by woodturners and furniture makers and the veneer is favoured by cabinetmakers. Yew veneer tends to buckle

Sustainability - Certified English yew is relatively rare; the tree is more commonly found in parks, churchyards and gardens than in forests and woodlands

Availability and cost - English yew is rare and often very expensive


Contact Information

For more information on our Softwoods please call us on 01785 284718 or email

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