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Spanish Cedar Issues & Alternatives

Considering alternatives to Spanish Cedar due to limited supply

African Mahogany millwork

African Mahogany millwork

Once a popular lumber species, Spanish Cedar is currently available in small quantities, but for larger jobs, customers will have to look at comparable species. Once a popular choice for humidor makers, Spanish Cedar earned the nickname “Cigar Wood.” This lightweight species looks and acts similar to Genuine Mahogany but has traditionally sold for half the price, making it a favorite exterior wood for stain grade projects. Spanich Cedar is a prime example of a species that was once widely available and affordable yet has now become virtually unavailable.

Hailing from Central and South America, the Spanish Cedar tree has never been a dominant one growing as prolifically in the tropical forests as do Mahogany and Ipe. As a result, mills that have produced Spanish Cedar lumber have done so on the side, as a byproduct of logging more prominent species such as Genuine Mahogany. While more expensive than Spanish Cedar, Genuine Mahogany has long been a favorite for cabinet and furniture makers due to its durability as well as its easy machining and beauty. Mahogany has also enjoyed increasing popularity as an exterior species, as well. Door and window manufacturers are among those that appreciate its resistance to rot and moisture.

Sapele wood panels

Sapele wood panels

Since Spanish Cedar is listed in the infamous CITES Appendix II, trade is now heavily regulated, as well. As necessary as those regulations may be in order to prevent irresponsible harvesting and species endangerment, they have also led to the diminished availability of Spanish Cedar. Since the species was already far from being a bread-and-butter provider for mills, the added regulations make the idea of harvesting it at all a daunting prospect, since CITES compliance can be a confusing and time-consuming process. Since Spanish Cedar isn’t a main part of their business, it’s simply not worth the effort. Even for those with orders in queue, sometimes awaiting approval can take an entire year, and few mills can afford the space for inventory to sit around so long after being cut.

Since a dwindling number of mills are even cutting Spanish Cedar anymore, the species as a whole should hopefully recover. At the same time, it is still available in small quantities, and African plantation grown Spanish Cedar is on the rise. In the meantime, builders will need to look to alternative species such Genuine Mahogany for large projects and orders. Since Genuine Mahogany is also listed on CITES, plantation mahogany and other alternatives, such as African Mahogany and Sapele, are good alternatives to consider.

The lumber experts at J. Gibson McIlvain are constantly researching current market trends and can help builders and contractors navigate the constantly changing currents of the lumber market. As the quality and availability of species such as Spanish Cedar dwindle, our lumber specialists will be able to suggest economical alternatives to suit your particular job requirements.

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