Spanish Cedar: Good News, Bad News

Wide Spanish Cedar boards

Wide Spanish Cedar boards

Appreciated for its low cost and light weight, Spanish Cedar is perfect for many applications, from cigar boxes (or humidors) to exterior stain-grade projects. Even though it looks and acts much like Genuine Mahogany, it has traditionally been only about half the price. In recent years, however, this species has suffered due to a combination of low availability and rising prices.

Unlike other South American species such as Geniune Mahogany and Ipe, Spanish Cedar has never been very prolific. No mills actually specialize in Spanish Cedar; instead, the species is a by-product of their main products. In addition, Spanish Cedar has become listed in the CITES Appendix II, prompting heavy regulations in order to guard its current status. The limits on exports are chipping away at the overharvesting by irresponsible loggers of previous generations.

Spanish Cedar trim

Spanish Cedar trim

Even less Spanish Cedar is being harvested than what’s allowed, because of the difficulties with certification. As a result of those difficulties, many saw mills aren’t even trying to get concessions for Spanish Cedar anymore. Unfortunately, this backlash of a positive protection policy could end up leading to the kind of endangerment against which CITES is trying to guard.

To give you an idea of how significant this red tape can be, J. Gibson McIlvain placed a large order for Spanish Cedar a while back. Approximately 15 months later, our long-time South American supplier was finally able to gather the quantity we had requested. However, 9 months after that, they decided to sell the lumber locally, instead, because they were unable to sort out the CITES paperwork in order to legally export it. Like most mills, they simply can’t afford to keep lumber around without making money from it; in fact, most smaller or less established mills would have been unable to hold out as long as they did.

Spanish Cedar entry doors

Spanish Cedar entry doors

As a result of these kinds of issues, fewer mills are cutting Spanish Cedar at all. The species as a whole may benefit in the long run, but in the mean time, it will likely become even less available. Spanish Cedar is, however, available in small quantities, and there are alternative species that we highly recommend. In addition, we’re seeing African plantations dedicated to Spanish Cedar, and we think they hold promise for the future.

At J. Gibson McIlvain, we carefully and consistently monitor the lumber industry and the various regulating agencies that influence the market. We also make it our business to compare and contrast various domestic and exotic species for a variety of applications.

As our many faithful customers know, whenever a species becomes difficult to obtain, we’re on top of it and have several suggestions for anyone who asks. We understand time crunches and budgets too, so feel free to be as specific as you can about your job and request, and we’ll do our best to work with you to find the ideal boards for your particular project.

Forklift loading lumber at J Gibson McIlvain

Forklift loading lumber at J Gibson McIlvain

J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.

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