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How to Drill into Cedar Wood?

Due to Its unique and appealing properties, cedarwood is often a very lucrative option for a DIY project. Although cedarwood is soft, it still imposes some serious shortcomings and challenges like wood splitting. Here I will be sharing some unique and helpful tips on how to drill into a cedarwood, making your project quite joyful & memorable.

How to drill into Cedar wood? The procedure is quite simple; You have to select an appropriate drill bit based on the finesse required. Drill with high RPM, refrain from excessive pressure, and apply a soap layer to the bits. Pre-drilling the countersink slots with an appropriate countersink drill bit will help. If these measures fail to prevent splitting, use wood clamps along with glue.

Cedar wood’s low cost, weather, and bug-resistant properties make it an ideal building material in various projects like deck making, fencing, and cloth storage compartments. Wood splitting is a major problem with cedarwood, and thus we will be discussing it in detail.

Properties of Cedar Wood

Cedar is a coniferous wood that belongs to the genus Cedrus. Many of its properties make it ideal for a DIY enthusiast. Although it is not too expensive, its availability varies from place to place, making it sometimes difficult to acquire. Cedar wood has got these pro qualities

  1. Its consistency is soft, making drilling into it quite easy.
  2. It is very durable to normal environmental insults like rain and intense sunlight.
  3. Due to its porous nature, it has got an excellent soundproofing quality.
  4. The wood contains a natural resin with insect repelling properties, making it ideal for exterior deck designs and fencing. This property is also in the advantage of making cloth storage compartments.
  5. Cedar has got some excellent natural patterns that take aesthetics to the next level.

Although cedar has got some excellent properties, there are still some disadvantages that warrant a brief mention.

  1. Due to its soft nature, wood splitting is a common occurrence when drilling.
  2. They are highly flammable due to natural oils and resins, making them a fire hazard.
  3. Some reports attribute cedar wood’s occupational exposure to the development of chronic lung diseases and allergies.

Wood Splitting

Splitting is the fragmentation of wood into layers. It is a common problem that is encountered while drilling. Not only does it impedes the desired intent of drilling, but it also destroys the wood finish and aesthetics. I have listed a few causes for splitting below, and will try to address them in the coming articles.

Cedarwood cracks and splitting

Following are the Causes for splitting

  1. Working on softwood
  2. Drilling on the edge
  3. Applying too much pressure while drilling
  4. Drilling with low RPM
  5. Using dull drill bits

Although many causes of wood splitting are avoidable, some still pose serious challenges. For example, we can try using sharp drill bits, but we can’t change the nature of wood from soft to hard.

How to Drill into Cedar Wood to Avoid Splitting?

Have you observed that wood is usually less prone to splitting in an experienced professional hand than an amateur? This is because an experienced workman doesn’t keep repeating the same mistakes that we do.

I am sharing on how to keep your cedar from splitting below.

1. Prefer to work on semi-dry wood

The more the wood drys, the more it is prone to splitting. Working on very old dry cedar wood is usually more likely to split. Although fresh wood is usually not preferred because it is too soft and thus prone to deformation, still semi-old wood is better than a very aged wood block.

2. Selecting an appropriate Drill Bit

Not all drill bits are designed to work on wood. Some are intended for concrete, and some for drilling into metal. Using a wrong-sized drill bit might also be the cause of wood splitting. It will help if you keep the drill bit diameter at the lower end of the desired hole diameter.

Even for wood, there are many types of drill bits you should select according to the requirement. You can learn more about them here in this article I wrote.

3. Using Sharp Drill Bits

A dull drill bit might land your work into hot waters. Always try using sharp drill bits that are intended to work on wood. If the drill bit is dull, try sharpening it, don’t shy to get help from an expert.

Sharpening drill bit

4. Cardboard Support

When drilling on a thin piece of wood, cardboard placed under the drilling area is very helpful. The sacrificial piece prevents an outburst of wood fragments, thus preserving the integrity.

5. Drilling from Both Ends

The wood tends to split at the weakest point. When the bit reaches the edge of the hole, it has a predilection to tear out. Thus to prevent this, drilling should be from both ends.

Always make sure to align them; otherwise, you may end up with a second hole. You can align by using a spur drill bit, and when the spur starts appearing on the other side, then drill from the opposite end.

6. Wood Clamps

Drilling on the wood’s edge is notorious for wood splitting because it has the least support from the sides. The wood clamp is a device that provides support to the column, thus preventing it from splits when drilling in. Remove the clamps once the hole is secure.

Wood Clamps

7. Soap Method

Applying soap to drill bits provides extra lubrication, thus preventing the wood fibers from tearing down. Soap, in particular, is best for this purpose because the fibers usually absorb oil.

I have written a full-blown article on avoiding wood splitting while drilling, which you can read for more details.

Do You Need to Pre-Drill or make pilot holes in Cedar Wood?

If you are working on a thick block of cedar wood then NO! but if the block is thin or is merely a sheet then YES!

Due to its soft nature, cedarwood has got the great shock-absorbing capability. When driving in screws without pre-drill, you are essentially pushing out the wood from its path, and in a thicker block of cedar, it can absorb that.

But if you are drilling into a sheet from sideways, it tends to split. To avoid it, we need to pre-drill pilot holes in Cedar Wood. To fit the screw properly, drill the pilot hole a little smaller as cedar is quite soft than oak or acacia wood.

Can Cedar be left Untreated?

Cedar is usually resistant to environmental stress and can be left untreated, but applying a wood polish layer usually increases its life expectancy.

Although cedar has an average life expectancy of 30 years when left untreated. It usually extends to 60 years if proper care is given.

Therefore it is usually recommended to apply a polish layer to Cedar wood when planning for longer use. Furthermore, it would help if you avoided cedar siding to touch the ground directly because it is prone to absorb moisture, reducing its life.

Is Cedar Toxic to Burn?

Cedar wood contains highly flammable oils, thus are ideal for starting a fire. Although burning cedar wood is not toxic to humans, it should be avoided in fireplaces situated inside the houses because of the following reasons:

Red Cedar Wood Smell
  1. Contain Oils that buildup inside the chimney, thus affecting its ventilation.
  2. Cedar wood is notorious for cracking and popping when burning. These sparks may light something on fire inside the house and prove disastrous.
  3. Cedar wood has a unique aroma that stays inside the house for a long, which may not be pleasant for everyone.
  4. Cedar wood-burning generates creosote in high quantities that is carcinogenic. Learn more on National Library of Medicine website.