red cedar wheelbarrowWorking with Red Cedar is always an exercise in frustration for me. I am allergic to the wood so I have to be extra careful about wood dust and just trying to fasten Red Cedar together or to something else is a whole new world of "what works best".

The object of this build is to make something that will serve mostly as a place in which plants will sit on most of the time. I guess you could really call it a plant stand, BUT, from time to time it will also be used for light duty hauling and of course moving around the plants that are displayed on it.
This means it will be sitting out-of-doors for it's entire life, which should be at least 10 years and could easily be up to 20. That's due to the fact Red Cedar contains resins and oils that helps preserve the wood. Sunlight is the hardest thing on Cedar. It helps to leach out the oils which then makes the wood susceptible to rotting.

The same oils that help to preserve Red Cedar (and other out door woods) is the same oil that makes Cedar impossible to keep paints or stains on, or that that will hold a glue for very long. For someone like me who tries to use glue as much as possible, when it comes to Red Cedar, I have to rethink joinery.

Coming up with a design for the wheelbarrow is fairly easy, although if you browse the Internet you will find an enormous variety of different ways to make and construct wooden wheelbarrows. I went with my own design, which is probably the same as many others, but my purposes was not as a hauler, but more of a plant holder.

After cutting the 2 main handle rails which also support the wheel, the next problem is how do you hold them together. I know a lot of wheelbarrows simply nail or screw the deck wood to these rails. Quick and simple, but the problem with my cedar, it is freshly cut and very high in moisture, which means the boards would shink ... a lot and that means all the boards will likely crack where the screws or nails have been driven through them into the rails. This process will make the whole wheelbarrow much less rigid.

I surmised the best solution was to use cross members to attache the main rails firmly together and the best alternative would be pocket hole joinery. It's quite strong, in most cases should not be a problem with wood shrinkage and splitting. I would have preferred to use dowels and glue, but glue just does not last long term on Cedar. Especially outside. I know you can wipe the surfaces with things like acetone, but that only works for a while because the inside oils still work their way to the surface which releases the glue from sticking.  That's why for these kinds of things pocket hole joinery is probably one of the best choices.

When I trimmed the side rails down I left a small flange along the top of the rails. The purpose for the flange is was to use it as a support for wooden clip I would make that would hold the deck boards on. The reason I used this method is that as the deck boards expand and contract as they expel and absorb moisture, it will help reduce the incidence of cracking.

To help keep the deck boards rigid and stable, I felt the best thing would be to attach them to one another and again, using pocket hole joinery would be easily the best choice for this. I made some little cedar clips with cutoffs from the flange pieces and although I glued these together, I did not expect the glue to last, it's only there to help me position the clips and attach them.

The final challenge was what to do with the front riser boards. Again I knew they would have to be attached without use of glue and the quickest and easiest was simply to use Stainless Steel Screws. These are resistant to corrosion from the oils within the Cedar and resistant to rusting from the weather elements, and with that, the wheelbarrow is done.

I am not going to finish the wood with anything ... for 2 reasons. Mostly I love the look of old weathered cedar when it takes on that silvery, weathered look, but the second reason is for what I talked about earlier ... the cedar doesn't really hold paints of stains well. Yes you can paint and stain them, but before long the paint chips off and stain just seems to melt and wash away ... again, thanks to the preserving oils of cedar that makes it a great out door wood.

Copyright - Colin Knecht