For many years my wife and I had rejected the offensive odor of moth balls and moth flakes, choosing instead to purchase cedar blocks from our local home supply store, and we have been totally satisfied with the results. No odor of moth balls lingering in our clothes and no moth damage. As an added bonus our unpacked clothes had the fresh smell of cedar.
It was a much welcomed change!
Recently while walking down a country lane just outside of town I noticed miles of fences separating pastures of rich green grass from the narrow dirt road. Regardless of location the one thing every fence had in common was an abundant stand of cedar trees, most of which were ‘volunteers; made possible by the droppings of wild birds which frequently perched on the wire fences. These cedars ranged in size from tiny 8 inch seedlings to full grown trees reaching heights of 20-25 feet. The older the pasture and its’ surrounding fence, the larger the trees.
Local farmers welcomed these trees as the larger ones were often cut and used as rot resistant fence posts. One farmer was in the process of harvesting some the larger trees as I walked along the road. I watched as he proceeded to fell the tree and then remove all of its’ limbs using a chain saw. The farmer was, as he said, only interested in the main trunk of the tree as only it could produce sturdy 6-8 inch diameter posts. The remainder of the tree and the trunk which was less than 5 inches in diameter was declared unusable and was put aside for burning.
With the farmer’s permission I rescued three sections of undersized trunk and carried these to my car. These consisted of three individual pieces about four feet in length and ranging between 3 and 5 inches in diameter. With these freshly cut pieces resting over one shoulder I enjoyed the rich (and unique) fresh cedar aroma during the thirty minute walk back to my car.
Once back at home I carried the three pieces into my garage at which time I stored the two longer sections and immediately began to work on the third piece.
My intention was to convert the section of freshly cut trunk into aromatic cedar blocks which we would use in closets and clothes storage trunks to keep our stored clothes smelling fresh, but also to repel moths from infesting and destroying our woolen clothes.
Armed with a fresh supply of newly cut cedar and intent on making my own supply of cedar blocks I planned my work. While we were pleased with the purchased cedar blocks these would often be old, depending on how long they had been on the store shelf…and as a result would on occasion have very weak cedar aroma. The package in which the blocks were sold suggested that the cedar scent could be revived by sanding the block, but in my experience sanding seldom help restore the cedar scent.
There could be no replacement for the appealing scent of freshly cut cedar!
Working with a four foot long section of trunk which was about 4 inches in diameter I clamped the piece into the large vice on my work bench leaving about twelve inches of stock exposed. Using a marking gage I marked off eight sections one and one half inch in width.
As I maintain and use a chain saw it was most convenient for me to cut the exposed portion into eight equal sized circular blocks using the chain saw. However, for those who do not have or are not comfortable using a chain saw these 4 inch diameter logs can easily be cut into sections using a hand saw or a bow saw.
Once the eight pieces are cut I remove the outside bark in order to gain more scent producing surface.
For appearance purposes only (this is not necessary) I use an orbital sander to smooth down the cut edges. This gives the block a more finished appearance, similar to that of the blocks we previously had purchased.
Next, I drilled a 1/8 inch hole 1/2 inch in from the outside of the block (my block is actually circular) and insert a colorful string twelve inches in length. I tie the ends of the string together and will use this loop to hang two cedar blocks on each closet clothes rack.
Additional blocks are placed in clothes storage trunks or plastic containers. Our rule of thumb is one block for each 2 cubic feet of box or trunk storage.
At the end of the summer season as our winter clothes are unpacked the fresh cedar scent still remains. If blocks remain scent producing we save them for reuse the next year. If the cedar scent has been lost we replace them.
In the garage I maintain the remainder of uncut stock. As long as it is uncut these remnant maintain their scent and will produce a new fresh smelling scent as new blocks are cut.
This is a fun and beneficial project. Much like our traditional trip into the country to locate and cut a Christmas tree I make annual trips into the countryside to replenish my supply of fresh cedar.
I enjoy both the search and the making of these useful blocks.
I believe that you will too.