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Hemlock Fir vs. Douglas Fir

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Forum topic by ColdAudio posted 09-25-2011 11:30 PM 10827 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ColdAudio

16 posts in 1149 days


09-25-2011 11:30 PM

My local Lowe’s (I know I should stay away but it’s literally across the street!) has a section of 2×4 of Kiln-Dried “Hemlock Fir”.... however the suppliers stamp on all of the 2×4s reads KD-HD D. Fir

I’m assuming the actual stamp on the wood is what I should be going by? Would they stamp Hemlock as D. Fir?

I’m new to all of this… are there any visual differences between the two?


28 replies so far

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1060 posts in 1792 days


#1 posted 09-26-2011 06:48 PM

I am surprised to be the first to respond to this. Douglas Fir is not a Fir tree.. nor is there a such thing as Hemlock Fir.. these are marketing names,.. which always confuses us woodworkers. your Hemlock Fir is most likely not Hemlock, but could be one of more than 10 different species of conifers (hemlock, fir, or spruce … or even Douglas Fir)

Real Hemlock trees of the Tsuga genus has only 4 species in North America.. most popular is the “Western Hemlock” ... most of the other species are being decimated by an insect (the hemlock woolly adelgid … from Asia of course) and climate changes has greatly reduces these species… most stock you can get comes from Eastern Canada, but mostly gets turned into plywood.

The Douglas Fir is a more defined species, but is still not a real Fir tree. All Fir trees are of the Abies genus. Douglas Fir is of the Psudotsuga genus (notice “kinda Hemlock” not “kinda Fir”) It is the second tallest tree in North America and grows along the eastern coast and comprises of most of the Fir lumber in the US. In fact Douglar Fir shares a common habitat with Western Hemlock and are often harvested together. Real Fir trees are very soft and almost unusable to us woodworkers.. being mostly turned into pulp for paper goods and plastics.

Beyond this… I can tell you that Hemlock hold more water moisture and more prone to cracking when dry… and Douglas Fir holds more resin near the pith and roots and is typically heavier than Hemlock. So this is what I got… any corrections or additions are welcome.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 1735 days


#2 posted 09-26-2011 07:49 PM

It may be douglas fir, but the stamp isn’t a guarantee. FWIW, there was a time when hemlock “fir” wasn’t acceptable around here for structural applications.

I’ve found that hemlock is pretty soft relative to doug fir.

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14798 posts in 2343 days


#3 posted 09-26-2011 08:02 PM

They grow like weeds here in western WA; Doug Fir and Western Hemlock, that is. The mills do not sort, they all get cut together.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2315 days


#4 posted 09-26-2011 08:36 PM

Thats also why you’ll see on the 2×4s ”SPF” which references it can be either Spruce, Pine, or Fir as they are all milled and packed together.

As for hemlock-fir or douglas-fir they might be marking it the same for pricing purposes (the store may not recognize the difference and is selling it as FIR construction lumber) but there is a significant difference in the material.

I have not seen any 2x Douglas FIR at the borgs here in MA, the only douglas-fir is the 4×4 posts. anything 2x is usually hemlock-fir or SPF

Hemlock-fir is lighter in color and lighter in weight than douglas-fir.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Nomad62's profile

Nomad62

716 posts in 1625 days


#5 posted 09-27-2011 12:07 AM

Douglas Fir tends to grow less “limby” than Hemlock, making it a little more valuable as logs. As far as my experience goes, if you get reasonably clean wood (knots or other defects) then it will make little to no difference in your project. I’ve cut up many trees of each and can tell no real difference in looks.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3469 posts in 2627 days


#6 posted 09-27-2011 12:14 AM

Don’t drink the hemlock tea. Look it up from an historic point.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

3809 posts in 2330 days


#7 posted 09-27-2011 12:27 AM

Sometime ago, a friend of mine who works at Menards tipped me off that the 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 they stock is SPF, but the 2×10 and 2×12 stock is kiln-dried Douglas Fir. I don’t know if this is true of all Menards locations, but it is here.

My workbench and some other shop furniture was built from 2×12 Douglas Fir stock, and has held up really well.

—Gerry

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View pariswoodworking's profile

pariswoodworking

380 posts in 1152 days


#8 posted 09-27-2011 12:46 AM

Don’t drink the hemlock tea. Look it up from an historic point.
Bill

How about sassafras tea? :)

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14798 posts in 2343 days


#9 posted 09-27-2011 01:22 AM

Is Fir superior in strength to hemlock?

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1060 posts in 1792 days


#10 posted 09-27-2011 03:06 AM

@ Paris ~ Sassafras oil is extracted from the root bark for use by the perfume industry, primarily for scenting soaps. It is also used as a flavoring agent and an antiseptic. Large doses of the oil may be narcotic. Root bark is also used to make tea, which in weak infusions is a pleasant beverage, but induces sweating in strong infusions. The leaves can be used to flavor and thicken soups. The mucilaginous pith of the root is used in preparations to soothe eye irritations. Did i say love researching trees? lol

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1060 posts in 1792 days


#11 posted 09-27-2011 03:12 AM

@ Bill … Socrates was put to death with poison hemlock.. (Conium maculatum) not even related to Hemlock wood.. but funny connection.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2973 posts in 1154 days


#12 posted 09-27-2011 03:28 AM

Interesting. Up until about a year ago I had always thought that Douglas fir only grew on the west coast from Northern California to Mid British Columbia. I spent my childhood, or a small part of it, cutting down old growth Douglas fir. Actually, I spent more of my time setting chokers and limbing and fixing stuff than cutting… The old guys were the ones that usually got to do the felling.
If it only grows on the East coast, what was I cutting?

I also have seen the SPF designation, but I’ve never seen them mixed together in a bundle. Saw mills pick up a load of logs from the pond or the stack, bring them to the wash, it then goes to the slab saws and from there gets dimensioned. There are some steps in between, but basically, when a log truck comes in it’s unloaded and stacked species by species. They don’t mix species at the landing, (where the logs are loaded onto the truck), or in the deck, or on the log yard.

When in doubt, burn a bit of the sawdust… Fir, Pine and Spruce all smell different. Pine, especially SYP is extremely white, and if it comes from a tree farm, will twist, warp and move within hours of making your cut. Lodge Pole usually has a grey cast to the outer layers. Even live cut Lodge Poe will have that after a short time. (There are also different types of SYP, LF and SF and I have no idea of what makes them different).
Spruce has a cedar like smell, not really strong, but noticeable.
Fir, whether it’s Douglas or any other type has a reddish hue to it. If it’s Douglas fir, it won’t have many pockets of pitch, but where there are pockets, they will be large and messy.

these are just my observations. I’m probably wrong on some of this, and I’m sure someone will pitch in with real knowledge.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

3809 posts in 2330 days


#13 posted 09-27-2011 04:18 AM

Topa—Douglas Fir is one of the strongest construction grade lumbers available.

—Gerry

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View ColdAudio's profile

ColdAudio

16 posts in 1149 days


#14 posted 09-27-2011 04:33 AM

Wow, this turned out to be a great topic! I can’t thank you guys enough for all of the great replies. I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me….

Here’s another question…. would a non-BORG lumber supplier prove more truthful with what is advertised? There’s a place nearby that offers “Kiln Dried Douglas Fir” as the only 2x they offer…. or do the same rules apply where it’s all milled together and shipped together?

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14798 posts in 2343 days


#15 posted 09-27-2011 05:10 AM

I knew doug fir wes top line, but thought hemlock was close. Maybe not? How much difference?

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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