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Thread: How can you tell the difference between Douglas fir and Hemlock?

  1. #1
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    Default How can you tell the difference between Douglas fir and Hemlock?

    How can you tell the difference between Douglas fir and Hemlock?
    The reason I'm asking I have been told that Hemlock is more prone to Rot than Douglas Fir.

  2. #2
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    Doug Fir has pronounced growth rings. When freshly cut, the heartwood is white but the darker latewood of the growth rings are still well pronounced:



    Within a few days the heartwood oxidizes to an orange-pink color, and largely remains that color unless exposed to the sun, and the sapwood remains white:



    Sunlight further oxidizes the pink heartwood to a brown-grey:



    Western Hemlock, OTOH, is sold grouped with fir species unrelated to Doug Fir and sold as "HemFir" or "Spruce-Pine-Fir". The wood is white oxidizing to light tan in color throughout and the growth rings aren't pronounced like in DF:

    http://www.wwpa.org/hemfir.htm





    HemFir has no rot resistance while DF heartwood has moderate resistance. Graded wood sold in lumberyards is well marked as to whether "DF", "HF", or "SPF" (spruce-pine-fir) on both US and Canadian grade stamps.

    You don't want HemFir or SPF anywhere in your boat.
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 01-13-2007 at 11:41 PM.

  3. #3
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    The grain on Fir is wider , Hemlock grain is finer looking . Hemlock is generally lighter in weight.

    VG Fir door the style (side) shows the VG end and face grain, the rail (cross piece of door) shows the mixed grain of D. Fir.



    Hemlock grain would be finer/ tighter looking in both the mixed and vertical grains. Fir might be a little harder but not a whole lot, at least until it was 20 years old then older Fir tends to get pretty hard , as in hard to nail into / tougher.



    The piece of crown molding is mixed grain Hemlock . It's more loopie , the grain , the about 1 1/2" piece above that's not primed is also Hemlock.

    All the rafters , 2 x 12's are D. Fir the 2 x6 temp brace is Spruce which is very close / closer / to "looking" like Hemlock at least for as far as this photo goes I don't have a good photo of Hemlock, but the color and texture of that Spruce 2x6 would be similar to a Hemlock one in comparison to the Fir 2 x12's , if that makes sense

    Edited to add Damn Colonel your fast
    Last edited by Paul Girouard; 01-13-2007 at 11:41 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Girouard
    ... if that makes sense
    Given how cheap DF is locally, using hemlock for rafters or sills makes little more sense than using it in a boat. But folks who don't know or don't care certainly do.

    When evaluating DF timbers for reclaimation in old, open barns and warehouses built before 1950, I don't bother to clean off anything. I merely hit sample boards and beams with either a 2lb or 6lb hammer. If they break, they are hemlock. If they ring true, they are DF. Hemlock doesn't even have to get wet from rainfall to eventually rot in this climate.

  5. #5
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    Here's a shot of about 30 year old common Fir that use to come out of local lumber yards , the wider plank, a 2 x10 IIRC and a chunk of 2006 2x6 lumber yard / const. grade #2 and better Fir







    Any guess on which is better
    Last edited by Paul Girouard; 01-13-2007 at 11:55 PM.

  6. #6
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    ...but the color and texture of that Spruce 2x6 would be similar to a Hemlock one...
    PS. That's not a 2X6. Look at those knots. That's a 2X4 if I were grading it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Smalser
    PS. That's not a 2X6. Look at those knots. That's a 2X4 if I were grading it.
    Hell ,it's darn near fire wood , but they still charge it out as a 2x6

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys for the info you have enlighted me,I live on the bald ass prairies (the only place in the world you can see your dog run away for three days )When i get lumber from the local lumber yard I order Douglas Fir and pay for Douglas Fir ..... but I'm sure its Hemlock
    I will know better next time

  9. #9
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    Here's some Hemlock I had in the shop.






    Same plank , two views hope it shows the grain difference .

  10. #10
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    I didn't get to answer this one quick enough. Watch out for the a Larch in your Doug-Fir. The Larch is better. Doug-Fir isn't a Fir. Your true Firs (Silver, Grand, Noble)will be thrown in with your Hemlock and are worse than the Hemlock. Your grade stamps will say DFir/Larch and Hem/Fir. Don't get confused by the Fir listed with the Hem. It's not Douglas Fir. Derek

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