November 29, 2022
One wood that gets frequently used in many woodworking projects is Douglas Fir. It is one of North America’s most common timber trees and gets often used for lumber, flooring, plywood, and other woodworking projects. If you’re new to Douglas Fir wood in woodworking industry, reading through this article will give you an inside look into the properties and characteristics of this wood.
What is Douglas Fir?
If you’re an outsider into the world of woodworking, you might be asking whether Douglas Fir is a hardwood or softwood. Well, the answer is: It is a softwood.” It has a 710 lbf (pound-force) or 3,158 N. This rating is relatively lower than many wood types. Moreover, this wood comes from the Douglas Fir coniferous tree. Of course, all softwoods come from coniferous trees and don’t lose their leaves during fall.
Douglas Fir has the scientific name Pseudotsuga menziesii, an evergreen conifer of the Pinaceae pine family. This tree is native to the western region of North America and gets commonly referred to as Douglas Spruce, Douglas Fir, Columbian Pine, or Oregon Pine.
Doughlas Fir has three main varieties: Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir (P. menziesii var. glauca), Coast Douglas Fir (Menziesii var. menziesii), and Mexican Douglas Fir (P. menziesii var. Lindleyana). Pseudotsuga signifies “false hemlock.” Of course, Douglas Fir is not hemlock. It is also not a natural fir, spruce, or pine.
Natural Characteristics, Properties & Colors of Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir’s heartwood is characterized by yellow to deep reddish-brown hues. Its sapwood, however, has paler color. It generally has a straight grain with a distinctive difference in shade between old and newer wood. So, you’ll see unique figures on the surfaces of back-sawn wood. Besides, its texture is uneven and coarse.
The bark of young Douglas Fir features a grey-brown and smooth texture with blisters filled with gummy resin. As it ages, its back becomes quite thick, characterized by deep grooves with ridges that have a dark reddish-brown hue.
Its sapwood is light and narrow. The texture of this wood ranges from medium to straight grain. Furthermore, it is nonporous.
Douglas Fir features remarkable strength properties. You can also work this wood with ease. Besides, it is easy to machine. It also dries quickly and exhibits less dimensional movements. You can turn this wood, plane it quickly, and shape it well.
Douglas Fir is also easy to smooth and sand. Plus, it is pretty easy to glue and moderately easy to nail and screw with solid holding ability. It also accepts stains and other finishes well.
Is Douglas Fir Hard?
As mentioned above, Douglas Fir is a softwood. As a softwood, it doesn’t exhibit remarkable hardness compared to hardwoods. Its Janka Hardness rating is 710 lbf which is lower than many wood types. Yet, despite being a softwood, it exhibits a higher hardness level than Chestnut and other angiosperm woods.
It is also harder than Balsa which is a hardwood. Besides, it shows good durability. For this reason, in some instances, Douglas Fir becomes an alternative to a few hardwoods.
Douglas Fir gets used for structural beams because of its dimensional stability. It doesn’t have vessels found in hardwoods; thus, this wood is considered nonporous. Besides, it is very much available and quite popular as a wood due to its strength and versatility.
It is resistant to abrasion. For this reason, it gets used in areas where wear is a significant factor. It also gets used in trestles, wharves, bridge parts, commercial buildings, and log homes.
Different Applications & Uses of Douglas Fir
After having known the succinct characteristics of Douglas Fir wood, it will also help if you are cognizant of the different applications and uses of this wood. This way, you can decide whether this wood is the right one for your woodworking projects:
Construction and Building Purposes
Douglas Fir wood can be used for construction and building applications. An excellent strength-to-weight ratio characterizes it. Besides, it comes in various large dimensions. It is a general-purpose wood that you can use as beams and plywood.
You can use it for house roofs and siding. It is also primarily used as glue-laminated beams. Since it is naturally durable, you don’t need to increase its durability. Besides, it is easy to work using your cutting machines.
Boat Making and Bridge Parts
One sterling characteristic of the Douglas Fir is its high water resistance. Thus, it often gets used for making bridge parts and boats.
General Millworks and Furniture Making
As a general-purpose wood, Douglas Fir gets used for various products, including furniture, general millwork, veneer, cabinets, vats, boat, and ship construction. It also gets used for marine pilings, transmission poles, and structural purposes, including roof trusses and laminated arches.
Since Douglas Fir provides a strong base for nails and screws, it helps and gets used in construction. It also gets used for door frames, windows, tables, and Almira.
Since Douglas Fir doesn’t carry harmful chemicals, this wood often gets used for making kitchen platforms and cutting boards.
Douglas Fir is an excellent wood characterized by durability and longevity. Thus, it is perfect for flooring, and you can expect your flooring to last for centuries.
Since this wood provides a rich and polished look when sanded and polish, it is perfect for making indoor artifacts. It is also ideal for wooden wall designs. Besides, it holds polish, glue, and paint well.
Manufacturers of aircraft use Douglas Fir for making aircraft because of its dimensional stability. It doesn’t get affected quickly by the vicissitudes of the weather and environmental elements. It holds its shape and doesn’t expand or shrink, making it a perfect material for aircraft manufacturing.
You can use small Douglas Fir wood pieces for millwork. You can use this wood to make chair rails, crown molding, appliques, bun feet, wood ceiling medallions, and many more.
Advantages of Utilizing Douglas Fir Wood for Woodworking
After reading about the different potential uses of Douglas Fir, you might be raring to use this wood for some of your projects. Nevertheless, it will also help to know the upsides of using this wood:
Even if its name is Douglas Fir, it belongs to the Hemlock family. So, when dried correctly, Douglas Fir provides excellently stable lumber that doesn’t twist and check quickly, a typical trait of those wood belonging to the Hemlock family. Thus, this wood gets often used in moisture and heat spots. Besides, it can retain its stability and smooth texture over time.
You can further enhance its properties by kiln-drying. Plus, when milling it, you should use sharp tools to avoid tearing out and splintering.
Douglas Fir—despite belonging to the Hemlock family—features a remarkable appearance. It has a straight grain and an orange hue with reddish brown and creamy yellow shades. Thus, it has a rustic and modern appearance which is good to behold.
Douglas Fir tree is quite tall and is always in demand for construction and builders who require longboards for exposed beams and building frames. It is also ideal for exterior siding, flooring, and interior paneling, available in large and lengthy sizes.
Disadvantages of Using Douglas Fir Wood for Woodworking
If you intend to use Douglas Fir wood, it is not enough to know the advantages of its use. It will be best to know the following downsides of its use likewise:
Douglas Fir wood is softwood. Hence, you can’t expect it to be as hard as your favorite hardwoods. Softwood is more susceptible to damage and dents, so you must take extra care when milling, transporting, and handling this wood.
Although a softwood, Douglas Fir wood is still expensive compared to other softwoods. So, expect to shell out more money when buying this wood.
Douglas Fir wood is a softwood, so you will need to exert more effort to maintain it. You can apply an excellent finish to this wood to ensure it gets adequately protected from sunlight and rain. Besides, it will help to do this regularly.
Most Common Questions on Using Douglas Fir Wood
After knowing the pros and cons of using Douglas Fir wood, it will also help if you are familiar with the following FAQs about Douglas Fir wood, for these might also be the questions playing on in your mind:
What Are the Differences Between Coastal and Interior Douglas Fir?
You will find Douglas fir trees that grow along the coastal areas of North America. These trees are more extensive than those Douglas Fir trees growing in the continent’s interior. Besides, the timber derived from coastal Douglas Fir trees sports a more uniform texture and a lighter color than timber derived from interior Douglas Fir trees.
Moreover, coastal Douglas Fir wood is more permeable to preservative treatments. Nevertheless, the properties of these two Douglas Fir trees are almost the same except for the differences mentioned above.
Is Douglas Fir Comparable to Oak?
There is a vast difference in the Janka Hardness ratings of Oak and Douglas Fir. Douglas Fir, for example, has a Janka Hardness rating of 620 lbf, Red Oak has 1,220 lbf, and White Oak has 1,350 lbf. So, both types of Oak are harder than Douglas Fir.
When it comes to hardness, Oak rules it over Douglas Fir. Besides, Oak has a higher density than Douglas Fir; thus, it is less susceptible to shrinkage. Yet, it is inaccurate to maintain that Douglas Fir is less strong than Oak.
Douglas Fir is undoubtedly an excellent wood for various applications. And after reading about the advantages and applications of this wood, you will most likely opt for this wood. It is a robust softwood variety that is perfect for interior and exterior applications.
Of course, it may not be the best wood out there, but you will get excellent results from this wood. But if you’re a beginner in woodworking and trying to figure out whether Douglas Fir is the wood for your initial woodworking projects, you should not think twice about opting for this wood.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.