Wood of the Week – Douglas Fir

What is Douglas Fir?

Douglas fir is an evergreen conifer species that is native to western North America and can be found from the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and Washington’s coast.

Despite its name, Douglas Fir is not actually a true fir, but rather belongs to its own genus: Pseudotsuga. It is actually named after the Scottish botanist who first described the tree species in the 1790’s. It is the biggest timber producing species in the United States and has earned its place as one of the most important timber species in the world. 

These trees are massive and can grow up to 330 feet tall and are one of the hardest and heaviest softwoods on the continent. On old growth trees, the bark of Douglas Fir can be up to 12” thick. 

Its heartwood can be a pinkish-yellow to an orange-red color while its starkly contrasting sapwood is nearly pure white. The distinct growth rings of Doug Fir create a very abrupt color change within the sapwood. It has a coarse texture with a moderate natural luster. 

douglas fir tree bark

Generally, Doug Fir has a straight to wavy grain texture and when it is quarter sawn you can see its straight, rather plain grain. However, flat sawn Doug Fir grain can get pretty wild. Plentiful in North America, Doug Fir is listed as a species of least concern and is readily accessible to woodworkers.

Why Choose Douglas Fir?

Doug Fir is very stiff and stable and is very decay resistant; few other wood species will remain as stable and straight as old growth Douglas Fir. The trees grow very large, so finding larger size boards isn’t much of a problem. 

Its appearance is desired in cabinetry and furniture with flat sawn material being very aesthetically pleasing. Its appearance and workable properties make it an excellent choice for window casings, custom doors, moulding, and flooring.

Douglas Fir is typically inexpensive as construction lumber, usually running about $1.00 per linear foot, however woodworking material that is usually sawed and graded for superior finish easily triples in price.

Using Douglas Fir in Woodworking

Doug Fir’s coarse grain texture is not easily worked by hand and has poor to moderate workability with power tools and machines. Blades and cutters must be sharp when machining!  Though it can be difficult to work, it takes nails and screws well and readily accepts all types of adhesives. Doug fir has fewer resins in it than other softwoods so it takes paint and finish very well.

a closeup of wood grain on finished douglas fir

Stain, on the other hand, can turn out uneven in color due to the light and dark variations between the growth rings. Doug Fir is available in vast quantities both in dimensional lumber and veneers for plywood which helps keep cost down. In woodworking, Douglas Fir often becomes tables or other residential furniture due to its durability and looks.

Like the look? Contact us to get started on a custom woodworking project of your own using Douglas Fir.