resources
softwoods

Canada selected softwoods

Douglas-fir Western hemlock Eastern white pine

As mentioned in the introduction, furniturelink selected the species listed on this page primarily for their regional and unusual aeshetic characteristics. As these three softwoods are not a definitive list, furniturelink welcomes your suggestions for additional species.

See also: United States selected softwoods.

Designers and SME producers can also consult furniturelink's softwood science resource and Understanding Wood and Identifying Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley (see right-hand column).

Ecolabelling Issues

furniturelink advocates the use of FSC-certified, recycled wood or timber from well-managed local woodlots (see bottom of wood species page for a few sources). Rare wood species should be used primarily for veneered agriboard panels or other certified boards (MDF, plywood), manufactured with non-toxic adhesives.

(* = opens in new window)


Douglas-fir (coastal) - Pseudotsuga menziesii *

Common names

Coastal Douglas-fir, Douglas pine, Oregon pine.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Interior Douglas-fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, usually found in mixed stands in southern BC and western Alberta; reaches only 44 m (140 ft) in height and cannot provide the same quality of clear lumber as its larger coastal cousin.

Tree

Canada's largest tree reaching heights of 80+ m (250+ ft) and diameters of 200 m (6 ft); 1,000 years lifespan; capital "D" in the name recognizes the pioneering botanist David Douglas, and the hyphen reflects the fact that Douglas-fir is not a true fir of the Abies genus.

Wood

Heartwood varies in colour from pinkish red in second growth timber to orange-brown in old growth; sapwood narrow in old growth timber and up to 8 cm (3 inches) in second growth; weight and strength varies considerably.

Density (12% mc)

540 kg/cubic metre (34 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           50.01 MPa
Resistance to splitting      3.06 MPa
Static bending strength     88.60 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Seasons easily and rapidly with little tendency to check; good dimensional stability; machines reasonably well; good turning properties.

Identification features: hand lens

Resinous odour; uneven "grain" caused by soft earlywood tissue and harder latewood tissue; resin canals (often in tangential groups) distinct with hand lens; rays of two widths.

Traditional uses

Plywood, veneer, general millwork, construction timbers.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs that exploit quarter-sawn Douglas-fir's harder wearing surface and visual appearance; densified Douglas-fir veneer RTA panel furniture.


Western hemlock - Tsuga heterophylla *

Common names

Pacific hemlock, West Coast hemlock.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

Mountain hemlock - Tsuga mertensiana, found mainly in coastal BC; about the same density as western hemlock but lower in bending strength and stiffness. Eastern hemlock - Tsuga canadensis, not recommended for furniture.

Tree

Large, graceful tree with stem often clear for 3/4 of its length; grows up to 50 m (160 ft) in height and 120 cm (4 ft) in diameter.

Wood

Light beige with pinkish to reddish brown tinges; little difference in colour between sapwood and heartwood; straight- and even-grained with medium-to-fine texture.

Density (12% mc)

480 kg/cubic metre (30 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           46.70 MPa
Resistance to splitting      2.93 MPa
Static bending strength     81.10 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Requires careful seasoning to avoid surface checking and ensure uniform drying in thick stock; machines easily with hand and power tools; must be pre-bored for nailing near end of boards.

Identification features: hand lens

Earlywood to latewood transition gradual; no resin canals; frequently has narrow, dark streaks parallel to the grain as result of bark maggots.

Traditional uses

Furniture, veneer, millwork, wood turnings, broom handles, pallets, ladder rails.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs that exploit quarter-sawn Hemlock's harder wearing surface, visual appearance, light weight; upholstery frames; shelving with neutral-shade translucent stains.


Eastern white pine - Pinus strobus*

Common names

Cork pine, white pine, majestic pine, yellow pine, Weymouth pine.

Related "commercial" species (with similar properties)

All species of pines (genus Pinus), including western white pine - Pinus monticola, lodgepole pine - Pinus contorta and ponderosa pine - Pinus ponderosa.

Tree

Straight stem with little taper, free of branches for much of length if grown in close stands; grows up to 40 m (130 ft) in height and 150 cm (5 ft) in diameter; grows very short on very dry open sites.

Wood

Heartwood creamy-white to light brown, often with a reddish tint; uniform texture and straight grained; pleasant pine odour.

Density (12% mc)

420 kg/cubic metre (26 lb/cubic foot)

Strength (12% mc)

Crushing strength           36.20 MPa
Resistance to splitting      2.63 MPa
Static bending strength     65.00 MPa

* (Source of data and explanation of tests.)

* (Mechanical properties of Canada and United States species.)

* (Chart of strength and density for furniture species.)

* (Interactive species location map.)

Processing

Seasons easily with little shrinkage; very good stability in use.

Identification features: hand lens

Earlywood forms majority of growth ring with gradual transition to a narrow band of latewood; resin canals abundant and medium-sized; rays of two sizes visible with hand lens; rays containing resin canals often visible with naked eye.

Traditional uses

Furniture, foundry pattern stock, millwork, toys.

Potential "value-created" uses

Furniture designs incorporating CNC lathe components; upholstery frames; edge-laminated solid-panel storage systems; thermo-treated patio furniture.

more resources

find books

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

Moisture Meters

(in association with Amazon)

(in association with Amazon)

Softwood species data

© furniturelink 2014 (text and images)