Hemlock Western Softwood

Hemlock Western

Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), also known as Alaska Pine, is a softwood species native to North America. The sapwood of Western Hemlock is usually 75-125mm thick and difficult to distinguish from the heartwood, which is typically creamy-brown to pale yellowish-brown. The latewood areas of Western Hemlock are darker in color and often display a pinkish, purplish, or red-brown hue, resulting in a well-defined growth-ring pattern on plain sawn surfaces. Dark streaks, caused by maggot infestations, are often present. The grain of Western Hemlock is usually straight and even, with a medium to fine texture. Western Hemlock is sometimes confused with Amabilis Fir (Abies amabilis), which is very similar. Western Hemlock is a highly versatile timber and is used for a variety of applications, including construction, joinery, and mouldings.

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Also Called:
Pacific Hemlock, Hemlock Spruce, Alaska Pine, British Columbian Hemlock, West Coast Hemlock

Durability Notes:
The Hemlock Western heartwood has little natural resistance to decay and insects, and is moderately challenging to treat with preservatives. The sapwood is permeable. Normally used internally for stair parts.

The drying and seasoning of Hemlock Western is dependant on a number of factors; the speed in which it is processed after felling and logging, the method of drying and the specific kilns or location (if air dried). Generally the care taken by those processing the wood will have an impact on its drying and seasoning. As an overview; Hemlock Western - The wood dries slowly, but seasons well. Shakes, uneven moisture content, iron stains and warping can occur. There can be fine surface checking when it is kiln-dried. There is little movement in service. Please note that all wood is liable to move when in service plus there can be dimensional change. The extent of this will depend on; the stability of the species itself, the conditions it is exposed to, the coating, decoration and protection. You will find more information about the suitability of this wood, for any proposed application, by using our interactive system and the filters shown.

Hemlock has low hardness and stiffness and medium bending and compressive strength. The wood has similar mechanical qualities to Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) but with a straighter, tighter grain. Hemlock works well with both machine and hand tools. Western Hemlock planes, turns, screws, glues, stains and varnishes well. There is little dulling effect on cutting edges. Pre-drilling is advised for nailing near the ends of boards.

Typical Uses:
Construction, Furniture-Making, Cabinetry, Carpentry, Flooring, Decorative Woodwork, Millwork, Crafts, Musical Instruments.

Moisture Content:
Guide - 12-18% for KD

Possible Health Risks:
Bronchial problems, rhinitis, dermatitis, eczema and possibly nasal cancer.

Sustainable and well managed

Commonly asked questions about Western Hemlock Wood

Is Hemlock a hardwood or a softwood? Hemlock is a softwood. It is the same for; is Western Hemlock hardwood or softwood? - Western Hemlock is a softwood.

Most groups/families of species share the same characteristics but this normally relates to their life as plants. Individual species do not always share the same characteristics as their relatives, in terms of the wood. Many factors influence how we use the wood and what we use it for, including where it grows, how it is forested, how it seasons/dries, etc. The answers to the following common questions, therefore relate to this particular species/wood and not the Hemlock family as a whole. Even more specific – our answers relate to the wood (as we know it) in its form as a useable resource.

What colour is Western Hemlock? Western Hemlock can be described as brown, white/cream (very light brown), yellow/brown, orange

Is Western Hemlock good for outdoor use? or is Western Hemlock good for exterior use? Western Hemlock is most suited for internal/interior use. Western Hemlock should not be used as an exterior/external timber (without treatment).

Whether the wood is naturally durable or not we would still recommend that it is decorated and/or coated with a suitable product to provide protection and/or maintain its appearance. This even applies when using the wood internally as, even subtle, changes in temperature or humidity will affect the wood. This will depend on the application/purpose of the wood and the user’s desired appearance. We also recommend that a recoating, care and maintenance programme is adhered to, for the life of an exterior wood. Wood cannot rot if it is kept dry – coatings and decoration can provide this protection. All of that said there are many durable timbers that are often left to weather naturally and will last for many years untreated/coated – movement and visual changes will occur but this is sometimes the desired effect. All wood is hygroscopic (it 'wants' to be in tune with its environment) it will therefore take on water from moisture in the air (or when directly exposed to or submerged in water) and ‘release it’ when dry or exposed to heat. This, inevitably, results in movement and dimensional change. For more about moisture in wood please click here - Moisture in wood

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