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  • What Makes Douglas Fir the Perfect Holiday Tree?

    Posted on December 11, 2012 by Jennifer

    If you’re one of the 30 million Americans who will adorn their home with a real tree for the holiday season this year, then you’re probably familiar with the tree-choosing ritual: you circle the selections, you debate about the choices, and then you stand in the cold and ponder whether the tree will actually look good in your living room and survive until the last strands of tinsel and lights have been cleared away.

    Here’s a tip to make your tree-selection process easier this year: choose a Douglas fir. They’re full and attractive, they’ll keep their needles for a month or more, and they smell like you’ve died and gone to Winter Wonderland Heaven.

    Douglas fir is one of the top varieties of Christmas tree grown in the United States. Ever since the 1920s, when Christmas tree farming was in its infancy, they’ve been the major species used in the nation’s largest tree-producing region, the Pacific Northwest. Douglas fir makes up about 47 percent of the crop in Oregon and Washington and is popular world-wide, shipping each year to places as far away as the Philippines, China, and Guam.

    Why are Douglas fir trees so popular for holiday celebrations?

    Holiday beauty: The major factor is their attractiveness. People want a tree that will display their family heirlooms with style, and Douglas fir is known for its full, bushy boughs that provide a gorgeous backdrop for decorating, with no wide gaps or ugly holes to fill in. Its densely-packed branches point upward, which makes it easier to hang ornaments without the fear of them crashing to the ground. Most commercially grown Douglas fir trees are carefully trimmed into a perfect conical shape, excellent for draping with lights and other holiday cheer.

    The needles on a Douglas fir radiate in all directions from the branch and have a rich, green color that is the same from the bottom to the top of the needle. The needles tend to be 1 to 1.5 inches long, and they’re soft and flexible to the touch—an excellent quality if curious little ones with wandering fingers will be at your house for the holidays.

    Long-lasting display: The part of decorating with a real tree that everyone dreads is cleaning up after all those needles that drop off. However, if you pick a Douglas fir and water it carefully, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise in the needle department. Douglas fir Christmas trees are known for having good needle retention and will last for a month or more after being cut.

    Fresh fragrance: The other benefit to decorating with a real Douglas fir tree—the factor that a plastic tree just can’t provide—is that delicious “fresh-tree” smell. Tree growers describe the scent of Douglas fir as “sweet,” “wonderful,” “pine-like,” and “distinctive,” and note that the aroma of a Douglas fir will linger in your home throughout the holiday season.

    A high achiever: Christmas tree growers favor the Douglas fir because it’s native to the Northwest and thus grows extremely well in forests of this fertile region; a Douglas Fir can reach prime holiday-tree height (about seven feet tall is the most popular height for cut trees) by the time it is six or seven years old. That’s several years faster than other evergreen species.

    In fact, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest real Christmas tree ever displayed was a Douglas fir: a 221-foot giant that decorated a Seattle shopping center in 1950.

    The tree-lover’s choice: If Douglas fir’s attractiveness, durability, fragrance, and popularity aren’t enough to convince you, then take a cue from the people of Oregon, where folks take their trees very seriously. More than 6.4 million holiday trees are harvested in Oregon each year, and holiday tree sales are worth more than $110 million to the state’s economy annually. Even Oregon’s major-league soccer team is named the Timbers, with a real chainsaw-wielding lumberjack known as Timber Joey as its mascot.

    The center of the state’s holiday spirit can be found in Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately known as “Portland’s living room.” Each year it takes a crane to get the city’s massive holiday tree in place. Workers then spend weeks decorating it with up to 14,000 lights, until community members gather the day after Thanksgiving for a community sing-a-long and tree-lighting ceremony. It’s a spectacular tradition, beloved by people throughout the state. The center of all this hoopla? You guessed it—a towering 75-foot Douglas fir.

    So follow in the footsteps of tree-loving Oregonians—and millions of other Douglas fir-fans worldwide—and choose a beautiful, long-lasting, aromatic Douglas fir for your holiday tree.



    This post was posted in All Entries and was tagged with Douglas-fir, christmas tree, holiday tree, the perfect holiday tree, the perfect christmas tree

  • Douglas Fir Grades: C & Better

    Posted on April 11, 2012 by Nicole

    Douglas fir C & Better grade

    C & Better grade is the best Douglas fir grade available. But Doug fir buyers and browsers take note: C & Better grade can be many things to many people. So, here’s the lowdown on Douglas fir C & Better grade or C & BTR for short.

    Wait… what’s a ‘grade’ again?

    You may already be in-the-know about how the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) sets the standards for and accredits wood grading systems in the US. You may also know that these standards are carried out by lumber agencies that inspect and grademark different wood species, creating a matrix of standards and grades and finishes that can confuse the heck out of people who just want good quality, good-looking wood.

    Clear Vertical Grain Doug Fir

    What does Douglas fir C & Better grade mean?

    Douglas fir with a C & Better grade has no visible wood-knots and has an even-complexion. Clear vertical grain (CVG) Douglas fir carries a C & Better grade because it is cut to accentuate the light and dark straight grain pattern of the wood fiber. In addition to wood grain clarity, C & Better Douglas fir is less likely to change (warp) – a straight grain stays straight even when its environment doesn’t. So, C & Better grade is your best bet when durability and appearance are important.

    Is Douglas fir C & Better grade the same everywhere?

    No, it’s not. Although the ALSC accredits wood-grading systems for lumber agencies, there is room for interpretation when it comes down to different lumber agencies writing their own set of rules (based on ALSC criteria) and inspecting their own stock of lumber.

    For example, the Western Wood Products Association is just one lumber agency in the US specializing in softwood lumber on the West Coast. The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association or NELMA writes rules for wood-grading systems for softwoods on the East Coast. Essentially, wood-grading systems vary from coast to coast.

    But did you know that there is further variation with how wood can be sold? When it comes to Douglas fir wood grades, there are structural grades and appearance grades and within these two end-use categories, there are further delineations. For instance, Douglas fir appearance grades can be called Select, Finish, Common, and Alternate.

    So why isn’t Douglas fir C & Better grade the same everywhere?

    According to the WWPA, “color, grain pattern, texture, knot type and size are the factors that influence the grade. For this reason Douglas fir [is] marketed as a distinct species to allow for a larger range of visual choices.” So with the wide range of visual choices comes a wide range of visual appearances.

    There’s Douglas fir C & Better grade with a loose-looking grain or standard grain. There’s Douglas fir C & Better grade with a tighter grain or CVG grain. And then there’s Douglas fir C & Better grade with grain patterns somewhere in between.

    All in all, Douglas fir C & Better grade is more than skin…er, wood-deep. It’s a ‘grade’ that accounts for both durability and appearance.

    - Nicole Morales



    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir trim, douglas fir paneling, Doug Fir flooring, Vertical Grain Douglas Fir, Doug Fir paneling, Doug Fir trim, c and better

  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir: Remaking vintage timbers

    Posted on February 23, 2012 by Jennifer

    The process of recycling Douglas fir beams sounds so simple. It’s just an old piece of wood, right? Find an unused structure, dismantle it, put the timbers into a new structure. Piece of cake.

    Wrong. A great deal of work goes into making sure each individual beam is prepped and ready to take on its new life in your building project.

    Reclaimed Douglas Fir beams

    Each reclaimed beam must be examined by experienced woodworkers who can determine what kind of shape it’s in. A beam with a great deal of splitting or warping due to its years of exposure might be perfect for a weathered-looking mantelpiece, but it won't work for any use where it actually has to support a structure.

    Once a beam’s structural characteristics have been considered, you can move onto other preparation work. Do you want a beam in as-is condition, with its original surface completely intact? Or is a smoother surface what you want?

    Some very old timbers are hand-hewn--they still show the marks from where a long-ago craftsman squared off the logs with hand tools.

    Other Douglas fir beams might have a circle-sawn finish. This lends a textured look and feel, with marks from the circle saw used to mill the wood still visible. The saw marks lend a subtle striped appearance to the beam, perfect for a rustic look.

    A band-sawn beam will be cut along its length, removing the original face and revealing the wood underneath. It will have a relatively fresh-sawn look, which precedes any planing or sanding.

    If you want your beam to be sawn or re-shaped in any way, professionals will use metal detectors to make sure any nails or bolts that might be hidden within the beam have been removed; for a beam that doesn’t need re-sawing, simply removing any visible metal from the wood might be sufficient.

    Making sure the wood is clean is another important step. A beam that’s been living in a dusty barn or a grimy factory for 100 years is going to have a hundred years of dust and grime on it. You want that cleaned before you bring it into your home. Professionals use power washing, which is more powerful than the pressure washer you might get at your local home store for cleaning off your driveway. This is a commercial cleaning machine that will remove all dirt, debris, pollen and mold from the beam.

    Another important part of preparing reclaimed Douglas fir involves removing any stowaways that might have found a home inside your beam: beetles, ants, or other little creatures that you definitely don’t want to invite home with you. Professionals can apply a borate solution to the beam, which kills any insects within it. A chemical-free option is kiln-drying; heating up the beam will also kill any unfortunate critters and their eggs. Kiln-drying also reduces the moisture content of the wood and increases its stability.

    Once your beam is insect-free, there are still a few more things to consider. How do you want your Douglas fir beam to look? What color do you want to see? For instance, if the beam has been re-sawn or re-surfaced, some of the original patina it acquired during its previous life is lost. There are tricks to making sure your aged beam looks really aged. Ammonia fuming, for example, involves exposing the wood to ammonia, which reacts with the tannins in the wood, darkening it in the process. You can also brush it with a wire brush or other tool to bring back some of that distressed, aged, appearance.

    Finally, once each Douglas fir beam has been inspected, de-nailed, sawn to your specifications, cleaned, and de-bugged, it’s ready for sale. That’s a lot of work for something that’s just an old piece of wood.

    - Jennifer Rouse



    This post was posted in All Entries, History and Interest and was tagged with reclaimed douglas fir, recycled beams, reclaimed beams

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