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Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Douglas Fir Finishing Touches

    Posted on February 15, 2012 by Jennifer

    One of the things that we like so much about Douglas Fir is its versatility. It’s the wood version of the little black dress--it’s classy and stylish all by itself, if you like to keep things simple.

    If simple’s not your thing, you can add on special effects to make it fancier, or take it down a notch with rustic styling. Light or dark, glossy or distressed, Douglas Fir wears anything well.
    First let’s talk about the surface of the wood itself. You have some options here. Douglas Fir can be planed and sanded to a completely smooth finish--this is especially popular for applications like joinery and trim. Or, Douglas Fir lumber can be left rough-sawn, with the marks from the saw still discernible.

    Douglas Fir Flooring

    Maybe you’ve chosen reclaimed Douglas Fir. This material in particular often comes with its own set of bumps and scrapes, part of the patina that has developed over time. For some people, those aren’t imperfections--they’re a highly desirable way to let the wood tell the story of its former life as a barn, factory, or gymnasium.

    In fact, some people like the weathered look so much that they want to create it on new boards. To achieve this effect, new Douglas fir is scraped with hand tools or brushed with a wire brush in an effort to create the perfectly-imperfect look and feel of an aged board.

    Now let’s move beyond texture and talk about color. What shade do you want your Douglas Fir to be? Its natural tone is a warm, rosy, golden brown. For many people, that natural beauty is what they want to see. Interviewed in “Veranda” magazine, interior designer John Saladino remarked on the “quietness” of natural Douglas fir. “It acquires a rich hue similar to a cigar box,” Saladino told Veranda.

    To achieve that subtle look, you can simply apply a clear or lightly pigmented finish. If you’re not sure what type to select, read our blog for a complete lowdown on stains and finishes for Douglas fir and other woods.

    Thicker stains and paints are also available if you want to transform the color of your Douglas fir and hide the grain for a formal, elegant look.

    Remember that aging process we talked about for adding texture to wood? You can do that for the wood’s color, too. Douglas fir can be stained with a mixture of silver and brown hues for an aged, weathered look; coated with a semi-solid white stain for what’s called a “pickled” look; or even sand-blasted and bleached, as designer Ron Mann did for this Douglas fir plank chair.

    Or, you could just keep it classic. Like that little black dress, people have been appreciating high-quality Douglas fir for a long time--longer even. Take a look at what lumber magazines were saying about Douglas fir a century ago:

    “At this time fir is used for all purposes of inside finish in buildings of high class and when properly kiln dried is susceptible to stain of various tones, giving the home-builder opportunity to harmonize tone of finish with the furnishings of the room...The special selected clear stock possesses characteristics of grain in the flat sawed stock that cannot be found in any other wood in such variety, the grain possessing curly, mottled, wavy and variegated effects that are very pleasing.”
    --January 1910 issue of the “The Timberman” (emphasis added)

    We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Keep it classy, Douglas fir lovers.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, History and Interest, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with douglas fir finish, douglas fir stain

  • Versatility of Douglas Fir: Use in homes, boats, and planes

    Posted on February 8, 2012 by Jennifer

    Clear vertical grain Douglas Fir.

    The Douglas-fir tree: it makes beautiful flooring, paneling, and other finish lumber. If you’re from the Northwest, you’ve probably stepped into a Craftsman Bungalow or two and admired the decades-old Douglas Fir floors under your feet. You may also know that it’s widely used for construction lumber, plus, it’s also great for...boats?

    That’s right. With its strength, durability, and attractiveness, Douglas fir is not only the choice for flooring and building, it’s also commonly used for furniture, boats and aircraft.

    What makes Douglas-fir such a versatile species? It’s all about the science. The way Douglas fir grows naturally means that this Northwest native also has some characteristics that make it fit for a variety of uses.

    The Douglas-fir tree sheds lower branches as it grows.

    Douglas-fir trees, when you see them growing on the lush mountainsides of the Pacific Northwest, may strike you for their towering expanses of limb-free trunks. Douglas-fir is a shade-intolerant species, which self-prunes its lower limbs. This means fewer knots, and long stretches of straight, consistent fibers. Those fibers also give Douglas-fir a superior strength-to-weight ratio and the highest modulus of elasticity of any North American softwood species.

    In simpler terms, that means it’s tough and durable. It can handle a heavy load without bending or buckling. These are important considerations when you’re building a boat or a home-built aircraft. When you’re taking to the sky or the sea in something made of wood, you better be sure it’s a wood that’s not going to fail on you.

    Let’s also talk about stability. Douglas Fir is known for being very dimensionally stable--that means that when it expands and contracts due to moisture in the environment (as all woods do), it holds its shape better than most species, another important characteristic if you’re building something like a boat or an aircraft, when holding a certain shape is crucial.

    Douglas-fir also has good rot-resistance--important for a craft that will be exposed to the elements.

    Sitka Spruce was traditionally used for both boats and aircraft, but over the years the Sitka Spruce has become increasingly rare and expensive, putting it out of reach for amateur enthusiasts. Douglas Fir, on the other hand, is plentiful and affordable. This custom sailboat, built by Nexus Marine in Everett, Washington, uses clear vertical grain Douglas fir combined with Brazilian marine plywood, all coated with layers of epoxy to make it completely watertight.

    For furniture building, hardwoods like oak, maple and walnut seem to get most of the glory. But Douglas Fir is also available in clear vertical grain lengths that meet the specifications of fine woodworking.

    Remember those long, straight fibers we talked about? Turns out they’re not only strong, they’re also quite attractive. Douglas Fir is hard enough that it can be difficult to work with hand tools, but it responds well to sharp power tools. Vertical grain Douglas Fir, once finished, has an extremely smooth, glossy appearance, with long, clean subtle lines running down its surface.

    Douglas fir also has a light, rosy color that’s unique and different from the more yellowish oak species or dark walnuts. You can simply seal it with a clean finish and leave its natural color exposed. If a different tone is required, Douglas fir is also known for holding all types of stains, finishes, and paints very well.

    This custom bedroom furniture set, by Portland-based Big Branch Woodworking, for example, showcases Douglas fir’s natural color and clean, straight lines.

    So whether you’re going for a sail, taking to the air, or trying to dress up your home, think of Douglas fir. It’s good for more than just finishing your home.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, History and Interest, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir trim, douglas fir boats, douglas fir planes

  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir: Original patina or resawn?

    Posted on November 16, 2011 by Nicole

    Reclaimed Douglas fir is well-seasoned wood recycled for a new purpose. Reclaimed flooring, wall and ceiling accent beams, and mantel pieces are just a few ways to repurpose reclaimed fir.

    Reclaimed fir is sustainable, dense, and boasts a beauty like no other – it’s a good-looking wood.

    So, should you go with original patina or resawn reclaimed Douglas fir? The answer largely depends on its end-use. Read on to learn more.

    Hand Hewn Douglas Fir Beams

    Reclaimed Douglas fir in original patina are hand hewn beams that come as is. These beams are handpicked from hundred-year-old deconstructed sites – think abandoned barns, warehouses, and commercial buildings. Note: AltruFir handpicks its reclaimed fir beams from large scale deconstruction projects in the Northwest.

    Original patina Douglas fir beams are not resawn, meaning their weathered surfaces are not shaved. In fact, bolt holes, nails, and checks are common characteristics of reclaimed fir beams, which may be a small price to pay if you’re looking for original patina.

    Wood patina takes years, decades, or centuries to develop – the richer honey-hued the fir, the older it is. Because reclaimed fir beams are rough to the touch, they’re referred to as rough hewn wood. Sand blasting or professional scraping of the beam’s surface reveals its original patina, increasing its value and enhancing its appearance. Original patina fir beams are a popular choice in antique and old-world inspired designs.

    Reclaimed Douglas fir that is resawn are hand hewn beams that come cleaned-up. These beams are also handpicked from bygone buildings. The difference is that all sides of a resawn beam have been sawn off, producing a look identical to new wood.

    Resawn beams reveal a cleaner surface which is helpful when you need to match timber. Resawing reclaimed beams is also handy when exact timber dimensions are needed for a project or when reclaimed beams will be paired with existing timbers on a site. Resawn beams are a great choice for a contemporary aesthetic too.

    Whether you opt for the original patina or the cleaner resawn reclaimed fir, people value both varieties for their high quality and history, with or without the shave.

    - Nicole Morales

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

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