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Western Hemlock wood Uses and Structural Properties

  Western Hemlock is the single most plentiful tree species on the coast of British Columbia (B.C.). It grows along both the east and west sides of the coastal mountain ranges, as well as in the interior of the province. On average it typically grows 30 to 50 metres tall and 1 to 1.5 metres in diameter. It seldom grows in pure stands, and instead usually grows in mixed stands with Douglas Fir, Amabilis Fir, Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar. Of B.C.'s total growing stock, Hemlock makes up 17.7% of the total volume and close to 60% of the coastal volume.

Common uses

Hemlock is firmly established as an outstanding wood for mouldings and interior woodworking. Other uses include doors, windows, floors, suspended ceilings, ladders and utility purposes where a high grade is needed. Hemlock is recommended in India for furniture, solid doors, finger joint door frames and other interior uses. Hemlock is also used for general construction, roof decking and plywood. It is popular for laminating stock and the production of glue-laminated beams sold into the Japanese market.

Commercial availability

Western hemlock is commonly sold and shipped together with amabilis fir under the commercial designation hem-fir (also often referred to as hem-bal). Hem-fir is primarily available as structural lumber for North America, Japan and other export markets.

In North America, structural grades are in accordance with the National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA) rules for dimension lumber. Select Structural, #2 and better, and stud grades are the most common grades produced for North America, with squares being the most common Japanese product. Specialty in-house grades, lamstock and export grades such as E-120 for Japan are also marketed.

Appearance grades are produced according to NLGA rules. The most common are clears, shop lumber and moulding stock, although many potential appearance grades can be produced.

Interest of :

Western Hemlock is known for its even density which provides for excellent machining properties.

Working properties

Hemlock has a relatively good strength-to-weight ratio and is known for its excellent working properties. The wood requires special care when drying but yields a quality product. It is relatively easy to work with, and has good machining qualities. It turns, planes and shapes well and can be sanded to a smooth finish. The wood glues satisfactorily, has moderate nail and screw holding ability and polishes beautifully. Hemlock lumber is seasoned uniformly in dry kilns. Kiln drying improves its strength and stiffness, and increases resistance to decay and insect attack.
Stiffness / MOE (MPa) Air dry 12300
Strength / MOR (MPa) Air dry 81
Density (KG/M3) Air dry 429
Compression Parallel (Mpa) Air dry 46.7
Shear (Mpa) Air dry 6.48
Shrinkage (air dried-12%) Tangential/radial ratio 1.6
Title Process Performance Comments
Machining Planing Good to average A silky smooth finish is easy to achieve
Shaping Average Easy, with good surface quality
Sanding Good Good sanding finish
Fastening Screwing Good
Nail retention Good
Gluing Average
Finishing Staining Good The best finish is achieved with tight stain, or clear finish followed by nitrocellulose alkyd clear sealer and finish
Painting Good
Drying Ease of drying Fair Due to the high moisture content of this wood, longer kiln drying times are required
Durablity Natural decay resistance Poor Not appropriate for prolonged outdoor exposure
Treatability Good Can be improved by incising
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