Common Name(s): Douglas fir
Scientific Name: Pseudotsuga menziesii
Distribution: Western North America
Tree Size: 200-250 ft (60-75 m) tall,
5-6 ft (1.5-2 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 32 lbs/ft3 (510 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.45, 0.51
Janka Hardness: 620 lbf (2,760 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 12,500 lbf/in2 (86.2 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,765,000 lbf/in2 (12.17 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,950 lbf/in2 (47.9 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.5%, Tangential: 7.3%,
Volumetric: 11.6%, T/R Ratio: 1.6
Color/Appearance: Can vary in color based upon age and location of tree. Usually a light brown color with a hint of red and/or yellow, with darker growth rings. In quartersawn pieces, the grain is typically straight and plain. In flatsawn pieces, (typically seen in rotary-sliced veneers), the wood can exhibit wild grain patterns.
Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, or slightly wavy. Medium to coarse texture, with moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Douglas-Fir heartwood is rated to be moderately durable in regard to decay, but is susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Typically machines well, but has a moderate blunting effect on cutters. Accepts stains, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: Has a distinct, resinous odor when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Douglas-Fir has been reported to cause skin irritation, nausea, giddiness, runny nose, along with an increased likelihood of splinters getting infected. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Should be widely available as construction lumber for a modest price. Old growth or reclaimed boards can be much more expensive.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Veneer, plywood, and structural/construction lumber.
Comments: Named after Scottish botanist David Douglas (though the scientific name is in honor of Archibald Menzies, who first described the tree in the 1790s). Douglas fir is technically not a true fir (Abies genus), but is in its own genus: Pseudotsuga.
The tree itself grows to be very large, and yields a large amount of usable lumber and veneer for plywood. It is an incredibly valuable commercial timber, widely used in construction and building purposes. The wood is very stiff and strong for its weight, and is also among the hardest and heaviest softwoods commercially available in North America.
The mechanical properties listed represent the average values from four regions: coastal, interior west, interior north, and interior south.
Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.
The first sample pictured below is flatsawn Douglas fir, the second is Rocky Mountain Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), and the third is a flatsawn piece with a unique wavy grain.
Resin canals : Small to medium sized resin canals, infrequent and variable in distribution; solitary or in tangential groups of several
Tracheid diameter : medium-large
Earlywood to latewood transition : abrupt (though faster grown plantation lumber may be more gradual)
Grain contrast : high
Parenchyma : none
Lookalikes/Substitutes: The high contrast between the lighter earlywood and the darker and denser latewood can give this a bold grain patterning that isn’t seen on too many other North American softwoods. Western larch (Larix occidentalis) can have a similar amount of contrast, though larches generally lack any characteristic odor while being worked. Much more commonly Douglas fir is confused with species of southern yellow pine (Pinus spp.)—though in addition to the widely divergent East Coast/West Coast geographic sources of the two wood types, pines also have more frequent and evenly spaced resin canals.