Pacific Silver Fir

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Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis)
Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis)

Common Name(s): Pacific silver fir

Scientific Name: Abies amabilis

Distribution: Pacific Northwest region of North America

Tree Size: 100-200 ft (30-60 m) tall,

                 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 27 lbs/ft3 (435 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .43

Janka Hardness: 430 lbf (1,910 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 10,240 lbf/in2 (70.6 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,681,000 lbf/in2 (11.59 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,060 lbf/in2 (41.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.4%, Tangential: 9.2%,

                  Volumetric: 13.0%, T/R Ratio: 2.1

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is usually white to reddish brown, with pale sapwood that isn’t clearly distinguished from the heartwood.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a uniform, medium-coarse texture.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, with little resistance to insect attacks.

Workability: Generally easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, fir in the Abies genus has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Pacific silver fir is used as construction lumber and is commonly grouped together with other species of fir and hemlock and sold under the more generic label “HEM-FIR.” Prices should be moderate for such utility lumber, though clear, quartersawn, or other such specialty cuts of fir lumber are likely to be 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: Construction lumber, paper (pulpwood), plywood, and other utility wood purposes.

Comments: Fir is divided into different groupings, with the primary species in the western United States (including Pacific silver fir) all belonging to the white fir group.

Many species of fir have excellent stiffness-to-weight ratios, especially Pacific silver fir, which rivals other softwood species such as Sitka spruce—known for its combination of low density and relatively high modulus of elasticity.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.

[caption id="attachment_21046" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis)[/caption]

Identification: See the article on Softwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Pacific silver fir (endgrain 10x)
Pacific silver fir (endgrain 10x)
Pacific silver fir (endgrain 1x)
Pacific silver fir (endgrain 1x)

Resin canals: absent (traumatic resin canals occasionally present)

Tracheid diameter: medium

Earlywood to latewood transition: very gradual

Grain contrast: medium

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) is difficult to differentiate from fir species: both have similar color, grain, and weight. Also, they both lack resin canals and have little to no discernible scent. Spruce (Picea spp.) and Pine (Pinus spp.) are two similar-looking softwoods that can also be confused with fir. However, these two genera both feature resin canals (and pine has a distinct odor), which helps to separate them from fir.

Notes: Fir species can’t be reliably separated from each other on the basis of macroscopic anatomy. (There are slight differences between the various species in density, texture, and grain evenness, but none provide a consistent means for positive identification.)

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