Which Wood for Which Job? #
When it comes to choosing the right wood for your project, you’re entering a world where each type of timber has its unique qualities and characteristics. We’re here to guide you through the art of selecting the perfect wood for your specific needs. Let’s delve into the diverse world of timber and explore which wood suits which job.
Douglas Fir vs. Larch: The Battle of Strength #
Two prominent contenders in the timber world, Douglas Fir and Larch, often find themselves in the spotlight. They share the stage due to their strength and resilience, making them ideal choices for various applications. But how do they stack up against each other?
- Larch: This timber shines when used for cladding, decking, boat frames, and flooring. It stands tall against all kinds of weather and is cost-effective, making it a prime choice for outdoor projects. Larch is naturally water-resistant and boasts a resilient, resinous nature that makes it less susceptible to stains and infection.
- Douglas Fir: On the other hand, Douglas Fir excels in cladding, framing for housing and interior construction, posts, and beams in fences or garden gates, fine joinery, furniture, and flooring. It’s incredibly cost-effective and easy to machine, making it an excellent choice for those who enjoy DIY projects. When treated, Douglas Fir holds up admirably against adverse weather conditions, and its durability and nail-accepting qualities make it a versatile wood for various configurations.
Understanding Wood's Natural Properties #
One of the intriguing aspects of wood is its diversity in properties and qualities. What appeals to you in one type of wood, such as colour, texture, or resiliency, can often be found in other, more suitable or cost-effective options.
Douglas Fir: The Evergreen Hero #
Douglas Fir, a large evergreen species, boasts a light reddish-brown heartwood. The sapwood is pale with well-defined growth rings and the occasional hard, loose knot that might pose a risk on thinner boards. It usually displays a straight grain and dries quickly, minimising checking or distortion. While Douglas Fir is resinous, British examples tend to have less resin compared to native American Douglas Firs. Additionally, British Douglas Fir may exhibit a wavier grain. Once dried, this wood proves exceptionally strong and stable in use.
Larch: The Deciduous Conqueror #
Larch, a deciduous conifer, offers a red heartwood ranging from pale to brick-red, complemented by yellowish-white sapwood. It dries rapidly but is susceptible to distortion, splitting, or checking. Larch may feature several small, dead knots that could fall out on thinner boards. Timber from aged larch is one of the heaviest British softwoods, whereas younger trees produce lighter wood. Despite these challenges, Larch stands as one of the strongest softwoods, often compared to Scots Pine. However, it can be a bit more challenging to work with due to its resinous nature.
Preparation and Treatment: Working with Douglas Fir and Larch #
When it comes to working with these woods, preparation and treatment matter:
- Douglas Fir: This wood is relatively easy to work with, whether using a machine or hand tools. Be cautious with hand tools, as knots can dull them more than other woods. Ensure your cutting, planing, or moulding tools are sharp for the best results. Douglas Fir accepts nails and screws well, but spacing them appropriately is crucial. When staining or varnishing, it’s effective but requires care to prevent grain-raising. Choose your finishing products wisely, and avoid applying oil in cold, damp weather for optimal results.
- Larch: Larch, despite its natural strength and durability, can be trickier to work with. It tends to spring off even during sawing, leading to potential wastage. However, once dried, it becomes more cooperative for sawing and modification. Be mindful of the numerous small, dead knots that can blunt your cutting tools. Due to its resinous nature, it’s best left uncoated but can also accept exterior-grade oils, paints, stains, and varnishes. Freshly cut larch cladding is recommended, as it may become more prone to splitting as it dries. Ring shank nails work well, but spacing is crucial when nailing larch. For outdoor constructions like decks, consider applying a finishing treatment for enhanced durability. Beware of horizontal storage, as it can make larch more vulnerable to rot from sitting water.
Choosing the Right Wood for the Job #
The selection of wood depends on your project’s specific requirements. Here are some guidelines to help you decide:
- Douglas Fir: Ideal for indoor construction, joinery, and furniture. It’s versatile and can perform well in various climates and environmental conditions.
- Larch: Primarily suited for exterior work, especially projects in contact with the ground or water for extended periods. Commonly used in large-scale constructions such as timber-framed housing, fences, and gates. Works well in cold, damp environments but may require treatment in mild temperatures to prevent warping or distortion.
Cost Considerations #
While both Douglas Fir and Larch are excellent choices, cost-effectiveness is a factor to consider. In terms of cost, Douglas Fir generally edges out Larch, albeit by a small margin. If you have your heart set on Larch for a smaller project, the additional cost may not be significant.
The choice between Larch and Douglas Fir ultimately depends on the demands of your project and your preferences. Both are robust softwoods suitable for various construction projects. However, it’s essential to be aware of their respective weaknesses when working with them. Larch excels in strength and durability, making it perfect for cladding, decking, and boatbuilding, but its temperamental nature requires attention to detail. Douglas Fir, while not as robust as Larch, offers ease of work, stability, and versatility, making it an excellent choice for indoor construction projects of varying scales.
Choosing the right wood for your project is an art, and we’re here to help you craft your masterpiece with the finest timber Scotland has to offer.