The Pacific northwest is known for its lush evergreen forests. One of the most prevalent evergreens found in this region is the western hemlock. These trees were historically used for many different things, but did you know they still have various uses in today’s world? In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is western hemlock wood used for?” We’ll also discuss some related questions, such as whether hemlock is a hardwood or softwood, and what its properties are. Ready to get started?
What You'll Learn Today
Is Western Hemlock a Hardwood or Softwood?
Western hemlock is considered a softwood, which means it is lighter and less dense than many other kinds of trees. However, this does not mean its wood is “soft”; in fact, the wood grows harder as it ages.
Because of their lighter weight, softwoods are generally cheaper than hardwoods; the same is true of western hemlock. It is not the least expensive wood on the market, but it is more affordable than hardwood–yet it shares many of the same properties.
This makes it a good alternative to hardwood for a variety of applications. Check out this video to learn more:
What is Western Hemlock Wood Used For?
Western hemlock wood is resin- and sap-free with straight grains and a coarse texture. It is very easy to work with, which makes it desirable for various projects.
Historically, western hemlocks were used for food, medicine, dyes, tanning hides, and many other purposes. Today, their wood is still commonly used for construction and lumber, furniture, and making paper and other household items.
Keep reading to learn more about each of these uses.
Western hemlock is widely used for construction purposes. It is made into lumber, plywood, and wood pulp and often sold under the generic “Hem-Fir” designation.
Western hemlock wood is often used to make wooden boxes and pallets used for construction purposes. Plywood made from hemlock can be used for flooring, stairs, and roofing applications.
Because the wood is easily worked and shaped, it is often used for interior framing and molding, as well as interior doors.
The wood can be used for outdoor applications, but must be treated well beforehand. It has some natural decay resistance, but it is not as durable or long lasting as hardwood unless it is properly treated.
Western hemlock is a versatile wood often used to make furniture.
Because it is so easy to work with, it is an excellent wood choice for tables, cupboards, bookcases, and even stools and chairs.
Again, it is mostly used for interior purposes, as it is not very durable. That said, it is sometimes used for patio furniture and other outdoor uses; but it needs to be well-treated first.
As mentioned, western hemlock is a softwood that is easy to work with. For this reason, it is relatively easy to shred into small bits and turn into wood pulp.
From there, the wood pulp has a variety of uses and applications. One of the things that can be made from hemlock wood pulp is paper.
Though many softwoods and even some hardwoods are used to make paper, the long, even fibers of hemlock wood make it an ideal choice. The paper created from hemlock pulp tends to be soft and flexible.
Hemlock wood pulp is widely used for making different types of wrapping paper and print applications, such as newspapers, advertisements, and magazines.
4. Household Items
In addition to paper, many other household items are made from western hemlock wood. It is a popular choice because it is so widely available, easy to work with, and relatively inexpensive.
What kinds of household items are made from hemlock wood?
This wood is often used to make wooden utensils like spoons and spatulas. It is also a common choice for wooden combs, hairbrushes, and hair accessories.
Sometimes, it is also used for roasting spits and other grilling applications. It may even be used for small, decorative wooden items such as jewelry boxes.
Hemlock is an excellent wood choice for all of these applications because it is good for interior uses, easy to work with when it’s young and fresh, and because it hardens with age.
Is Western Hemlock a Good Firewood?
As you can see above, western hemlock has many uses; but what about firewood? Does it burn well?
Western hemlock is an excellent source of firewood. It burns extremely well, though it needs to be properly dried first or it will produce a lot of smoke.
In addition to its burnability, there are other reasons western hemlock makes good firewood. It is readily available in many parts of the country, and it is great especially for camping because it smells good and produces a pleasant crackling effect.
This wood is commonly sold throughout the U.S., especially in the western states, where it is native, but it can be found in other areas as well.
In its natural habitat, western hemlock is considered by the IUCN a species of least concern, because it grows so well and is extremely prevalent. As discussed above, it has many commercial uses as well, so it is one of the woods you can feel good about using even if you are environmentally-conscious.
Consider using western hemlock on your next camping trip or to help you heat your home during the winter.
Western hemlock is a softwood that is easy to work with and retains many of the same properties as hardwood. It has many uses, including various construction applications, furniture, paper and other household items, and firewood.