The Basics Of Oregon Timber And Its Uses

Oregon timber, also known as Douglas fir, is a North American import that has caught on throughout Australia. It is such a versatile wood that these trees are now being grown in-country to supplement the imported product. The following describes this fragrant tree and its various uses.

About The Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziedii)

The name says Oregon, but the coastal Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziedii) is found along the Pacific Northwest coast from Northern California all the way up into Canada. A related species, P. menziedii var. glauca, is also prevalent in both the Canadian and American Rocky Mountains, and to a lesser extent, in higher elevations as far south as Mexico. These temperate zone trees thrive in New Zealand and in coastal areas of Australia, two places where you'll find the plantations mentioned above.

The coastal Douglas fir is the largest of the two strains. Only the coastal redwood is taller. There is a friendly rivalry of sorts between the United States and Canada about who has the tallest tree. Currently the title goes to the Doerner Fir near Roseburg, Oregon. At last measurement it was 100 metres tall and had a trunk diameter of almost 4 metres.

Douglas fir is a softwood. The colour ranges from a yellowish tan to a deep red-brown, depending largely on where the tree is grown. The grain is typically straight with a distinct colour difference between older and newer wood. Craftsmen practicing "quarter sawing" often take advantage of this contrast. Quarter sawing cuts a log into four quarters, then the planks are cut lengthwise. When the planks are set side-by-side the grain produces more intricate patterns.

This tree has a high resin content, which contributes to its distinctive fragrance and helps to deter insects. The downside is that if your Douglas fir project is to be painted, it must be treated so the resin doesn't bleed through paints and varnishes.

Uses Of Oregon Timber

Heavy Construction

The sheer size of the Douglas fir lends itself to a number of heavy construction applications. Entire logs are treated and used as pilings for marine structures. Sawn Douglas fir is used for mining timbers, as trim for landscaping and for general house framing.  Lightweight Oregon timber is also used for window frames, particularly on special window orders for restoring Victorian, Edwardian or Queenslander homes.

Interior and Exterior House and Garage Doors

Oregon timber is often used for interior and exterior home doors. These doors are sometimes made of solid wood, but the Douglas fir grain also creates subtly coloured veneers. Finished Oregon timber is also used for garage doors, particularly in styles that require a more rustic look. One example is the Tudor style, which is often accompanied by oversized vintage hinges and handles. These doors usually swing out, much like those used in old fashioned carriage houses.

Interior Panelling

This wood is often sought out for internal panelling jobs. The grain is appealing and because it accepts glue well, veneers made with Oregon wood hold up well. A veneer is a wood sandwich of sorts, with a layer of Douglas fir applied to a plywood substrate. It tends to be less expensive than solid natural wood panels. 

Miscellaneous Interior Trim

Oregon wood veneers are also used for various interior trims, such as baseboard mouldings or decorative cornices, used where the walls join the ceiling. Some vintage homes, such as Victorians and Edwardians, have a trim called wainscoting. Wood panelling is set half-way up the wall with a trimmed edge. From the top of the panelling to the ceiling the wall is either painted or wallpapered. When restoring these types of homes, Douglas fir veneers are often used for the wainscoting.