Twin Softwood Celebrities

Comparing Douglas Fir with Western Red Cedar

While J. Gibson McIlvain is fairly new to the softwoods show, we’ve quickly come to appreciate the qualities of the two most celebrated species that we stock: Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. These two species aren’t identical, but they do have a lot in common. In our first decade of adding softwoods to our centuries-long relationship with hardwood lumber products, we’ve come to appreciate these two species as the unique individuals that they are.

Douglas Fir

The two basic types of Douglas Fir include coastal and Rocky Mountain varieties. Neither species is technically a fir, though; instead, Douglas Firs are commonly considered hemlocks. The straight grain combines yellow earlywood and reddish latewood for a generally orange appearance.

These gigantic trees grow along North America’s western coast. Careful drying produces a stable lumber product suitable for structural, exterior, and even marine applications. Due to variance in hardness between earlywood and latewood, milling tools must be sharpened frequently in order to prevent tearout and splintering.

Common applications include timber framing, exposed beam building and rustic-look exterior siding, paneling, and flooring. Because the coastal species grows larger, they yield more structural timbers needed by timber-framing customers; for that reason, J. Gibson McIlvain almost exclusively carries the coastal variety. Sourcing lumber from the Pacific West provides a unique challenge, though.

As the popularity of timber framing continues to grow, sourcing and shipping continues to cause our prices to rise. While we do require generous amounts of lead time on large orders, we are still able to deliver Douglas Fir in stock sizes from either our Maryland headquarters or our West Coast storage facilities.

Western Red Cedar

Like Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar comes from the Pacific Northwest of the United States as well as Canada. Also like the so-called “fir,” “Red Cedar” is a misnomer, since the species is actually part of the Cypress family. (The one-word spelling “Redcedar” is an attempt to clarify this issue.) The Canadian government has requirements in place to help maintain the necessary supply of this increasingly in-demand species. The 5-to-1 replanting rates promise an increased supply in years to come.

Prize characteristics include rot resistance, few knots, and high stability with proper drying. J. Gibson McIlvain has softwood specialists that very carefully oversee the kiln-drying process in order to ensure the highest stability possible.

A long, straight grain, combined with a low density for optimal beauty and light weight, makes Red Cedar ideal as a shingle wood. Also used for exterior trim and siding, decking, outdoor furniture, and rustic-looking interior millwork, Red Cedar is ideal for applications requiring direct contact with the ground. Vertical grain Red Cedar is the top grade, and J. Gibson McIlvain carries a variety of high-quality grades that are sure to meet the needs of your next project.

Whether your softwoods needs are for Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, or less common species, J. Gibson McIlvain can provide the quality softwood lumber that you need.

J. Gibson McIlvain Company is a wholesale distributor of a vast array of quality wood products.
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