General News · 10th July 2020
Carrie Saxifrage - CCFC
Each of these tree species has beauty and functionality. One holds the story of industrial logging of a species close to extinction from overharvest and climate change. The other holds the story of a forestry outfit which embodies reconciliation, sustainable harvest rates and economic opportunity for island residents.
Look at the end of the article to find out which wood is which.
And, for your next building project, consider using – or asking your builder to use - Western Hemlock for ceilings, cabinets, paneling and framing. Buying hemlock from a local miller supports the Community Forest, a project shared by the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative. Western Hemlock trees have such a strong presence on Cortes because they don’t need as much sun as Douglas-fir and are not susceptible to deer browse.
For indoor uses, Western Hemlock shines. Known as a “white wood,” its straight grain and fine texture sand to a silky, reflective smoothness. Reflective surfaces brighten rooms, which makes hemlock a great choice for panelling, ceilings and cabinetry. Think of Olatunji Hall and the hemlock panelling above the wainscoting. Several recently built houses feature hemlock cabinets and some houses under restoration will have hemlock wall panels.
For ceilings, hemlock is a great substitute for pine from the interior. It takes color well so it can be brightened further for ceilings by using a whitewash which still lets the wood texture shine through.
When used outdoors, hemlock boards rot quickly because the wood has no resin. But it makes a strong framing timber. It firmly holds nails and screws and, after a year of seasoning, it accepts them much more readily than a similar board of Douglas-fir. It also has a reputation for resisting termites. When David Shipway recently tore off his 45 year old roof, the Doug-fir rafters were riddled with powder worm, but the hemlock rafters remained strong. Nor can David recall seeing a carpenter ant infestation of hemlock wood at any point in his building career.
In addition to beauty and functionality, wood holds a story. The story of Western Hemlock from the Community Forest is one of reconciliation, sustainable harvest rates and economic opportunity for island residents.
So which wood is which?
Western Hemlock is on left, Yellow Cedar is on right.