Uses for hemlock? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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Uses for hemlock?

I'm targeting an auction coming up that lists hemlock and cherry. I'm definitely interested in the cherry, but he said there's probably more hemlock than cherry. The pics of it make it look like stacks of lumber like @ Lowes....so we're talking lots of wood.

Doing a quick search here and with Mr. google didn't reveal a lot of preference for using hemlock for much....so I'm curious what its typical usage is. Furniture? Outdoor furniture? Flooring?

Thanks for any help.
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 07:05 PM
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I believe Socrates found (first hand) that hemlock could kill a man. Maybe he just met a large board abruptly?
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
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Heh...ya, up until now, that was also my only association with hemlock. I've already decided not to eat any of the planks. Well, at least, not TOO many....
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post #4 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 07:44 PM
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Not to continue this thread too off topic, but like Shop Dad said, the only way that anything from a hemlock tree would have killed Socrates was if someone hit him with a board or a tree fell on him. The tree is not poisonous. Poison hemlock is a herbaceous biennial plant in which all portions of the plant are poisonous.

Here is a short article from Wood Magazine talking about the characteristics of hemlock and its' uses.
http://www.woodmagazine.com/material...ies-2/hemlock/

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post #5 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 08:18 PM
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One thing I can tell you about hemlock - borer bees won't bore holes in it!
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post #6 of 15 Old 06-11-2012, 09:46 PM
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I use old hemlock all the time .It holds up very well outdoors .
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post #7 of 15 Old 06-13-2012, 11:16 AM
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Hemlock is a great wood for outdoor use, as mentioned pests won't get in it and it is very rot resistant. Some say it holds up better than treated wood. I put hemlock siding on my house and I built a deck frame with. It is plentifull around my part of TN. It is very splintery and would not be good for furniture and fine wood projects.
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post #8 of 15 Old 06-13-2012, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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Soo, outdoor use, but not furniture. That leaves out deck chairs or benches. Seems birdhouses are a safe bet. We're going to undergo a major deck upgrade next year, maybe I can find a use for it there.

Either way, it seems I definitely won't turn my nose up at hemlock if I can acquire some at a decent price at the auction. I made that mistake at one auction (missed out on a ton of pine), and won't make that again.
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post #9 of 15 Old 06-13-2012, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beelzerob View Post
Soo, outdoor use, but not furniture. That leaves out deck chairs or benches. Seems birdhouses are a safe bet. We're going to undergo a major deck upgrade next year, maybe I can find a use for it there.

Either way, it seems I definitely won't turn my nose up at hemlock if I can acquire some at a decent price at the auction. I made that mistake at one auction (missed out on a ton of pine), and won't make that again.
You could probably use it for deck furniture if you plane and sand it real good.
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post #10 of 15 Old 06-13-2012, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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So, the "splintery" is more during the actual working than just naturally as it ages, I guess.

What came to my mind was the pressure treated decking my cousin has that has caused numerous splinters in my kids feet as they run around on it. But I guess running on it is a bit more forceful usage than you'd get just sitting in a normal deck chair.
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post #11 of 15 Old 06-13-2012, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beelzerob View Post
So, the "splintery" is more during the actual working than just naturally as it ages, I guess.

What came to my mind was the pressure treated decking my cousin has that has caused numerous splinters in my kids feet as they run around on it. But I guess running on it is a bit more forceful usage than you'd get just sitting in a normal deck chair.
Yeah I think you could plane/sand it to be pretty smooth but I don't know because I have never tried. I have worked with 1,000s of ft of it but never tried to smooth it out. I would never use it for deck boards because of the splintering and extensive sanding it would take to make it work. I did use it for a deck frame, railing, ballisters, rail cap in rough sawn condition.
I would buy it if the price is right as it is pretty sought after in my part of the country and would have a lot of uses outdoors. Plane a piece down and sand it and see how it looks, I think it would be good for a deck chair.
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post #12 of 15 Old 04-21-2020, 08:36 AM
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I, like many others in my neck of the woods, used hemlock as barn siding on a goat shelter some 25 years ago. As age set in, and the goats slowly evaporated, I decided to reuse the lumber for small coops/rabbit hutches, and not only was the lumber aged, but it was perfect for such applications... in some places was so hard it bent staples used for the wire bottoms! Yes, it can be hard on blades, but no worse than hedge-apple or black locust. The best part is any recessed grooves hold their integrity and do not expand/contract enough to split the fit. I also use a transparent cedar, oil based, stain to finish the structures, and they finish up beautifully! I have some that were sold/used for over twenty years, stained only twice, and are more gorgeous today than they were the day they were built... even exposed to KY blistering sun, torrential downpours, snow up the wazoo, and 15 below zero temperatures!
So use it, work it, thinking about water drainage while assembling, and this stuff wears like iron! I am truly a fan of hemlock and worked the family sawmill for 60 years, so I do have some experience with a lot of different lumber/s.
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post #13 of 15 Old 04-21-2020, 10:19 AM
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There's a big difference between western hemlock which comes from the coastal mountains in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia and eastern hemlock which comes from the northeastern states and Canada.

Western hemlock is sold as premium structural lumber in douglas fir, hemlock, larch mix. It's strong, stiff, and durable. Clear grades are used in the millwork industry.

Eastern hemlock is a whole other story. I've heard it called "devil pine" by sawyers in the UP: prone to wind shake between growth rings and to internal tensions that bind up on rip saws and warp boards. Had an interesting talk with an economist from Forest Products Lab about it. The Menominee, who have done an exemplary job managing their forest in Wisconsin for over a century, have avoided manipulating their species mix in favor of maintaining the original forest makeup. They now have a lot of mature hemlock and were looking for a market for it which this guy could not find for them.

I'd consider it if it goes cheap, you have plans to use it in small pieces, and you're ok with burning a lot of scrap.
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post #14 of 15 Old 04-21-2020, 01:00 PM
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Back in the 70s when I was doing a lot of trim work, a lot of hemlock was used to make trim. They would ship me a load of it and I would ship it right back. That stuff will split from bottom to top when driving a nail in it way to brittle. It is really hard to tell Hemlock from Fir, until you drive a nail in it.

They would mix Hemlock in with the other woods when framing, I hated that stuff no way to toe nail it without it splitting.

By the way, this is an 8 year old thread.

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post #15 of 15 Old 04-21-2020, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shop Dad View Post
I believe Socrates found (first hand) that hemlock could kill a man. Maybe he just met a large board abruptly?
Truly funny

Tony B



Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx
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