Using Spruce - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Using Spruce

Question that I have been wondering for a while now because of the limited funds that are available to me....

How come spruce is not used more often in fine/fine-ish wood working? Why is it only ever used in structural projects or used in some reclamation work? Is it how the wood looks or something to do with its properties that makes it hard to use?

If anyone can shed some light on this for me I would really appreciate it!
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by arvanlaar View Post
Question that I have been wondering for a while now because of the limited funds that are available to me....

How come spruce is not used more often in fine/fine-ish wood working? Why is it only ever used in structural projects or used in some reclamation work? Is it how the wood looks or something to do with its properties that makes it hard to use?

If anyone can shed some light on this for me I would really appreciate it!
It is way to soft and doesn't stain worth a cuss. When machining it will fuzz really bad so more sanding, it is just not a good wood for furniture.

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post #3 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 04:24 PM
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^ x2.

Only time I use Spruce is for interior framing, IE dimensional lumber.
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post #4 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 05:27 PM
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I have seen spruce used in some furniture pieces, I believe it was Sitka spruce. Hardness is still 1/2 what cherry is. As stated it wont stain well. If you were building something that wasn't going to get a lot of contact like a table ect. and did not plan on staining it you might be happy with spruce.
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 08:21 PM
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Spruce can be used for decorative ceiling treatments or wall treatments but I would not use it for anything structural and certainly not furniture. It's too soft.
SPF woods (spruce, pine and fir) are all readily available from the big box stores. But spruce (like Hemlock) is too soft for most things.
I live in an area where a lot of yellow pine is sold. YP is much harder than Spruce or Hemlock. YP is also bad about twisting, bowing and dripping sap if not thoroughly dried.
Strength test:
If you take a length of Spruce and stomp it, it breaks.
Do the same stomp with Yellow Pine and you may break your foot.
I don't even want Spruce pickets for a privacy fence because it won't hold up as well as Cedar outdoors.
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post #6 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 08:50 PM
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Spruce can be used for decorative ceiling treatments or wall treatments but I would not use it for anything structural and certainly not furniture. It's too soft.
SPF woods (spruce, pine and fir) are all readily available from the big box stores. But spruce (like Hemlock) is too soft for most things.
I live in an area where a lot of yellow pine is sold. YP is much harder than Spruce or Hemlock. YP is also bad about twisting, bowing and dripping sap if not thoroughly dried.
Strength test:
If you take a length of Spruce and stomp it, it breaks.
Do the same stomp with Yellow Pine and you may break your foot.
I don't even want Spruce pickets for a privacy fence because it won't hold up as well as Cedar outdoors.




I can't speak for other areas but in VA and DC/MD, from ranchers to multi million dollar homes in which I have worked, spruce is almost exclusively used for studs in residential framing. I wouldn't call them 'unsuitable structurally'.
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-21-2015, 10:14 PM
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Even the Spruce Goose was made with birch.

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post #8 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 12:16 AM
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Spruce has one of the highest strength to weight ratios of any wood and used almost exclusively for guitar tops and bracing. It's also used for sound boards in other instruments. But all that's been said as it relates to furniture and building is pretty accurate.

If you want a bit more info about where it is successfully used, check out Aircraft Spruce.

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post #9 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 09:49 AM Thread Starter
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Great thanks so much for all the input guys! You cleared up a lot for me :)
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post #10 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 12:45 PM
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Spruce framing lumber is a fast grown tree so the grain and growth rings vary. In general spruce is farmed for framing so the tree isn't maintained like a hardwood grown for finish/furniture. It is structurally sound vertically to take the weight of floors and roofs but it moves, (twisting, rolling, curling). Even some kiln dried lumber comes crowned from end to end, if their straight from the yd they may crown up to 6 mos later after dried out within the wall.

Sheathing, plates and nails hold it back only some, that's why good framers crown all studs up or down, or rafts up (KD or SD) when building walls or roofs to minimize warping, sag and fastener back out as it dries. It's even more important when a building is framed during the winter and the mat is frozen. When dry wallers, plasterers and fin carps get in and turn the heat up with 3 or 4 100k btu space heaters sucking the cold and 6 mos of moisture out of the lumber in a week or 2 the wood moves big time.

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post #11 of 17 Old 08-15-2019, 11:48 PM
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Spruce framing lumber is a fast grown tree so the grain and growth rings vary. In general spruce is farmed for framing so the tree isn't maintained like a hardwood grown for finish/furniture. It is structurally sound vertically to take the weight of floors and roofs but it moves, (twisting, rolling, curling). Even some kiln dried lumber comes crowned from end to end, if their straight from the yd they may crown up to 6 mos later after dried out within the wall.
Does anybody have any idea what 300 year old slow-grown spruce would be like?
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post #12 of 17 Old 08-16-2019, 12:12 AM
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Spruce is just too soft to make furniture out of. You could do it but you would have to handle it very carefully. If you had a table you could just walk buy the table and throw your keys down on the table and leave a dent. Spruce is also difficult to finish if a stain is used. You would have to use a good wood conditioner and then use a dye stain to get the majority of the color and then use a oil stain to give it some warmth.
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post #13 of 17 Old 08-16-2019, 12:26 PM
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Does anybody have any idea what 300 year old slow-grown spruce would be like?
I have seen Sitka Spruce that old and older. Olympic National Park has plenty of them. Magnificent trees, towering to 300 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet diameter trunks. Lumber from those trees built much of the northwest.
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post #14 of 17 Old 08-16-2019, 02:12 PM
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Sitka Spruce is used to make the soundboards on quality pianos.
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post #15 of 17 Old 08-16-2019, 11:38 PM
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I have learned that northern species of wood are harder than the southern grown species so I may have been wrong about it being too soft. I will just say this, Southern Spruce is way to soft to use as furniture.
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post #16 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 12:22 AM
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Well, maybe I'll just have to cut a slice, sand, condition & finish and see what it's like...
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post #17 of 17 Old 08-18-2019, 02:18 PM
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Does anybody have any idea what 300 year old slow-grown spruce would be like?
Hello Scribe,

In short (giving you an overall consideration) it would be an excellent species and wood to work with for many applications depending on condition of the wood, its treatment during the drying process and who did it, as well as the biome it came out of for just some of the primary factors...It actually takes finish extremely well and only difficult for the less experienced trying to use only modern modalities of what woodworking has become. Traditional finishing stain and related finishing systems are recommended in general for most species if one is interest in their work developing an actual patina that will last and only get better with age. Spruce is well know for the positive affect occurring over time...

Sorry I'm seeing this late...I only get off of projects "in the woods" about once a week this time of year...LMAO...so only have time on weekends to be of any great service to readers here...

To your query...and one of the rather ignorant responses I'm sorry you received...(or perhaps just misinformed but feeling a need to be relevant on this forum's conversation...by certain posters...???)...either way, I don't really have time to not be blunt or to debate such silly misguiding comments...

Spruce, in general, are actually in most of its species and forms regardless of age have a Janka Hardness: 380 lbf to 700 lbf which is much harder than White Pines as a great comparative. With a Janka Hardness at around ~ 380 lbf and sometimes softer... the "White Pine" group (which even novice woodworkers soon learn is an excellent species to work with in furniture)...AND...BEING MUCH SOFTER AND OFTEN HARDER TO FINISH IN GENERAL THAN MOST OF THE WHITE PINES...then neither would have been used for both Timber Frames (structural framing) and furniture alike for the last few millenia...to state otherwise is obtuse...and historically inaccurate. Since that is the case for the White Pines...and Spruce alike, it is more about grain patterning/milling effects in generally which can effect its application in furniture. As such, both species groups can and do develop a patinas and the scars of use that we have grown to love in countless antiques...

"Old growth" (in general) is not always a plus to any given wood species. Many conifer actually are better employed if grown as fast as possible and/or from a younger forest growth population, but each case, application scenario, or biome type harvested from can lead to different effects accordingly...so that aspect is both subjective and dependent on a case by case basis...and/or...goal set for a project...

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Well, maybe I'll just have to cut a slice, sand, condition & finish and see what it's like...
Excellent idea, and let me know if I can expand on anything or be of further service to your goals...

Remember, the finest violins in history (many centuries old and in very "hard working" daily service) are made of both Willow and Spruce...two species that very few woodworker ever get (or bother to take?) the time to learn to work and employ in their projects...

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I have learned that northern species of wood are harder than the southern grown species so I may have been wrong about it being too soft. I will just say this, Southern Spruce is way to soft to use as furniture.
Jim shares an excellent regional example of variance in the species presentation characteristics...

Yet...even in the south this species in harder than many others that are both historically and contemporary employed in furniture and timber frames alike (mainly roofing structural timbers because of Southern Spruces great resistance in modules of elasticity/bending)...and in furniture...for large slab/plank of Harvest Table, in member application like trestle spans, legs, spring slats in beds...etc...

Last edited by 35015; 08-18-2019 at 02:23 PM.
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