Anybody ever work with hemlock?
I've been in Tennessee for the last couple of months handling my mother's
estate. It is very apparent there has been a major decline in the hemlock trees
in the last year. The 'hemlock wooly adelgid' is killing trees like mad. I
have a couple dozen hemlocks ranging from 18 inches to 30 inches at chest
height. One tree is well over three feet in diameter. About a third have died,
and the rest will be dead by this time next year. There is no cure to the bugs,
and various forestry agencies are predicting the hemlock will disappear (at
least in the southern areas) in the next decade.
I am going to have to cut the trees to make sure they don't fall on power lines
or one of the buildings. Has anyone ever worked with hemlock? A Google search
suggests it is mostly used for framing or siding. But my mom and dad put many
years of their lives into this place, and I would like to make something for the
property out of their trees. Maybe a Tennessee version of Jummywood?
Please let me know if you have worked with it and whether it is worth the effort
to salvage it for furniture.
I have no experience with hemlock, but ....
To some extent, the quality of the wood is not the deciding factor. Make at least one piece of nice/significant furniture, with some of it, respective to your parents. See for yourself if the wood is appropriate for more (or other types of) woodwork.
If you have easy and inexpensive access to milling, all the more better to harvest a quantity.
It is splintery, Good for post and beam construction - pole barns,
etc as well as framing timber, but it needs to be cut wet. Turns to
"hemrock" when it dries. Eastern hemlock STINKS when you cut it wet.
Not good for finish work because it checks pretty badly.
Otherwize, a lot like Fir
I vote a big +1 on the above review. It is a very dark brown/red compared
to most pine. The grain tends to separate easily and make splinters and
check between the summer and winter wood.
That said, it is pretty strong and stable, once milled and dried. If you
can get a decent deal on milling it, go for it. It does have decent uses.
There _IS_ a treatment for the hemlock wooly adelgid in the form of an
injection of a powerful systemic insecticide. The problem is that it is
very expensive process so it is not being widely applied and certainly not
out in the wild. My former neighbor checked on getting some of her big old
hemlocks treated and the bill would have come in at something like $1K per
I would add that if you plane it yourself, and pay real close attention to
the grain direction, you can avoid most of the checking. It is also much
better if it is quarter sawn to avoid a piece that has grain coming to the
surface from both directions. Strangely, around here, there is a place that
I can always get good, quarter sawn hemlock.
I still do not much care for the look of stained or clear finished hemlock,
but it is strong, stable, and can be used for finish work if painted.
Thanks to all who weighed in.
I found a local bandsaw mill who will (somewhat reluctantly) do the milling.
He wants the trees cut while still green. I'm back in Texas now, but will
probably get the trees cut in early spring. I will try to find someone else who
will also saw the dead standing trees, or cut them up for turning blanks.
One of the neighbors turns hemlock and showed me some of his bowls. As others
said, it can be difficult to turn due to splintering, but he seems to do ok with
sharp tools, a light touch and finished with Number 80, 120, 240 and 300 gouges
before applying wax. Spalts nicely.
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