Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Pine VS Hemlock
I often tell my customers who are familiar with wood to “forget what they know about Pine or Hemlock” when it comes to reclaimed. The difference between reclaimed to new Pine or Hemlock is substantial. See the blog “What’s the big deal with reclaimed?” to find out how original Canadian forest wood is a lot different from new wood you see at the lumber store.
For the most part, we only use Pine and Hemlock in the construction of our product. The primary reason for this is that, frankly, it looks the coolest. As these species are softwood; they have taken the biggest “beating”. This means the distressing from the work performed in the old building is most pronounced. You can see staining from organics, broad ax marks, cavities/colouring from square nails/metal, and the way the boards have been heavily worn from use [pronounced by the recession of the softest wood between the harder growth rings]. You simply don’t see this degree of character in other species of reclaimed wood.
What’s the difference between Pine and Hemlock?
Consequently, I get this asked a lot by my customers. I have listed here the primary differences between the two; and some of the unique features.
- Less colour [more “dull”/neutral tones]
- Spiralling cracks/splits [checking] as opposed to common straight cracks
- Harder & heavier than most softwood
- More uniformity of colour [no extreme difference of colour between a heavily sanded and lightly sanded board]
- Brittle/splintery/ bad for slivers [hence the reason why we’re likely the only ones working with it – fortunately “we can get away with it”due our innovative finishing process]
**Rarely used in furniture – but by far our most popular species choice due to the beautiful character and increased predictability of colour and tones**
- A lot of colour [reds, oranges, yellows, black, browns….]
- Straighter cracks [checking]
- Softer and lighter than most softwood
- Extreme lights and darks [extreme difference of colour between lightly sanded and heavily sanded
- Darkest Pine is darker than darker Hemlock [achieved by minimal sanding/maintenance of the majority of original patina]
*A better option when considering non-epoxy finish option [straight urethane, wax, unfinished] as decreased risk of splinters/slivers.*
In case your completely confused by now…
What most of our customers do is refer to a 1-3 table tops on the website, and then we determine the appropriate species/sanding degree to perform [as we don’t change original colour with stain]. Then, we carry these tones throughout other pieces you may want; from reclaimed wood tables to reclaimed wood hutches, buffets and benches. This approach has served very successful.
Ultimately, there is not a substantial difference between the two. If you come our Cambridge showroom, and see the many rustic tables displayed; you’ll likely have trouble to spot the difference between them.
A common nervousness for our customers is the unpredictability of working with reclaimed wood [especially when staining doesn’t occur]. We see it differently. As all the salvaged wood we use [and will continue to use long into the future despite the barns disappearing.. we’re stocking up..] is from the same era; the results from finishing will stay the same… age, grain, degree of patina/distressing.
The sanding is what it all comes down to; and we’re the best. We’ve done hundreds of reclaimed wood pieces and have the process nailed down. We can’t guarantee extremely specific characteristics; but we can guarantee a range of tones. There are basically 6 options – dark, regular or light Hemlock, dark, regular or light Pine.
Soon I will be addressing the issue of chairs & seating; another thing I get questioned about a lot. Given the volume of inquiries relating to this matter; we’re currently going “mad scientist” in the finishing shop on 10-15 solid wood, Mennonite-built chair designs to provide a line of chairs as part our product line. Keep an eye on the “seating” part of the website.
Thanks for reading! I’m hoping to increase the frequency of my posts I hear a lot of questions and can address most of them through this medium.