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Douglas Fir (Psuedotsuga taxifola or menziesii) is somewhat misnamed. It is not of the true "fir" family and botanists argue over where it should truly be categorized. One nickname for Douglas Fir is "Oregon Red Pine". It grows throughout the Western United States into Canada and is a very important tree for construction uses. The lumber often tends to have open voids where resin collects during growth. These are called "pitch pockets". Douglas Fir was the source of lumber for the plywood industry in its infancy in the United States. On the West Coast, Douglas Fir was used extensively for framing and flooring, like Longleaf Pine was in the South. The Redwood that was commonly available there was too soft for floors and framing, but the Fir lacks the rot resistance for exterior work. They were used in conjunction on structures like the Longleaf Pine and Cypress were used in the South.

When the "Old Growth" Eastern and then Southern Forests were logged out in the 1920's, people turned to the West Coast and its vast areas of seemingly untouched resources. The Southern "Second Growth" lumbers, pine and cypress were of clearly inferior quality to what was available only a few years earlier. During World War II, the government took control of and rationed many things, construction lumber along with coffee and gasoline. The builders of Kelly Air Force Base took advantage of the long, high quality beams that Douglas Fir could provide for airplane hangars for the war effort. it was not unusual to see wood 2" x 15" x 30 feet long, with very few knots and very tight grain.

After the war, builders who had gotten spoiled with western wood quality chose it over inferior southern wood for construction in San Antonio. Many tract houses in the 1950's used Douglas Fir for framing, with Redwood siding and decorative pieces, and even Douglas Fir Plywood for exterior siding. The tight grained Douglas Fir resembles the "Old Growth" Longleaf Pine very closely for hardness and appearance. People will often think that they have Longleaf Pine in their house from the 1940's. The best way to tell the difference is by the smell. The Douglas Fir has a smell distinctly different from the turpentine odor of the Longleaf Pine. Some public schools used Douglas Fir, cut vertical grain, for stage flooring.

At present, Douglas Fir trees are undergoing the "Old Growth"/"New Growth" shift and less and less high quality lumber is readily available.
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"Flat" Cut Douglas Fir With Knot

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"Vertical" Grain, "Old Growth" Douglas Fir Lumber

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Douglas Fir With Pitch Pocket

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Ends Showing "Old" Versus "New" Growth Douglas Fir Quality

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Figured Grain Douglas Fir

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Side of Figured Board

#1 Fredericksburg Road at “Five Points” | P.O. Box 5398 | San Antonio, TX 78201 | T 210-736-3137 | F 210-736-3136