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Western Hemlock

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Machining methods

Machining methods

Western hemlock is considerably harder than its eastern relative, yet you won't have difficulty working it with hand tools.

  • Beware cutting any wood that includes knots, however. They tend to be brittle and break easily. Your best bet: Lay out the work to avoid them, or keep them toward the inside of your cuts.
  • Sometimes, you can't avoid machining stock with knots, so you treat them tenderly. In thicknessing, for instance, use sharp knives and reduce the cut to " or less. On the jointer, also minimize the cut, and drastically reduce the feed rate at knots.
  • Western hemlock, unlike Douglas fir, won't easily splinter or tear out when crosscut or otherwise machined across the grain. Still, for the cleanest cuts, keep a backing board in place.
  • Plan on drilling pilot holes for screws in western hemlock. And if you're going to nail near the ends of a board, predrill.
  • Because this wood is for all purposes resinless, you won't have to seal knots with shellac to prevent bleed-through. You should, however, seal or condition flat-sawn wood before staining, That's because western hemlock when flat-sawn displays a growth-ring pattern of hard-then-soft that fights even staining.
  • To preserve hemlock's natural light color, think about using a water-based clear finish. It won't yellow as easily as a traditional lacquer or varnish.

Continued on page 6:  Carving comments


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