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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 Î" 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.
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