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The Douglas Fir thread!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by speyer, Jan 21, 2021.

  1. speyer

    speyer Supporting Member

    Being a woodworker born and raised here on the West Coast… You’d think I’d have a stash of Douglas fir in my wood collection dedicated to instrument building. Instead, I have handled and gone through hundreds of pieces of Doug fir... whether be reclaimed or fresh off the mill or stock shelves at the local Lumberyard. Many of which were of a very high-quality… Very tight, straight grained, heavy beautiful stuff.

    Up until yesterday, I have assumed Doug Fir wasn’t really a suitable Tonewood for instrument making. Thus, its use has been relegated to largely finishing Millwork and or fine furniture pieces IME.

    Yesterday, I was at the lumberyard grabbing some jamb material for my own home renovation… And across from me in the VG Fir section (not hem-fir) was this big ol’ banana’d s4s 2x10 (1.5x9.25) that looked to have been there quite a while. Being the wood snob that I am... I immediately noticed the figure popping out of this board along its entire 10 foot length. Upon closer inspection… I realize the whole thing is curly, right through to the other side and is heavy as hell. Well as you can imagine… I excitedly bought the thing for a measly $7.50 per board foot. After loading it up in my van, I Google search “Douglas Fir guitar” thinking; someone must be using this stuff in guitar builds!?

    Well, I find out that I have been sadly misinformed about this useful species of wood. After seeing several dozen fantastic images of solid body and acoustic guitars with curly Douglas for tops... I go down the rabbit hole only to discover that Doug Fir can and is being used today for everything from acoustic tops & bracing as an alternative to spruce, to solid body tops and even bass/guitar necks instead of maple! Too cool. I’m so excited to build on my specialty Doug fir stash and incorporating the species into future builds!

    For the sake of inspiration... Show me your Douglas Fir! :)

    67582B7E-CA15-4F30-948B-A8712311B00C.jpeg E322A6FB-30A9-4E81-AAE1-BAEC717B1713.jpeg AC363CA5-41D8-4BC3-9C13-7E0D7C8CB584.jpeg
  2. Bloomfield


    Jan 21, 2020
    Nova Scotia
    Nice find; I love it for solidbodies, although only if it's quartersawn which you don't find much around here in 8/4 stock. I also use it for back bracing in acoustics and I have a nice quartersawn 1x3 I've been planning to try for a neck. Have fun with it.
    Erik Asma and speyer like this.
  3. That looks really nice. I didn’t know fir did that. I have used Radiatia Pine for a body but never Fir. Looking forward to how this turns out.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  4. I have a chunk of curly clear 2x (12?) Doug Fir that I salvaged off a job site years ago, and have never done anything with. I’ll try to post a pic. Very unusual stuff!
    Reedt2000 and speyer like this.
  5. speyer

    speyer Supporting Member

    Right!? I’ve seen a TON of Fir over the years but none curly like this.
    BassToGoGo likes this.
  6. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Sure looks cool :woot:

    I have no idea what can be done with it... but I'd like to find out :thumbsup:

    Sub'd :D
  7. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I would be fine with a body for a bass made of Douglas fir, but it'd have to be well seasoned/dried - the new stuff for building houses is usually green and wet - not yet stable. If you've ever driven screws in an old house where the Douglas fir studs are old and really dry, it's very hard, tough stuff - the screws literally SCREAM when you drive them into old Douglas Fir.

    There are a lot of pine bodied solid body instruments out there - using coniferous woods (well dried) in that application is completely reasonable. But I wouldn't chance a neck made out of the stuff.
  8. speyer

    speyer Supporting Member

    ^ totally agree. This board was kiln dried before it got to the “lumberyard” which in this case was the finishing section indoors where all the KD lumber lives. Guessing by the overall curve and patina on the board... I’m guessing it’s been indoors for at least a year after being kind dried.

    Im planning to cut it down into a few different lengths, flatten those sections and maybe resaw the ones I plan to use as tops. Then I’ll sticker stack it for a while to see what happens. I might even try roasting a section as well!
  9. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    One of my basses has a neck made from fir.One of my basses has a neck made from it.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  10. Erik Asma

    Erik Asma

    Jul 20, 2019
    Looking forward to it. That's a lovely bit of wood.
    Dried through and through I don't see why you cannot make a bass out if it. They made them from ply and those sounded fine.
  11. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    douglas fir makes a fine arrow..all i got.
    DustyBottom likes this.
  12. dwizum

    dwizum Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2018
    One of the best woods out there in terms of stiffness to weight ratios. It's a shame it gets a bad rep as a cheap species only good for 2 x 4's because it makes an excellent top for acoustic instruments. You just can't sell them, because it's not a famous traditional species.
    gebass6, TrustRod and james condino like this.
  13. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Not highly figured but dry and stable. I found a big piece holding up a porch on an old house. Cut it into this blank for a "National" short scale build. At 1-1/2" thick it is still 4 pounds 12 ounces so not a lightweight. IMG_7119.JPG
  14. Wow I really dig the wavy figure, that's almost a redwood looking grain pattern.
    Density is what usually drives me when looking at new species/varieties.

    Good luck, I can't wait to see what you build out of it.
  15. speyer

    speyer Supporting Member

    All the pictures of figured doug fir instruments that I’ve run across online look very similar to redwood. Less red in colour of course by similar. I’ve got some curly redwood in my stash as well and this fir is WAY desnser and harder. The redwood is featherweight by comparison.
  16. My house is framed with Douglas Fir.
    Rôckhewer, TerribleTim68 and speyer like this.
  17. Watch out for the slivers!
    bajaandy likes this.
  18. Cool! Im a PNW guy too!
    I have an old Ibanez neck that i have been thinking about building a body for and have been thinking fir and/or red alder.., we have an abundance of both. All just a thought At the moment. I’ve been wondering why fir isn’t used much.
    This is a deck I’ve been helping build... all fir decking that we milled from 2x4 and 2x6 lumber and finger joined to get continuous length. Very pretty,
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  19. dwizum

    dwizum Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2018
    You PNW guys have a lot of awesome native tonewoods. I'm envious of the redwood and myrtle especially. And the claro walnut, and all the fruit and nut trees...
    TerribleTim68 likes this.


    Dec 12, 2013
    EKOMB21.jpg EKOMB21.jpg
    Here is my old Eko mb 21. Fir cap on the front and back with a mahogany core.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Mar 4, 2021

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