As a woodworker, you will come across countless types of wood and occasionally you will come across similar ones. However, there are no identical wood types. Each one has its unique characteristics. Spruce wood and Douglas fir are two similar-looking conifers that resemble each other in appearance and texture.
Spruce wood vs. Douglas fir are two very common types of wood but each has its own unique features and benefits. In this post, we’ll compare the workability of each species of wood as well as the durability, hardness, price, wood grain and other characteristics of each type of wood.
Spruce Wood vs. Douglas Fir
Spruce is lighter and softer than Douglas fir, has a straight grain, and is well-suited for basic construction projects. If it grows to full size and becomes mature it exhibits acoustic properties as well, earning it the title of “tonewood.” Hence, it plays a prominent role in making musical instruments like violins, guitars, and even pianos.
Spruce also serves well for building boats and ships, oars, and even airplane panels. But it is limited by its tendency to develop rot and it burns easily. Douglas fir on the other hand is much more resistant to rot with a high degree of fire resistance. Being readily available from a tree that grows rapidly, this wood comes cheaper than even spruce.
Architects and engineers use Douglas fir extensively thanks to its dimensional stability, its significant strength-to-weight ratio, and its durability. You can also put nails and screws easily into this wood without too much concern about splitting it. Douglas fir is reasonably weather-resistant as well.
You will find spruce well-distributed across continental Europe, the United States, and Canada. Although it is essentially a timber tree, it remains sustainable due to the rapid rate of growth as compared to hardwood trees. Spruce makes suitable material for both indoor and outdoor structures and is the primary building material in Europe and across the US as well.
Spruce wood is structurally a very strong wood, and its decorative grain pattern makes some interesting varieties of spruce plywood as well. It makes good quality veneer and flooring. The spruce wood that comes from central and eastern Europe exhibits exceptional tonal properties, making it an excellent tonewood. Hence, luthiers covet spruce for making guitars and violins. The soundboards of pianos are also made of this wood.
Douglas fir is the lesser sibling in that it does not possess the tonal superiority of spruce. But what lacks in finesse, it makes up for in durability. You will find a robust, economical, and versatile building material in Douglas fir. The long, straight grain pattern of this wood makes for suitable lumber for use as a construction material. Further, you can use Douglas fir for making windows, doors, flooring, panels, and trim. It also makes some very reasonably-priced but attractive and robust plywood.
Spruce Wood vs. Douglas Fir: Appearance
Spruce comes in creamy-white, light-yellow, or reddish-brown. There is not much difference between the heartwood and the sapwood. The grain pattern is straight and regular which gets highlighted nicely with a suitable finish.
Douglas fir is quite similar to spruce in the sense that it ranges from light-yellow to reddish-brown. The latewood and earlywood, however, differ from each other in color. The grain pattern of Douglas fir will also differ according to the way the wood is cut, and you will get a fine to medium texture from it. All this makes Douglas fir an attractive option to use if appearance is a priority in your woodworking project.
Spruce Wood Vs. Douglas Fir: Durability
Spruce is a lightweight, softwood with medium density. It is strong as well and cuts well with hand and machine tools. There is an occasional possibility of the wood splitting when you drive a nail or screw into it, so you have to take care from that quarter. Otherwise, spruce can be classified as moderately durable wood.
Doulas fir is also lightweight and soft, but it has the added advantage of being flexible. Hence, even if it shrinks or expands as it dries or takes in moisture, it will eventually regain its original shape. This makes Douglas fir a favored wood for builders and woodworkers alike. It is so stable that it is even shipped out and used when it is still green. It holds quite firm against fungus, insect attack and has a reasonably high level of weather resistance, making it a highly-durable variety of wood.
Spruce Wood Vs. Douglas Fir: Maintenance
When it comes to maintenance, Douglas fir has a clear advantage over spruce. Although you need to maintain both types of wood in a similar way regarding cleaning and polishing, you will find that the enhanced durability of Douglas fir makes it a preferred choice for using outdoors. Both kinds of wood, however, need to be wiped clean of spills regularly and cleaned with soft bristle brushes or a vacuum cleaner.
Although you aren’t likely to use spruce outdoors, even for indoor use, you will get the best out of this wood if you refinish it every few years.
Spruce Wood Vs. Douglas Fir: Price
You can source construction-grade spruce very cheaply, and it is readily available. However, the price shoots up rapidly as soon as you get latewood or quarter-sawn pieces devoid of knots. The equation becomes even more complicated when you procure spruce to make musical instruments and some grades can be exorbitantly expensive.
Douglas fir on the other hand comes at a much lower price than spruce, even when it comes to construction-grade material. Douglas fir also makes good plywood which is readily available and reasonably priced.
Spruce Wood Vs. Douglas Fir: Sustainability
Spruce and Douglas fir trees are both easily replaced, and they have a rapid rate of growth compared to hardwood trees. Hence, these are both highly sustainable varieties of wood. Hence, you can be sure to meet the sustainability requirements of wood, if you use either of these types of wood.
Spruce Wood Vs. Douglas Fir: Comparison Table
|Parameter||Spruce Wood||Douglas Fir|
|Botanical name||Picea sitchensis||Pseudotsuga menziesii|
|Color||cream/white to yellow and a pinkish or reddish hue||Light brown tinted with red or yellow|
|Durability||Durable but less durable than Douglas fir||More durable than Spruce|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||510||620|
|Maintenance||Needs extra care||Needs extra care|
|Price||Cheap to expensive||Cheaper than Spruce|
|Suitability for outdoors||No||Yes, if treated|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Yes, but tricky to stain||Cuts and machines well but tends to make blades blunt|
|Smell||No distinct odor||Distinct, resinous odor when being worked|
|Availability||Readily available||Readily available|
|Special features if any||Excellent tonewood||No unique characteristics|
Now you have seen how these two seemingly similar conifer woods differ. You also will have read about their specific benefits. If you have this information, you can know when and where to use each type of wood. There is a suitable application for either spruce or Doulas fir. If you have access to this information, you can get the most out of any woodworking project using either of these two fine types of wood.