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Author Topic: Douglas Fir mystery  (Read 1063 times)

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Offline PNWRusty

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Douglas Fir mystery
« on: July 08, 2017, 01:07:11 pm »
Three years ago while firewood gathering I lucked upon a nice 36" diameter downed Douglas Fir situated off the ground and uphill of the road. It looked like it had been down for 6-12 months so I cut enough rounds and rolled them 20-30' down the steep slope to fill my truck. This was at 1800' elevation in the North Cascades. The bark was about 4" thick and I retained it because I know it puts out a lot of heat when burned.

While processing the wood at home I noticed there were irritating little pricklies felt when handled bare-handed. The irritation would last 3-8 hours wherever I had touched the wood. I had leather gloves on when recovering the wood and had not noticed any stinging nettles although it would be normal for there to be a few and it just might not have registered.

I burned the wood last winter and needed to handle the wood with leather gloves. Even after seasoning it, the irritation remained. I used a 50X magnifier to look at my palm after handling it bare-handed and saw numerous little sharp, pointy "slivers" about the length of a fingerprint line width. These are not wood fiber splinters but little spikes.

This year I found another similar Doug Fir in the same area and reluctantly recovered it. But I can handle this wood without the irritation.

What do you think? Would rolling the rounds through nettles contaminate the firewood, even through the splitting, stacking and seasoning process? Or could it be another (non-nettle) contaminant? Or can Douglas Fir bark develop little spikes on it's own?

Offline Chop Shop

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 02:23:12 pm »
Doug fir bark will make you itch like handling insulation.

Offline PNWRusty

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2017, 11:56:05 am »
Doug fir bark will make you itch like handling insulation.

OK, so one vote for the itch is the natural result of it being Douglas Fir.

But why then do I get no itch from another Douglas Fir of the same diameter and same appearance that grew within a couple miles of the itchy wood?

Offline bluthum

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2017, 05:18:43 pm »
I don't know anything about doug fir bark but stinging nettles use a tiny little spikey thing to inject you with uhh.. boric acid i think.

Maybe you could take that 50x magnifier and look at some mature nettle plants to see if their "injectors' look like the little things you saw on your skin you suspect of being the irritant. 

Offline PNWRusty

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2017, 01:25:15 am »
Yes, they do look similar but that's not saying much because they are just little needles shaped like the clipped end of a sewing needle (only far smaller).

My experience with nettles is that they sting but it feels like a chemical irritant. The Douglas Fir that irritated seemed more like miniature painful wood splinters (ie, more physical, less chemical). If that makes sense. But if it is from nettles, maybe the stingers dry out and become less chemical and more of a physical irritant over time.

Has anyone else found Douglas Fir to be an irritant to bare skin?

Offline Furu

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2017, 03:02:39 am »
Before it is dried and while sawing it---- Yes
Almost microscopic in size.  Takes a magnifying glass to see them and the are irritating for a day or so then not so much. 
Young DF don't seem so bad but the older they are the worse they seem to be.
Never really thought about it that much just kind of accepted it as normal.
Wear gloves and long sleeves then no problem.

Offline PNWRusty

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2017, 09:46:20 am »
Before it is dried and while sawing it---- Yes
Almost microscopic in size.  Takes a magnifying glass to see them and the are irritating for a day or so then not so much. 
Young DF don't seem so bad but the older they are the worse they seem to be.

Ok, the age of the tree thing could explain why I've never noticed Douglas Fir irritation before. Because I've more commonly cut DF that is only 1-2 feet in diameter.

But my recent experiences contradict your explanation (Not saying you're wrong, I just need more confirmation). Because the 36" diameter DF was a strong irritant 2 years after cutting, splitting, stacking and curing. Every time I loaded the woodstove I needed to remember to put gloves on or I would regret it for the next 4-6 hours. I didn't notice any irritation during the initial cutting/loading (but I did wear gloves). But the more recent DF I found in the same area, about 38" in diameter,  I rubbed on my bare skin in numerous places before I determined it wasn't irritating me and decided to recover it. It has never bothered me at all.  smiley_huh



Offline Ox

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2017, 10:56:15 am »
You're absolutely sure it was Doug Fir?  Only reason I say that is because larch, or tamarack, does that tiny sliver trick too.  Do you have larch growing out your way?  From what I can tell from pics on google they look somewhat similar.  I wouldn't know a doug fir if it fell on my head and turned me into a fence post.  But I'll never forget sawmilling larch!  Had to take a new razor and scrape those little slivers outta my hands and fingers.  Can't really see them but you know they're there.
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Offline Furu

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2017, 11:17:03 am »
Needles on DF and Larch are totally different. Bark is different as well.  If it was winter even easier as larch are among the few deciduous conifers while DF are not.
Of course I am presuming that PNWRusty knows that. ;D

Offline PNWRusty

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2017, 12:19:00 pm »
You're absolutely sure it was Doug Fir?  Only reason I say that is because larch, or tamarack, does that tiny sliver trick too.  Do you have larch growing out your way?  From what I can tell from pics on google they look somewhat similar.  I wouldn't know a doug fir if it fell on my head and turned me into a fence post.  But I'll never forget sawmilling larch!  Had to take a new razor and scrape those little slivers outta my hands and fingers.  Can't really see them but you know they're there.

It's pretty wet for Larch/Tamarack around here and especially in the microclimate I'm cutting in (a PNW rainforest). But there's no mistaking a mature Doug Fir! I can't think of any tree that has bark as thick and gnarly textured. Some steam train hobbyists feed their boilers nothing but Doug Fir bark due to it's long hot burn, low ash and consistent output.

Offline Ox

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2017, 01:54:18 pm »
OK, sounds like you're positive and I'm out of suggestions!  :)

I've noticed distinct differences in trees on this mountain of mine.  Big differences sometimes.  In fact I have a red oak that one would swear is a sugar maple looking at the bark DBH.  Maybe this has something to do with your problem... meaning same species but different enough where it's strange.
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Offline BradMarks

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2017, 02:04:31 pm »
PNW:  In and around doug fir all my life, that's a new one for me. Only slivers I've ever got you could take out with pliers ;D Is it the bark or the wood itself being the irritant?

Offline PNWRusty

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2017, 03:24:58 pm »
I think it's the bark but once it was cut, split and stacked even the wood portions were contaminated!


Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2017, 04:12:32 pm »
Douglas fir bark, pulverized into dust is an ingredient used in potato seed treatment, for when the seed is cut and planted. That's all I know of it's bark.  ;D

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Offline Kbeitz

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 08:40:16 pm »
This is the first I ever heard of this and we have thousands of Douglas fir
Christmas trees here on the farm.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 03:24:59 pm »
Its a carrier and wound healing agent for the fungicide for treating the potato seed.

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/coarc/sites/default/files/publication/06_potato_seed_fungicide_carriers.pdf

The brand father used was Chipman.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

'If she wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log.'
Dirty Harry

Offline enigmaT120

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Re: Douglas Fir mystery
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2017, 08:57:01 pm »
The dust from Douglas fir irritates my skin, mostly from larger trees, and mostly from trees that have been down over a year as the bark seems to come off the log and fragment more.  So of course I've been out there splitting shirtless 3 of the past 4 days.  I just put up with it.  These trees have been down so long almost all of the bark is coming off.  I usually burn it, too, but I'm tempted to leave it to spare myself some of the dust.  I think I'll take the thicker sections from the largest tree.

Ed Miller
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