A wood alternative: “Try Canadian Wood” campaign boosts B.C. wood use

By: Zoish Bengali

Director, FII

Vietnamese furniture maker Thu Lam Enterprises successfully trials B.C. western hemlock as a more sustainable, cost-effective substitute to more expensive hardwoods

A well-established Vietnamese furniture maker, Thu Lam Wood Company, successfully trialed the use of B.C. western hemlock last month as a promising alternative to more expensive, difficult to source hardwoods—such as white oak and ash. The trial was part of FII Vietnam’s “Try Canadian Wood” campaign–an initiative that provides small quantities of B.C. wood for product trials, so manufacturers can become more familiar with the favourable properties and workability of Canadian softwoods.

Easier to saw, plane and sand than traditional hardwoods, hemlock can speed up production and reduce costly equipment wear-and-tear for Thu Lam Wood Company. The Biên Hòa-based fabricator—that has exported a wide range of furniture to North American and European markets for the better part of three decades—was able to achieve a similar look and feel for their designs using the Canadian softwood replacement.

Owner and director Thu Lam remarked on hemlock’s strength, stability and relative density and liked that it could provide a similar look and feel as hardwoods. Along with being easy to work with, hemlock is non-resinous and able to take any stain or paint colour—giving the Thu Lam fabrication team exceptional design flexibility.

Along with these benefits, sustainably harvested western hemlock can help Vietnamese wood fabricators meet the nation’s recent Timber Legality Assurance System requiring manufacturers to source wood products from certified forests. In response to this decree, Canada has been identified as a trusted international supplier and recognized as a legal and sustainable provider of forest products. Canada accounts for almost 35 percent of all certified forests globally—the largest of any country worldwide.

The FII Vietnam team continues to provide educational and technical support to Thu Lam Wood Company as the company looks to incorporate more Canadian softwoods into their product lines.

The products produced as part of the trial are expected to be sold to customers in Thu Lam’s international markets.