Precommercial thinning (PCT) is often used to improve stand growth and value. While PCT may accelerate tree growth and reduce mortality, it may also have a negative effect on product quality. This study examined the effect of moderate and heavy thinning on tree growth, lumber recovery and quality in a natural balsam fir [Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.] PCT trial 35 years after thinning. Compared with the control, the heavy thinning increased merchantable tree diameter, stem volume per tree and lumber volume recovery per tree by 41.1%, 100.9% and 92.7%, respectively, reduced the Select Structural grade (the best grade) recovery by 33.7%. Thinning did not affect the no. 2 and better grade yield. There was a 12.2% and 15.0% difference, respectively, in the lumber bending modulus of elasticity (MOE) and modulus of rupture (MOR) between the control and heavy thinning. Moderate thinning had little impact on the visual grade recovery, lumber bending MOE and MOR. Heavy thinning is recommended if the goal is to get sizeable sawlogs in the shortest time, whereas moderate thinning is preferable if the intention is to minimize the negative effects on lumber quality while retaining modest tree growth and lumber recovery. Overall, PCT of very dense young balsam fir stands appears to be an effective and viable silvicultural treatment.