Pine Wood Characteristics & Types

Pine Wood Characteristics & Types

The major types of pine wood, their characteristics, and how to finish them.

Craftsman Style

¶ White Pine. In the memory of the older building craftsmen white pine has a glorious past. Its very extensive employment for all manner of building exteriors acquainted all of those men with its great strength and fine working qualities.

¶ White pine is a soft wood with a close, even and uniform grain texture. It is light in weight but very strong. Its color is pale, light yellow with few markings, none of which are very strong. The surface of white pine is smooth and without raised grain. It is a durable wood which holds its shape exceptionally well, showing no warping, swelling, shrinking, checking or splitting.

¶ Considering the finishes which are best for white pine first mention should be made of painted and enameled finishes. White pine has no superior when it comes to forming a permanent and satisfactory foundation for paint and enamel. Its soft, fine texture and its habit of staying where you put it, avoiding warping, swelling opening of joints, etc., gives it first place for these finishes. Then its subdued grain and figure, the absence of strongly contrasting streaky make it possible, to cover and hide this light colored wood with fewer coats of paint than is possible with other pine woods.

¶ For stained finishes white pine is not interesting unless selected and matched for figure. Then it makes an interesting finish in the browns. Selected grains of white pine finish well with mahogany stains. And selected grains with many small knots are popular for finishing in the natural color when used for library and dining room panels which are a reproduction of early English and American colonial architecture of pine and deal wood. The wood is yellowed with ammonia washes before finishing to give an antique or aged appearance. The finish then is thin white shellac and wax or white was alone.

¶ Before staining white pine it is best to brush on an oil coat first, mixing about one-half raw linseed oil and one-half turpentine. Brush this coat on, wipe off any excess after a few minutes and let it dry. Then finish with oil stain, preferably, but water and spirit stains can be used. Some prefer to use a thin coat of shellac instead of the oil first coat to seal up the suction places.

Sugar Pine. This wood is a true white pine, botanically, and has practically all of the characteristics of white pine. It is used for all interior and exterior building construction as well as for tanks, silos, boat decking, pattern making, organ pipes, piano keys, etc.

¶ Deal (Pine). The wood finisher occasionally gets a specification which calls for finishing pine like English deal wood paneled interiors. The pine used for this work in America is usually white and has been selected for having many small knots of dark color. The wood is simply sandpapered and brush coated once or twice with strong ammonia to give it a yellow color similar to the aged or antique appearance of the real deal wood after long exposure. The finish is then simply waxing with white wax or it is shellacked with white bleached shellac used thin and waxed or rubbed dull. Deal is a pine tree of the northern group which grows in Europe and North Asia. It is known as yellow deal and red deal. Russia, Poland, Sweden and Norway export deal lumber. It has been used for hundreds of years for interior house trim and as the core stock or solid parts of furniture and cabinet work over which veneers of finer finishing woods were glued. White deal (spruce) wood is used for cheap furniture in England.

Southern/Yellow Pine. It is true that there is more confusion in the minds of finishers and building mechanics in general about names for the various pine lumbers than about any other class of woods. The uncertainty about names has made it a bit difficult to specify finishes and for two people to discuss finishes and be sure they are talking about the same kind of wood.

¶ All of the Southern pine lumbers belong to the yellow pine group. The white pines come from the Northern states,from Eastern states first, then from the states about the Great Lakes and today from California.

¶ Seven trees of the coastal plains of the South furnish the commercial cut of southern or yellow pine. These trees are: longleaf, shortleaf, loblolly, Cuban, pond, spruce and sand pine. The lumber produced from all of these trees is similar as to qualities and so only three kinds of Southern yellow pine are generally recognized, namely, longleaf, shortleaf and loblolly pine.

¶ The confusion of thought has been added to greatly by the use of many local names for these three kinds of pine lumber. We have all heard and read about hard, pitch, fat, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, turpentine and Norway pine. All have been used indiscriminately to describe longleaf, short leaf and loblolly pines.

¶ To distinguish each of these three kinds of pine lumber is not at all difficult. In longleaf pine the growth rings are narrow, uniform in width and outline and number from eight to twelve rings per inch, Io6king at a log cut off across the length. The wood of this long-leaf pine is heavy, hard and full of resin or pitch. The color of the wood is reddish yellow or reddish brown. The ring of sap wood on the outside next to the bark is thin or narrow, the tree is mostly heartwood. The leaves of the tree are very long, from 9 to 15 inches.

¶ In short leaf pine the growth rings are of medium width and number from six to eight per inch. The wood is fairly hard and fairly heavy but not to the same degree as longleaf. Shortleaf contains less resin than longleaf. The color of the wood is from whitish brown to reddish brown. The width of the sapwood ring on the outside of the log next to the bark is greater than that on the longleaf, it is, in fact, rather thick.

¶ In loblolly pine the growth rings are usually very broad and there are but from four to six rings to the inch showing on the face of a cut-off log. The wood varies considerably in texture from hard, strong and compact to light, coarse and brashy. The color is subject to variation, too, from yellowish to reddish orange brown. The sapwood ring about the outside of the log is very thick.

¶ The Southern pines are cut straight or plain sawed (flat or slash grain) for most interior trim and exterior purposes. Some of it is quarter or rift-sawed and that method produces what we know as edge-grain pine commonly used for flooring. The edge-grain sawing makes a much harder, tougher wood to resist wear by abrasion.

¶ The uses to which Southern pine is put are innumerable for all exterior and interior building purposes.

¶ Interior trim and cabinets as well as some furniture of the kitchen type are made from it.

¶ Pine is generally classed as a soft wood, but some of it is very hard. It is for the most part a close grained wood with alternate hard and soft streaks. It is tough and very strong for the most part.

¶ Considering Southern pine from the standpoint of finishing, it makes an attractive appearance when finished in brown stains, dark red, green and weathered effects. It is rather a difficult wood to stain gray because of the very strong yellow grain figures. Silver gray stains for use on this wood should have a rather strong violet hue to neutralize the yellow as much as possible. To succeed with gray stains considerable white filler should be retained in the pores of the wood and pine is so close grained that it does not offer much open-grain to permit the white paste filler to lodge and remain on the surface. A wash of strong muriatic (hydrochloric) acid makes an interesting gray stain on Southern pine.

¶ On Southern pine stains take or soak into the soft streaks considerably and do not penetrate the hard resin-filled streaks much. Light colored stains as a rule are not so good on soft woods; dark stains are better. An even coloring is desirable on all staining jobs so any wood like this which takes stains spotty should be treated before staining so as to gain an even tone. Some finishers wash over the wood with benzole first to remove any surface pitch or resin and give the stain a chance to penetrate the hard resin-filled places. Benzole is a powerful solvent of resin. Alcohol will also serve this purpose. Then to overcome the excessive suction of the soft wood streaks some finishers brush on a thin coat of raw linseed oil, that is, half oil and half turpentine, wipe it off and let it dry overnight. Some prefer a thin coat of shellac to stop suction and even up the absorbing ability of the wood.

¶ Water aniline, or the so-called acid stains, raise the grain of pine and do not penetrate the resinous streaks much. After the stain the wood must be sandpapered to smooth it again. Spirit stains may be used-effectively and on this wood is one place where oil pigment stains show considerable advantage. They cover up part of the strong grain figure and fill up the excessively porous places, thus making an even color tone more easily than the more transparent water and spirit and chemical stains.

¶ As to enamel finishes on Southern pine, much has been written against the use of enamel on this wood because some trouble has been experienced. When the character of the wood is considered by the finisher and when he fits his- finishing methods to the surface as he should, no trouble will be experienced and this pine will give good service as a foundation for paint and enamel. The only real objection to the wood is that its strong grain figure contrasts so much with the soft, light-colored parts of the wood that it takes an extra coat of paint to hide the figure and make a uniform color in white and light tints. The first step before painting Southern pine should be to wash down the wood with benzole or alcohol so as to open up the pores of the wood in the resin, sap-filled streaks. That will give the paint a chance to penetrate a bit as it must in order to gain a firm hold on the wood. The benzole or alcohol wash, will also remove any excess of resin on the surface which may bleed through the paint and discolor the finish later, especially in the presence of heat.

¶ Benzole (160 degree solvent naphtha) is a powerful and volatile solvent of resin. Some finishers add a little of it to their paint for use on Southern pine which is unusually resinous. About one-half of one-fourth of the turpentine used in the first coat only may be benzole and it will assist the first coat to anchor itself. It evaporates completely with the turpentine and has no binding- effect. It should be put into the paint immediately before using.

¶ The next step of importance is that of using the least possible amount of oil on the surface. This wood will absorb little oil and so only enough oil should go into the first coat of paint to bind that coat together and to the wood. Any more oil than is needed to do that only makes a softer foundation and tends to make a white enamel turn yellow. The second and succeeding coats should contain no oil. The first coat should be white lead thinned with about one-fourth linseed oil, boiled, and three-fourths turpentine. The second coat may be white lead, or white lead and zinc oxide thinned with turpentine only, or first class enamel undercoater of the factory-prepared type. All three materials may be used in the order named for the better class jobs calling for a number of preparatory coats.

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