Pine used to be very cheap hence why so many mass producing factories and small cabinet shops favour this timber. Long gone are the days when you used to pay $5 a lineal metre in the mid 90’s, I even remember the days when it cost only $3. Now it ranges from $15-17 and home centre charge around $20. But if you have serious money on hand and plenty of storage space, buy in bulk and your price will significantly drop. I guess that’s with everything, but for us poor sods it’s never an option.
Pine has always been used mostly as a secondary timber until the last half of the 18th century. These were for the country folk who couldn’t afford hardwoods like Walnut and Mahogany or Oak. But this isn’t a history lesson on Pine and what types of furniture that was built with it, but a short post on some important points on how to get the most out of it or I should say, how to work with it.
Pine as I see it is a good trainer or a test of your skills.
Your tools must be extremely sharp especially your saws as the fibres tear due to it being soft. Even then you will break out on the bottom leaving a rough surface. Mr Sellers offers a great solution to this by knifing a double line the thickness of your saw kerf, but if you can’t saw straight then this method won’t help you. In the beginning you can saw back 1/8 from the line and shoot to the line until you get more proficient at sawing. Don’t think yourself any less of a craftsman if you can’t saw straight and plumb, everyday is a learning curve and the more you do it the better you’ll get at it, but if you give up then you’ll be in the same spot you were 20 years ago.
Your chisels, plane irons and carving tools must also be sharp, if that means you need to visit your stones more times than you normally would, I would highly recommend it. Don’t be lazy or frustrated doing this, a quick hone will be 5 mins of your time and the results will soon make you forget your time loss.
Your workmanship must be of the highest quality.
You must take extra care when working with pine due to it’s soft nature, any bumps, scratches, marks will stick out like a saw thumb leaving evidence of poor sloppy workmanship. If your going to stain it, then these marks will truly be highlighted. So always check your bench and clean it thoroughly of any little chips that will compress itself into your board. You should be doing that with all boards. When moving it around be extra careful that you don’t bump it into something like I did with the planter box.
Pine is a great and I emphasise is a great wood to train yourself to work to high levels of accuracy and to work cleanly.
Pine is easy to plane but sometimes it will tear, grain isn’t easy to read on Pine so start off with a light cut and progress to a heavier one if you need too.
Structural pine is an outdoor timber due to it’s high resin content, so building a planter box or a park bench should last outdoors. However, don’t stain it but slap a coat of thick coloured paint to stop the blue staining that will occur in a matter of two weeks. You see old window frames made out of yellow pine and painted white, and they’ve been around long before any of us and they’re still around today. So don’t fooled that you can’t use it for outdoors.
While pine isn’t an attractive timber it’s not ugly either, just mundane and ordinary looking but so are most trainers I’ve ever come across in life. But Pine is just that though, a good trainer that will elevate your skills and make you a better craftsman in the end.
And don’t forget you can pretty it up by painting it, adding decorative features like carving, burnishing, oiling and yes even staining it. If you follow my method of staining you won’t get any blotches or you can use a gel stain instead. The methods and solutions of making it an attractive piece are endless.
I’m going to leave you with a teaser, the best type of pine I’ve ever worked with is **** I’m not going tell you, because I’m afraid you will start to seek it out and this supply and demand crap will blow the price out of the water. Experiment and you’ll soon figure it out which is the better of the countless out there and when you do, don’t be like the old guy in the western movies who screams out “gold”! in the saloon bar. When you discover gold keep it to yourself and continue digging it out of the ground quietly.