We classify wood into two types – hardwood and softwood. It is a common tendency to regard hardwood as wood that is denser and harder than softwood. Although this is commonly the case, there are a few exceptions. For example, balsa, a hardwood, is softer than pine which is a softwood. The more scientific way of classifying wood as being hardwood or softwood is basing it on the reproductive systems of the trees. Hardwood comes from deciduous angiosperm trees, whereas softwood comes from gymnosperm evergreen trees.
Pine (Pinus) is a softwood, lightweight, relatively cheap and easy to procure, making it one of the most popular wood choices, especially for indoor furniture. Teak on the other hand is an expensive hardwood that is rot-resistant and popular for outdoor furniture. While Pine and Teak are on separate ends of the wood spectrum, they are worth comparing.
In this post, we compare two of the most popular hardwoods and softwoods – teak and pinewood respectively.
Characteristics of Teak
Teak wood comes from the tree species Tectona grandis and grows primarily in south and southeast Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. You will find it growing in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma. Due to increasing demand for this wood, it is now also cultivated in Africa and the Caribbean.
Teak has a smooth grain with a silky, satiny texture. The color is yellowish-brown which will take on a silver-grey patina over time. Teak produces natural oil in high quantities, that protect it from insect attack and prevents damage through moisture. The natural oil in teak also makes the wood have a leathery smell when cut.
Because of its high oil content, teak will not deteriorate easily, even when left on its own without applying any finish. Teak wood has high tensile strength and density. The wood is moderately hard with a Janka hardness number of 1,070. There are harder woods, but teak has several other advantages over those woods.
Due to its high oil content and resistance to rot, decay, insect attack and moisture, teak is a favored wood for building boats and ships. For the same reason, it plays a vital role in outdoor furniture, decks, and a variety of outdoor structures. It also serves well for indoor furniture and wooden flooring and building material.
Due to the high demand for this wood, teak was over-exploited. As a result, it has become a scarce and highly expensive type of wood today.
Characteristics of Pine
Pine (Pinus) is a softwood, light in weight and relatively cheap and easy to procure. Because it is lightweight, pine plays a prominent role in making indoor furniture, as it is easier to move around.
Pine has a light yellow to light brown color and is smooth to the touch. The grain is fairly deep and is punctuated with knots that add to the good looks of this wood. But these knots can also interfere with the workability of the wood. It can sometimes be hard to cut the wood in the knotted areas, as it is harder there than the rest of the wood.
You get different varieties of pinewood like yellow pine, white pine and red pine. Red pine is the darkest variety and also the variety that has the heaviest grain.
Pinewood is well-known for its stiffness and sturdiness and resistance to shock. But due to its softness, it needs to be treated with a little extra care. It is highly prone to damage through scratches, dents and abrasion, which makes it a challenge to use for flooring.
Pine is a highly resinous wood, and it exudes a heavy, resinous fragrance, especially when new or freshly cut. Some people may be allergic to this heavy fragrance, while others revel in it.
Due to the deep grain with intermittent knots, pine imparts a rustic look and makes good internal walls, flooring, and wooden furniture. You can paint pine easily, but you will find it difficult to apply stain. Even left on its own without applying a finish, pine can be pleasing to the eye.
Teak vs. Pine
The key difference between teak and pine is of course that teak is a hardwood and pine a softwood. There is a huge price difference between the two types of wood as well. Teak being a harder and more durable wood type is widely popular for making furniture and building material.
Pine is also fairly strong but not as strong as teak. It is used extensively for non-load bearing structures in building and also for making different types of furniture. An advantage that pine has over teak is that it has excellent acoustic damping properties. This makes it useful for lining the walls of sound recording studios.
Teak vs. Pine: Pros and Cons
Having had a close look at the characteristics of these two popular types of wood, let’s examine the pros and cons of each type:
- A durable wood, with high resistance to moisture, rot and insect attack thanks to the natural oils present.
- Teak is very popular due to its good looks.
- The appearance can be enhanced by applying a suitable finish.
- Teak also takes paint very well thanks to its close grain pattern provided you first apply a suitable coating of primer.
- Even if left on its own without applying finish teak will develop a silvery-grey patina that looks classic and offers protection to the wood.
- It is suitable for outdoor use.
- Teak trees are huge, making it possible to get very large sections of timber.
- The grain patterns of teak are unique, with no two pieces exactly similar, and uniform, allowing for a smooth finish after sanding and planing.
- Teak is not easily available due to the over-exploitation of teak forests.
- Highly expensive type of wood.
- Poor acoustic properties.
- Teak is not a very sustainable wood due to the long time taken for the trees to grow to maturity – more than eighty years.
- The wood contains minerals that have an adverse effect on the blades of cutting tools.
- Needs to be stored appropriately in a suitable environment and in the correct position to prevent warping and cracking.
Pine is one of the cheapest varieties of wood.
It is readily available at almost all lumber yards and hardware shops.
Light yellow to light brown color with a deep grain that is pleasing to the eye.
Pinewood contains a high degree of knots that impart a rustic look to the wood.
It exudes a pleasant, resinous fragrance.
Easy to paint.
Easy to work with as the wood is soft and pliable.
The wood is lightweight, making it suitable for making indoor furniture that has to be moved about frequently.
Strong acoustic properties.
Highly sustainable as the trees grow much faster than many hardwood varieties.
- Poor weather resistance.
- Frequent knots in the wood can make the wood difficult to cut.
- The wood is soft, so, prone to dents, abrasions and scratches.
- Difficult to stain as there is a tendency to develop blotches.
- The heavy fragrance of pinewood may cause difficulty for allergy sufferers.
If you are new to woodworking, you would do well to start with pinewood. It is a very forgiving wood, and if you avoid the knots initially, you should get on quite well. Teak needs a bit of experience to handle. It can be difficult to cut as it is far harder than pine, but with a bit of experience, the results can be satisfactory.
Both of these popular varieties of wood can make impressive woodworking projects. Now that you know more about the benefits and drawbacks of each type, you can choose the most suitable wood for your next woodworking project. You can complete a successful woodworking project with either of these two types of wood.