We think of pine as wood that comes in yellow shades with dark brown knots and striations. So, the tendency is to say that pine is pine. But there is much more to the pine family, the Pinus genus, that meets the eye.
In this post, we delve deeper into the different variations of pinewood that you can get. Pine comes in different densities, strengths, hardness, colors, and textures. Some varieties of pine-like shortleaf pine, for example, have similar properties to red oak. With so many types of pinewood, read on to find out more!
Types of Pinewood
Pine falls into two broad categories, soft pine, and hard pine. Here, we start with a brief description of the two categories and then the specific varieties of pinewood, classified according to the level of hardness or softness.
Soft pine consists of a group of pines with a low density and a uniform grain pattern. There is an overlap between the species of this group that makes it difficult to distinguish between each other. But the common species of soft pine are as follows:
Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana)
You find this pine species growing in the mountains of the American Pacific Coast and they extend from Oregon to Baja, California. Sugar pine trees grow up to 200 feet with a trunk diameter up to 5 feet.
According to botanists, sugar pine is the most majestic species of pine in the world. However, it displays brown streaks when sawn. These brown streaks are the resin canals in the tree trunk.
Sugar pine plays a prominent role in fine millwork, and you will find it regularly featuring in interior trim work, moldings, and sashes. It is also a popular choice of wood for making musical instruments.
Western White Pine (Pinus monticola)
You will find western white pine mostly growing in the Siera Nevada, Northern Rocky Mountains, and the Coast Range in North America. The trees grow as high as 150 feet, and the trunks to a diameter of 5 feet.
It has a medium to coarse texture with an even grain. Western white pine makes veneer, plywood, packing crates, and wooden matches. It is also good for millwork, construction lumber, and it makes fine furniture.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern white pine is native to Eastern North America. It has a fine texture and low amounts of resin than other varieties of soft pine. We use it widely for construction, carving, and boatmaking and also for interior millwork.
An interesting piece of history of eastern white pine is the King of England marked the best trees as property for his navy.
It resulted in the Pine Tree Riot of 1772, resulting in the beating up of Benjamin Whiting, Sheriff of Hillsborough County, to protest against the British highhandedness.
Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)
Limber pine trees grow in the mountains of the Western United States, Canada, and Mexico. The trees grow up to 50 feet tall and with trunks of 3 feet in diameter. It is also called Rocky Mountain white pine.
This variety of pinewood does not have much commercial value. However, the branches of limber pinewood trees are extremely flexible, which is the reason for their botanical (flexilis) and common (limber) names. It is used for rough construction and fuel.
Coming to the second category, which is hard pinewood, the wood here is hard and dense. It is harder than soft pine and even harder than some hardwoods. You will observe abrupt transitions from earlywood to latewood, and the grain structure tends to be uneven, except for a few varieties.
Southern yellow pine (Pinus palustris)
Southern Yellow Pine is native to southeast North America from Massachusetts south to Florida and Texas east to the Atlantic Ocean. They grow up to 115 feet with average diameters of 3 feet, although there have been reports of trees as tall as 160 feet with trunks of 5 feet in diameter.
Southern yellow pine is a perfect example of hard pine. This wood has a higher density, so you get a harder wood that is straight-grained and with an uneven pattern. With a reddish-brown heartwood, the sapwood is yellowish-white.
It is related to loblolly pine, slash pine, longleaf pine, and shortleaf pine. Southern yellow pine is good for outdoor use due to its low susceptibility to rot, moisture and mold. It makes good outdoor furniture, flooring, fencing, posts, and decks.
Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
This species of pine is native to the eastern United States. The trees grow as tall as 100 feet with trunk diameters of up to 3 feet. Shortleaf pine makes good lumber for construction. It is affordable, easily available, and has a pleasant appearance.
Shortleaf pine also makes wood pulp and is used for heavy construction in bridges, railways, beams, and for making plywood veneer.
Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
Longleaf pine can be found in the southeastern United States. The trees grow up to 115 feet, and the trunks reach 3 feet in diameter. It is a clear and straight-grained form of pinewood and has fewer defects.
Longleaf pine plays an important role in shipbuilding. It also enjoys wide popularity for interior and exterior construction, roof trusses, sheathing, subflooring, poles, and stringers.
Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)
Here again, it is a form of pine that you will find abundantly in the southeastern United States. Slash pine trees grow as high as 100 feet with trunk diameters of up to 3 feet.
Slash pine is commonly used to make poles, beams, railroad ties, and bridges in the construction industry. It is also good for making wood pulp and plywood veneers.
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Native to the southeastern United States, loblolly pine trees grow as tall as 115 feet, with the diameters of the trunks reaching up to 5 feet. One unique feature of this pine is that it does have a characteristic pine-like smell.
We use Loblolly pine to make beams, joists, piles, stringers, and roof trusses in the construction industry. This wood also plays a role in making furniture, boxes and pallets, composite boards, and plywood.
Western Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
Western yellow pine, as its name indicates, grows in the western United States. It is not as hard as southern yellow pine but harder than white pines. This wood exhibits abrupt earlywood to latewood transitions creating a sharp contrast in the grain patterns.
The wood is relatively light with an even grain structure. It is the most beautiful of all pinewood species. Western yellow pine shares many similarities with ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine, which results in these varieties being traded interchangeably.
Western yellow pine is good for doors, moldings, cabinetry, subflooring, sashes, blinds, sheathing, crates, and boxes.
Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)
You will find lodgepole pine growing in western North America. The trees grow up to a height of 100 feet with trunks of about 2 feet in diameter. This pine gets its name from the tipis (tepees) that the native Americans built with long, slender poles of lodgepole pine.
This pine has a red-yellow-brown heartwood and yellowish-white sapwood. The wood makes plywood, veneer, interior trim, poles, construction lumber, subflooring, and cabinets.
Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
There is only one species from this group that grows in the northern United States. However, it has a relation to the two European species, Austrian pine, and Scots pine. The trees grow to a height of 100 feet with trunks of up to 3 feet in diameter.
Although red pine is sometimes called Norway pine, it is not clear why. Perhaps the reason could be that some early European explorers confused this pine with Norway spruce which grows in the United States.
The heartwood of red pine is light reddish-brown with pale sapwood that is almost white. The wood has a straight, even surface with an oily feel. Red pine makes construction lumber, pulpwood, railway ties, cabin logs, and poles.
We hope we have given you a somewhat comprehensive overview of the types of pine wood available in the market and their uses. It is quite fascinating that so many varieties of pine exist.
Now that you have a better idea of the various types of pine and what they are good for, you will be able to procure and use them in the best possible way. So, try using some of these varieties of pine in your next woodworking project. You will not be disappointed!