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Forum topic by Mark731 posted 10-16-2015 03:58 PM 853 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1329 days

10-16-2015 03:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood pine

I’m building a hopper box with dove tail joints. The project requires a lot of precision cuts. I purchased some pine boards from Lowes which turned out to be warped just enough to be unusable. I thought the boards were planed to thickness, but what good is that if they’re warped. Is there some reason to avoid pine for precision woodworking ? Or can it work just as well as any other type of wood ?

8 replies so far

View CB_Cohick's profile


487 posts in 1488 days

#1 posted 10-16-2015 04:08 PM

Dovetails can be cut in pine. I practice hand cutting them in pine scraps. Your selection of lumber from big blue will be the main variable. I believe they sell “select” pine that is more expensive where you may have a better chance of finding a straight board to work with. If you are looking for better quality lumber, I’d suggest going to an actual lumberyard. The quality and variety of materials will be much better. Good luck with your project.

-- Chris - Would work, but I'm too busy reading about woodwork.

View jdh122's profile


1058 posts in 3055 days

#2 posted 10-16-2015 04:09 PM

You can definitely do dovetails in pine, though you have to be careful when driving the joint together not to break off the pins or tails. In eastern North America white pine was long used as a secondary wood for drawers (with dovetails).
It doesn’t work “as well as any other type of wood” to the extent that it’s softer and weaker, but it should still work.

Your problem isn’t species-related, but rather related to the condition of the wood. Any species can warp, which makes it unusable for joinery, at least until it gets straightened out with a jointer and planer (or handplanes). Even s4s (surfaced on 4 sides) needs to be straightened before used for joinery, although by picking through the pile and paying attention to the further acclimation of the wood in your shop you can reduce the problem some.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1918 days

#3 posted 10-16-2015 04:25 PM

I am assuming you are just getting started learning dovetails. If not you can disregard most of what I am about to say.

If you are starting out with dovetails pine is just going to make it much more difficult to learn with because it’s really easy to crush the edges if you are not very careful. You are much better off with a harder wood like popular, cherry or soft maple. I wouldn’t go to hard either like white oak as that just has the opposite issue of not compressing enough to allow for anything short of a perfect joint to fit right.

With experience you can learn ways to work really hard and really soft woods into whatever form you want but when you are starting out with a new technique do yourself a favor and don’t complicate it anymore than needed.

As for buying S4S lumber from a big box store. The problem with S4S is that stuff is milled in some far away place than packed on pallets and shipped to stores all over the country in very different climates. If you want to buy S4S lumber I would suggest getting it from a local lumber yard that does that service on site. Many yards will let you pick out rough lumber and have them mill it for a fee while you wait and it will still probably end up being cheaper than buying it from the big box stores. Just make sure you use it pretty quickly after they do that as the wood will tend to continue to move when you bring it home. At some point you will want to consider adding the means to surface your lumber yourself but that’s either a lot of work with handtools or a lot of larger pieces of equipment to do so I can understand not wanting to go down that road for awhile.

View BurlyBob's profile


6031 posts in 2503 days

#4 posted 10-17-2015 12:31 AM

Mark, I started out attempting to learn Dovetails with Leigh jig and pine lumber. I found it less than sterling. My Idea was for pine sides, back, bottom and an oak front. Where I live almost all hardwoods costs are sky high. Pine is the cheapest and it’s construction grade. I eventually switched to poplar and was extremely pleased with the results. I think it’s got more mass, works super nice and it was flat. There was no cup with the 10” board I bought. It did cost me a little more but the results more that made up for it.

View tomsteve's profile


896 posts in 1456 days

#5 posted 10-18-2015 01:54 PM

looking for tight grain quarter sawn boards to start with will help.
not the easiest thing to find at lowes or hd, but they can be found.
i was working on a deck railing recently and needed quite a bit of pt 1 by 4 for sunbursts. had to go,through a whole bundle but did find tight grained qs boards.

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3814 days

#6 posted 10-18-2015 02:06 PM

If you have a wood supplier other than box stores I would suggest using poplar it’s pretty close in cost to pine but a much harder wood than pine ,that will take dovetailing much more easily and it will be more durable too.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View laggi's profile


4 posts in 1184 days

#7 posted 10-23-2015 09:28 AM

skeptical about poplar

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2752 days

#8 posted 10-23-2015 12:02 PM

I think Jim has a good point about poplar, but NOT from a big box store.

Two main reasons:
First, as Richard said, it is milled in some different place, (initial climate), and trucked to a distribution center, (second climate), then sent out to the stores themselves. (third climate)

Second, to top it all off to save space, the big box stores usually store the lumber vertically, loose, so you can go through it. Absolutely the worst way to store long, free boards in what is a quasi-climate controlled store with very high ceilings and massive humidity changes.

Literally every good lumberyard I’ve done business with keeps their lumber flat on pallets, ricked or at least flat stacked so it stays flat.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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