Building with pine

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Forum topic by WoodNuts posted 06-03-2010 06:44 PM 8361 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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74 posts in 3120 days

06-03-2010 06:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pine projects wood choice

I am finding lots of info related to building with pine, but little on what size stock to use. Home De-po(t) has that crappy wet 3/4”, and after digging through the pile I might fine a few usable boards, but by the time I get them home, they are warped, cupped, and twisted…

What do you all use? Seems to me the Doug Fir 2×6 is more dense and workable.


-- ...there's a fix fer dat...

17 replies so far

View skeeter's profile


233 posts in 3513 days

#1 posted 06-03-2010 06:54 PM

the douglas fir is probally kiln dried so yes it will be more stable. find the qs pieces they are pretty and the grain lines look like an acoustic guitar top

-- My philosophy: Somewhere between Norm and Roy

View a1Jim's profile


117270 posts in 3749 days

#2 posted 06-03-2010 07:11 PM

I suggest Poplar.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 3475 days

#3 posted 06-03-2010 07:12 PM

Good post. I am interested in seeing where this goes.

A late Welcome to our Forums to you Woodnuts!

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3240 days

#4 posted 06-03-2010 08:05 PM

Pine can be really pretty, but most of it is pretty soft (like redwood), and it can be a “challenge” (i.e. PITA) to stain and finish.

Like with most wood, you probably aren’t going to get very good material from a big box and need to find a real lumber yard or hardwood supplier to get the “good stuff”.

Doug fir is harder than pine, but is mostly used for rough applications such as framing or structural applications where appearance doesn’t matter. Vertical grain fir, however, can be drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s also expensive.

I’ve done a few projects in Poplar which can be really pretty if you’re careful to select your wood to avoid some of the wilder colors it can have. Like all soft woods, poplar wants to blotch, but I’ve had good results with just a clear finish.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3170 days

#5 posted 06-03-2010 08:16 PM

I actually like the idea of using the low end lumber. Not everything has to be made of finest quality exotics and perfect grained hardwood. Cheap pine has a long history in even high end furniture as a secondary wood for portions that are not exposed. For the most part, get used to some warping. All wood moves. Bring it home and let it acclimate to it’s new environment and see where to go from there. Don’t go by what it looks like within the first few hours home. Let is sit a week or two. Longer is better. The smaller the piece, the less it will move when it is reduced to usable dimensions.

As far as the dimensions, if it is load bearing, you will need to compensate for the less dense softwood by increasing dimensions. Not as much as you might think. It really is pretty strong stuff.

Tools must be very sharp. You also will need to make sure and radius edges more than you would with a hardwood to keep them from being as fragile. Finishing is different too as the wood is more prone to denting. More care taken to prevent tear out.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Cato's profile


701 posts in 3484 days

#6 posted 06-03-2010 08:45 PM

I am currently using some SYP for a mantel that is to be painted an off white, so I got the furniture grade 4/4 lumber at the lumber yard. Seems to be a totally different class of wood than the pine you find in the big box store.

Yes there some movement to the wood, but it is a nice grade of wood to work with, and so far I am not dealing with any more movement than I would with some white oak that I got at the same time. Think I paid $2.30/bf for the SYP and it was more like 5/4 thickness, and they cut it for me from 16ft length to 8ft. so I could get it home.

A lot of traditional Southern furniture was made with pine like this, and I bought way more than I needed for the mantel to try it out on some other things.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16278 posts in 4390 days

#7 posted 06-03-2010 08:52 PM

I guess it depends on your location. Down here in the New Orleans area the HD sells the crappy #2 pine, but they also have #1 pine. It’s a good bit more expensive, but it’s really nice stuff.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3209 days

#8 posted 06-03-2010 09:03 PM

Even if you get kiln dried construction lumber, the moisture content is typically much higher than the 8% recommended for woodworking use. Construction applications can tolerate much more moisture in lumber, so the drying is correlated to the intended usage of the wood.

I have used construction lumber in a number of projects, and it moves and twists INSANELY badly. If you really want “stable” pine, I am not sure if there is such a thing to be had now, other than reclaimed old growth pine. The new stuff is primarily from fast growing trees, and as such, is much more prone to warping due to the large, open growth rings.

The best way that I have found to deal with this movement is to let it dry as long as I can in my shop before using it (I have a small stash of construction lumber on my rack that I pick up when I see a good deal), but I typically still get warping and movement when I rip pieces to size. Knowing this, I cut pieces oversized and make secondary trims to final sizes. Also, I try and assemble pieces as quickly as possible after cutting as possible. I have noticed significant movement as quickly as 8 hours after cutting, so I try not to let cut pieces sit if I can avoid it.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is filling voids that are common in construction lumber. I use 5 min epoxy before sanding (and sometimes before assembly) and then make sure that I am down to bare wood around the filled area so that the epoxy won’t affect finish of the bare wood.

With regards to finishing, I like to use a rubbed oil (BLO or danish oil) as a first treatment for pine if I want it to stay light, and then cover with a poly if desired after the oil has FULLY cured! I will wait two weeks to be on the safe side. If you have a nice, smooth surface before applying the oil, you can get some good depth and glow from even cheap pine. If I want to stain, I will sand through 180 grit and use a good stain sealer prior to trying to color the project. I have found stain sealer to be absolutely critical to getting good result with staining pine. I know there are some finishing gods who don’t rely on the sealer, but I know when I need an extra crutch!

Back to the original question, though, I have had the best luck starting out with 2X8 construction lumber since it tends to be better quality southern yellow pine with fewer knots than some of the cheap 2×4, or even 2×6 stock. I don’t put much faith in the “premium” or clear pine lumber I have seen lately at the big box stores. It seems quite over priced, and still looks like it will have warping issues down the line. Recently, I have been using 2X8 construction lumber for shop furniture, and I will start with 2X8 stock and plane it down to 1” or 1.25” depending on what I want to use it for. (fortunately I have a good use for pine shavings, so the trashcans full of chips get a good use!) I have actually had pretty good success with this if you glue it up quickly after cutting the pieces.

-- David from Indiana --

View thatwoodworkingguy's profile


375 posts in 3101 days

#9 posted 06-04-2010 01:33 AM

I use rough sawn poplar. I get from the hardwood dealer I go to. Its kiln dryed and in the rough so I get it very cheap. I try and stay away from working with pine. And NEVER HD pine.

-- ~Eagle America~ ~Woodcraft~

View hazbro's profile


109 posts in 3162 days

#10 posted 06-04-2010 02:28 AM

If I’m doing “distressed” type frontier pieces I use knotty alder. But if I was looking for cheap construction lumber to build with (like my new deck) all the lumber up here in Pac West is doug fir.

If I was looking to build furniture on the cheap, I would laminate several layers of A/C ply to desired size and make the final layer a specific species ply.

I guess it depends on what you’re building.

-- measure once, keep cuttin' til it fits

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3182 days

#11 posted 06-04-2010 02:36 AM

Agree with what has already been said. Pine/Fir are good (and cheap) for unexposed parts of your projects. As far as purchasing them at the big box stores, stay away from the 1x boards. They cup and twist and bow like mad. But I have often found decent softwood lumber at the big box in their 2x lumber, and you can usually find straight boards if you dig a bit. Sometimes the wood can be quite clear as well. Actually some of my best pine (gorgeous grain and figure) has come from HD 2×4s.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2658 posts in 3698 days

#12 posted 06-04-2010 06:07 AM

One of the things that I do with both pine and fir is to get it back to the shop, sticker it and clamp them all together for 2 or three weeks before I take the clamps off. There is some warping but very little compared to not clamping and drying. For 1/4” and thinner there just does nbot seem to be any hope. In the summer I will pay for the wood at one of the box stores and (seriously now) by the time I walk to my Jeep it is totally useless. I have done this twice, both times I just walked back in and returned it. I resaw my own now.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3213 days

#13 posted 06-04-2010 06:34 AM

The 2x wood at Lowes and HD can be descent but real wet. I have made a few tables out of the 2×6s and 2×4s, looks real nice sanded and sealed. They shrink about an 1/8-”, so like mentioned let them dry for a bit, and keep them flat. They are definitely cheep enough not to worry about the ones that will warp. I do like the Radiata Pine they have at HD and Lowes it is descent to work with, but you have to pick through the pile. Their Poplar at least where I am is just about the same price as Cherry, I thought that stuff was supposed to be cheep.

View WoodNuts's profile


74 posts in 3120 days

#14 posted 06-04-2010 07:32 AM

I didn’t specify what I was doing with=(/c) the pine, and I think this allowed for more general comments, as well as specific. Excellent. Thanks all.

Thanks for the welcome Abbott.

I do like the look and feel of some pine southern design, and want to make some. The primary use, however, is for cheap mock-ups in testing designs/cuts/overall feel of projects before splurging on high end wood. It may turn out usable as is, but I can work out the “bugs” on a cheap hunk of wood. I like the 4.25 price tag on 8bf 2×6. Additionally, in the end, if I don’t use the piece, I can play around /c stains, oils, etc…

The 4×8 that dfdye suggested makes sense; I will compare overall cost of waste and use (should be negligible), but I like the idea of better grade. I don’t use 2×4 for anything but the basic construction use and function, i.e. strength. I do allow a couple weeks acclimation, and cut oversize. The final sizing cuts are not made until glue-up.

Question for hazbro. Rustic Alder is great stuff, but do you find the loose knots problematic /c jointer or planer knives? BTW, great signature line…

-- ...there's a fix fer dat...

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

392 posts in 3254 days

#15 posted 06-04-2010 08:04 PM

The HD near me sometimes has some really nice looking DF 1×4s in the area near the moulding. They are dry, straight, and really heavy, not at all like the 2×4s in the main isle. They are definately not sapwood.

Other times, they just have average looking hemlock 1×4s in the same stack. I usually pick up about a dozen or so for random projects whenever I see them. They are around $3 for 8’. I think they also have 1×6s and 1×8s.

-- Steve

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