White pine a great material for projects

Posted Dec. 12, 2008, at 9:59 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:46 a.m.

We are blessed in so many ways to live in Maine. Sure, taxes are high and heating costs might be high (if you are not properly insulated), but there are all those other good things to be thankful for.

One big blessing of Maine is its forests. And because of the forests, we have access to a lot of Eastern white pine. White pine is a fine species for many home improvement projects. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how poor wood durability can be a problem on the exterior of a home. I make up for this by using it inside.

If you are an inexperienced woodworker, white pine is great to work with. It has a lot of character. If you grew up in the 1950s, you will recall the outbreak of knotty pine paneling that spread over this country.

Pine is available in different grades, depending on the amount of defects in the wood. Lumber grading has different names for different uses, so here are some generalizations that you might see for white pine: The best grade is usually called select, or clear. This grade has few if any defects. A defect might be a knot, crack or wain. Wain in wood is an area where some bark intrudes into the board edge. It might be an area where bark was but has fallen off, leaving a slightly curved edge instead of a flat board.

Select pine is usually the most expensive. Next down in grade might be premium. This will have some knots that are tight. Tight knots are usually from branches that were live and are solid. These are the kind of knots we might have seen in what we call knotty pine. Another step down in grade and value would be standard. Now we are getting more funky. It has more knots and defects. This might be the lowest grade.

If standard is not the lowest grade, then the lowest grade could be something called industrial. This is material that gets even rougher, with multiple defects, including deadwood knots that are cracked and have holes.

Many times, I find the lower grades offer more visual appeal. I like to see tight knots in my white pine trim.

Back in the last century, when I was learning how to fool around with wood, a simple project was building pine shelves. Six-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch-wide pine boards are perfect for this project. If you can cut a straight line, you can make shelves. By using finishing nails or Sheetrock screws and perhaps a little white glue, it is a very simple project that is difficult to mess up. Screwing together white-pine shelves also affords the novice woodworker some recourse if you make a mistake, especially when the glue hasn’t dried yet.

I feel my trademark project, if there is such a thing, is the edge-and-center bead ceiling. Edge-and-center bead pine is a board that is machined with a bead at the center of the board and at one edge. It is tongue-and-grooved, so the boards fit together.

Last year, we got a load of this stock from Rhoades Building Products in Holden and did a living room ceiling with it. It is a fast, simple project, and it does a lot for a room. The room we did over had old uneven plaster with peeling paint. We screwed strapping every two feet into the ceiling joists. This afforded us a very visible place to nail the pine. The strapping was leveled up with shims and the result transformed the room. No drywall dust, no paint and the whole project took about four hours.

With painted walls, the room is not overwhelmed by wood. It is pretty to look at, works with many decors, and is a great way to appreciate the wonderful thing that Maine shows us every day — Eastern white pine — the wood that many people covet and we can take for granted.

This is a fantastic wintertime project, if you already have enough shelves.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be sent to homefront@bangordailynews.net or mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.

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