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SYP 'Shaker' Bench
For those of us living in the Southeast, and considering some outdoor furniture, you might look at the Dimensional Southern Yellow Pine usually available in the box stores. This is an example made with it – an outdoor bench.
While we are fortunate to have Cypress, and its durability is superior, it is also more costly – as well as a bit harder to find. SYP – to me – seems durable enough for the usual outdoor picnic table, benches, chairs, etc.
The key to satisfaction is to start with the widest and longest boards you can find in the box store. 12′ or even 16′ long, 12″ wide (11 1/2 net) and 2″ thick (1 1/2 net) are the ones I look for. These obviously come from the lower part of the larger trees, and will be the clearest. While you can find ‘pith free’ examples – I don’t always reject a board that does have pith in the center – depending on what width boards I am looking to get out of it. The old trick of ripping off the edges for ‘quartersawn’ and using the pith as shopwood can work fine with these, as the entire board will be less than $20.
Dimensional SYP is somewhat wet – but nowhere near as wet as the pressure treated stuff (which I dislike using). So let it sit for a bit in the shop before milling to final dimensions. You can speed the process by partially milling oversize – let it sit a week or so – then finish milling it.
Durability can be enhanced by coating/soaking ‘the wood that hits the ground’ with epoxy. I use System 3 Silvertip laminating epoxy – you can find it on-line or in some marine-oriented supply stores.
The rest I usually use phenolic-based Marine spar varnish – diluted 50/50 with mineral spirits, sprayed or brushed on – and allowed to soak in with any excess wiped off. That way I get some protection without a film that will eventually peel.
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