Give pine a chance
Pine is normally paired with words like cheap, crummy, and a whole host of terms not used in polite company, but Vic Tesolin doesn't understand why.
Eastern white pine.
I often hear disparaging comments about the use of pine in woodworking. Pine is normally paired with words like cheap, crummy, and a whole host of terms I can’t use in polite company, but I don’t understand why. Tons of period pieces, in the vernacular style, were built in my neck of the woods here in Canada. The area was known as Upper Canada and was a part of British Canada from 1791 to 1841. Countless chests, cabinets, and tables were made from pine. Yet now we don’t like it.
Eastern white pine is known for its softness (380 lbf on the Janka Hardness Scale), so it dents easily. However, where one person sees a dent, another sees character and patina. Pine can also be a pain to machine due to its high content of pitch, which gets on everything and sticks to it. That being said, it’s easy to find Eastern white pine at most DIY chains pre-milled and sized to save your machines from the need for a detailed cleaning.
When people are learning to use hand tools, I often recommend that they start with Eastern white pine, and here is why. As I mentioned earlier, pine is soft. Because of this this softness, you need an extremely sharp blade to cut it well. A dull chisel will mash its way through pine but only a keen edge will slice through it, leaving a clean, crisp surface. Having sharp chisels for any woodworking task is critical and the best way to ensure that your sharpening game is up to snuff is to trying paring pine. If you can flawlessly pare pine, you can pare anything and should get clean surfaces.
In the case of a handplane, a dull iron will cut Eastern white pine, but you will only be able to take heavy shavings. The surface left behind by a dull iron will be rough and likely riddled with tearout. But a sharp iron will remove shavings so thin you’ll be able to read through them. More important than fine shavings, the surface you’ll get will be lustrous and smooth, and it will exhibit chatoyance. I have to admit that sanded pine almost always looks like a hot mess, but a hand-planed surface looks incredible.
Eastern white pine is not only an inexpensive and lovely wood to work with hand tools, but it’s also a great choice for furniture and other wooden objects. What do you have to lose? Give pine a chance.
In order to understand, you must do. – V