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Author Topic: Indentifying Heart Pine  (Read 1511 times)

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Offline MikeB

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Indentifying Heart Pine
« on: February 07, 2006, 10:23:05 AM »
How do you verify old lumber is heart pine? Color and examination of the growth rings, etc? The term seems to be abused alot. Have been looking at some old barns - we have just been getting a piece or two and planing.

Just trying to learn and increase my knowledge


Offline Tom

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Re: Indentifying Heart Pine
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2006, 05:46:26 PM »
Hey mike.   Welcome to the forum.

We were talking about that just yesterday at my saw-job.   You're right Heart Pine is a term that has been abused, bastardized, misrepresented, etc.  Heart Pine is the Heart Wood of the Pine tree and became famous particularly with reference to Southern Yellow Pines sawed in the days of virgin forests.  It isn't dependent upon age, though, contrary to popular belief.

In the beginning of the last century the term really meant something in the Southeast.  There were two types of pine boards marketed.  One was Sap Pine, which was the sap wood of the Southern Yellow Pine and it was considered inferior to the other, which was Heart Pine.  Sap Pine was generally whiter and stayed white throughout its life.  It was used mostly where its bending ability was needed and its resistance to rot was not.  The sap wood remained soft, easy to work and made good structural material for cabinets, boats, oars, etc.   

The Heart of the Pine had closed its liquid carrying vessels and the sealed resin made the wood almost impervious to rot.  It would turn a deep, rich, reddish brown with age but had to be handled with more care than the Sap because it tended to be brittle.  Heart Pine sawed to expose Vertical Grain made the most popular floors.  The exposure of the edges of the tight late wood produced a good wear surface.

The fallacy today is that "everything" old is called Heart Pine.  It has assumed a new face in identifying the old pine from old buildings, much of which contains sapwood.  Properly, a piece of Heart Pine lumber contains no Sapwood even though as much as 10% was allowed at the time.

Southern Yellow Pine is another term that is a bit misleading.  It is composed of four Southern Pine trees which are "Hard" pine.  These are Long Leaf, Slash, Loblolly and Shortleaf.  Many people think that Southern Yellow Pine is just the Long Leaf, but it isn't.  Once sawed into lumber these four pines are lumped into the marketing term Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) and no further distinction is made.  To those who grow the trees or saw the lumber, a difference is noted. The quality generally runs as listed in descending order with Long Leaf wearing the crown.


Offline TexasTimbers

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Re: Indentifying Heart Pine
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2006, 06:38:25 AM »
Tom is right as usual.
Calling the 6 other minor species of pine - SYP - is not generally accepted by most pine gurus, although in reality these other minor species (spruce, virginia, table, pond, sand, and pitch pine) are in reality, um, pines that grow, um, in the south, and are, uh "yellow". ::)
Then of course there are "local" pines such as Florida Pine (which onoly grows in Fla a.k.a Dade County Pine) and Arkansas Pine (basically Shortleaf Pine with an added marketing emphasis by Arkansas commercial interests) and  Carolina Pine (long leaf pine).
Now, if any of this is wrong, there is an an extremely nice (and infinately patient) Chinese-American lady who works for the Texas Forestry Service for me to blame ;) She spent over an hour of her time educating me on the phone last year when I called and simply asked "How can I know for sure what I am about to cut down is actually Loblolly?"
Actually, if any of this is wrong it is most likely my fault for taking wrong notes. She was very excited to share her knowledge and I am a slow note-taker.
The oil is all in Texas, but the dipsticks are in D.C.

Offline Coon

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Re: Indentifying Heart Pine
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2006, 09:17:58 PM »
Thanks guys.  You cleared up a misconception that I have ahd for some time and not come to realize until reading this post.  Ain't it awefully funny how things get blown out of proportion these days.  I sure am glad now that I opened up this post and learned a little truth.  You never know these days wether it be the whole truth or half truth or no relavence at all.
Brad ;D
Norwood Lumbermate 2000 w/Kohler,
Husqvarna, Stihl and, Jonsereds Saws

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