Turning Archive

Re: Fat pine?
Response To:
Fat pine? ()

Mike Stafford
It is my understanding that heart pine, fat wood (pine) and lighter wood (pine) are basically the same thing and is derived from the center of the pine tree. However the availability of heart pine is not what it used to be as the source is long leaf pine which was over harvested and is virtually non-existent today. Long leaf pines can be over 100 feet tall. Before commercialization long leaf pines were extant throughout the southeast from Texas to Virginia. The over harvesting was done by folks during colonial days who used it for everything from framing material to window sashes because the high resin content made it almost impervious to rot and insects.

Not only were the long leaf pines used for timber but they were essential to ship building where the resins from the trees were also used to make tar, pitch and turpentine. Many, many trees were cut down and burned in kilns just to extract the concentrated pine resins which were then boiled and refined. Agriculture was also very unfriendly to the long leaf pines as "free range"/feral hogs ate the pine cones from these trees and also uprooted the saplings. The result was that millions of acres of long leaf pine trees were decimated. Just imagine how much worse it would have been if these old timers had chain saws.

The primary source of heart pine these days is reclaimed timbers from old barns and buildings. There is a company less than 20 miles from me that does just that and that is where I was able to get a stick of heart pine said to be from a warehouse built in the 1840's. They process this stuff into flooring.

The timbers from this warehouse were incredible to see. Some of the columns were 16" square and over 40 feet long and others were 12" square. The ceiling joists were 6x16. The floor joists were 4x10. There were also some 12x16 timbers supporting joists. Some of these joists were more than 60 feet long. The flooring boards were 3" thick where they passed over the joists. The actual thickness varied and the flooring was leveled by hewing the underside of the boards with adzes to get the floor even.

These timbers were dirty black and stained pieces of wood until they were sawed or planed. Then they smelled as good as any fresh pine. My shop smells like a local saw mill that processes knotty pine.

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