White pine lumber is a popular type of wood that comes from the eastern white pine. Its durability has made it a top choice of builders for centuries. The wood comes in many different grades, each used for a different purpose.
The eastern white pine is native to North America and thrives in cool, humid climates. The tree has a long life, typically ranging from 200 to 400 years if it is not cut for lumber. The United States lumber industry was founded on the harvesting of this popular tree.
The reason for its popularity was twofold in North America. First, these large trees were plentiful, found from warmer southern climates to rocky mountain regions. The second reason was because white pine lumber contained few knots and was easy to cut. These two factors resulted in a boom of building centered around the tree and wood.
White pine lumber was first used in ship masts. Often a single tree, with its tall, straight lumber, would be carved into a mast. During the 1600s and 1700s, the lumber was so popular for shipbuilding that the British Navy built special ships designed specifically for carrying up to 50 eastern white pine tree trunks back to England to form into masts.
An even more popular use for white pine lumber has been in construction. Furniture, paneling and barns have been formed from white pine, but its most common use is for homebuilding. Colonial white pine houses in the Northeastern United States have been known to last for more than 200 years because of its strength and durability. Another reason it is popular for building is because, unlike hardwoods that crack if not cut soon after chopping, this brand of pine can remain uncracked even if it sits for as long as a year before being formed into planks.
White pine lumber comes in two distinct classifications: select and common. A select white pine board is one that has very few imperfections and normally has one or fewer knots per length. This grade of wood traditionally is used for fine woodworking and home interiors. Common white pine boards have varying degrees of imperfections and often can be used to highlight the textural qualities of pine for rustic interiors. Industrial-grade common pine is the roughest and is used strictly for constructing building frames.