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Eastern white pine.

Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus, is a V.I.P. -- very important pine. Found in abundance throughout the northeast United States and Canada, it has a "royal" history.

According to Stephen Clark, executive vice president of the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers' Assn. (NeLMA), in Colonial times, eastern white pines were the choice of nobility. Some of the tall virgin growth pines were marked with the king's arrow, which meant no one but the king's mean was allowed to cut them. The king allegedly wanted the stately trees, which could easily grow to 220 feet in height, for ship's masts. According to Clark, this was a source of anger for the colonists, who resented the king's mark on their pines. They instead wanted to use the trees in homes: for wainscotting, paneling, clapboards, furniture and other wooden products of the day, Clark related.

For this reason eastern white pines also became known as King's Arrow pines. Clark said certain trees are believed to still bear the mark; when felled, the trees will be cut to see if the mark really does exist.

Products made from "the old, noble species" can still be found in older New England homes, Clark said. The original eastern white pine clapboards are still found on some homes, as are floorboards measuring 18 to 20 inches wide.

"The wood has been popular since Colonial times," said Clark. "Cabinetmakers like it becaus it is very workable, duriable and it takes a finish very well. Eastern white pine is not used for dimension or structural uses, but rather for appearance."

Other uses for the lightweight, soft and even textured wood include: millwork, the famous knotty pine paneling, siding and boards for boxes, crates, coffins, boats, woodenware and novelties. It is a good choice for engineer's patterns and drawing boards, doors, furniture, sculpture and carving. Specialized uses include parts for guitars, organ parts and other stringed instruments.

Reigning importance

The pine tree was such a famous symbol to the early settlers that a silver coin minted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1667 to 1682 bore a pine tree on one side. It was known as the pine-tree shilling but was outlawed because under English law, only the monarch was allowed to issue coins. The coin's designers tried to circumvent that law by putting the dat 1652 on every coin, so they could claim it was minted legally, before the king's law was in effect.

Pince clones

Eastern white pines are frequently described as beautiful. Although not as dominant as they once were in the Northeast, they still have a viable presence. Eastern white pine is important both for forestry and decoration. The popular pines were taken to England in 1705 by Lord Wemouth and planted for forestry uses. They became known there as Weymouth Pines. In France, the same trees became known as Pin du Lord.

Clark said eastern white pine yields approximately 300 to 400 million board feet of lumber per year in the United States. The majority of what is called eastern white pine is Pinus strobus, but other prominent pines from the north and eastern United States include: jack pine, Pinus banksiana; pitch pine, Pinus rigida, and red or Norway pine, Pinus resinosa. Norway pine is named for the town of Norway, Maine, not the country.

Pinus strobus belongs to the Family Pinaceae. There are approximately 65 species of pines native to North America. Pines are divided into two botanical groups: soft and hard pines. Soft pines typically produce needles in bundles of five. Hard pines, commonly referred to as yellow pines, often produce needles in bundles of two or three. Hard pines in general have heavier, harder wood than soft pines. The eastern white pine is the only soft pine native to easter North America.

Any talk of eastern white pines would be incomple without special note of the knotty pine. Clark said the knots, color, and warmth of knotty pine have been a favorite with people for some 300 years.

White pines are prevalent in northeastern North America but can grow as far south as Mexico and Guatemala. Eastern white pines thrive at low altitudes, and up to 4,500 feet in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The trees are adaptable to a variety of soils but do best in well-drained soil in a cool, humid climate.

A natural enemy of eastern white pine is the white pine blister rust, which lives on currant bushes and white pines. It can spread rapidly, killing affected branches.

Eastern white pines grow fast and live long lives. They are capable of producing cones after five to 10 years, but trees of 15 to 20 years produce the dependable seeds. Eastern white pines produce large crops of seeds every three to five years, with intervals of little or no seed production.

Pine makes the grade

NeLMA, headquartered in Cumberland Cente,r Maine, has a grading service program for the industry. Grades include select and finish for cabinetry and trim; and premium and standard for paneling, siding, sheathing and decorative uses. Siding patterns include board, channel rustic, drop, bevel, bungalow, Dolly Varden, log cabin, and tongue and groove. Clapboard siding on homes from the 1700s is still seen in some parts of New England.

Pine facts

Pinus strobus grows from Newfoundland to the Manitoba border in Canada, south in the United States to Georgia and west to Minnesota. The average height of the trees is 150 feet, although virgin growth is much taller. Eastern white pine has an average diameter of 3 to 5 feet wide and a seasoned weight of 24 to 26 pounds per cubic foot.

With regards to seasoning, the wood dries well and rapidly, although users should watch for sap stain when air drying. Pinus strobus has extremely low shrinkage and is very stable in service. The timber is rated "weak" in all strength areas and is not recommended for steam bending purposes. The wood works well with tools and has good nail and screw holding properties.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Wood of the Month
Author:Kaiser, Jo-Ann
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:With respect to nature.
Next Article:Cabinet hardware and components update.

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