Is Pine Good for Woodworking?

Woodworking can be exciting but expensive. Not only do you have to make room for mistakes and lumber replacement, but you also have to use wood that’s easier to work with. Pinewood seems like a godsend in that case, though one can wonder whether it is a reliable choice.

Pine is good for Woodworking in most practical projects, as it can be used to make furniture, fences, and general wood decor. It is not as durable as Oak or hardwood in general but has good workability, resists moisture, swelling, and shrinkage, and is strong enough for most medium-sized products.

In this article, you will discover the key metrics you should use to judge lumber and how well pine scores on each compared to the golden standard in hardwood and the most common softwood. You will also learn more about the specific pros and cons of pine for Woodworking and how you can offset the drawbacks and make the most of its strong points.

Metrics for Wood Quality in Woodworking

Before one can decide which wood is best for a specific project, a few quality metrics need to be considered. Without these metrics, an objective answer becomes impossible, and you get drawn in by biases like social proof and exposure bias.

  • Compressive Strength – This refers to how well wood resists breaking under compression. In Woodworking, using wood that has high compressive strength results in producing high-quality projects that last longer.
  • Bending Strength – This metric provides insight into how well wood avoids deforming when a load is applied to it. While woodworkers might need some of their sheets to be elastic, it is never good to have one that permanently deforms under pressure. That’s why high bending strength is desirable.
  • Hardness – This specifically entails how well the surface of wood resists scratches and dents. High hardness is desired because your work can lose value if it gets scratched.
  • Stiffness – This covers how much or how little wood will temporarily bend when pressure is applied perpendicular to its grain. Stiffness isn’t inherently good or bad, and its demand depends on the type of project.
  • Density – This indicates the mass of wood per unit of its volume. On average, the denser a wood, the better it is for Woodworking.

Cedar and Oakwood are the most common wood sources used for woodwork and belong to wildly opposite ends of the hard-soft spectrum. An acceptable way to measure pine’s conduciveness to woodwork is to see how it measures up against Cedar and Oakwood in key quality metrics.

White PineWhite CedarWhite Oak
Compressive Strength4800psi45607440
Bending Strength8600psi630psi4700psi
Janaka Hardness420lb320lb1350lb

How Does Pine Compare to Cedar?

Pine is superior in strength to Cedar, albeit slightly. It is over ten times higher than Cedar in bending strength and has higher Janaka Hardness, Stiffness, and Density. Therefore, in all projects that require harder wood, pine would be a better source than White Cedar, which is much more of a softwood.

However, Cedar is better at resisting weather and environment-driven decay, whereas pine needs to be coated before it is ready for use in exterior projects. Neither wood is inherently superior as Cedar is good for making fences, bird feeders, and outdoor benches, while pine is perfect for making inexpensive furniture, canvas stretchers, and home decor.

How Does Pine Compare to Oak?

Pine performs incredibly well but does not surpass Oak in hardwood quality metrics. However, it beats Oak in price-point and availability. Oak has almost twice the Compressive strength of pine and nearly half its bending strength. 

That means Oak can be deformed more easily but is harder to break. There’s also prestige associated with Oak since it is rarer, given that an Oak tree takes 20 years to grow. White Pine doesn’t beat Oak. Its comparative performance does indicate that it is decent for Woodworking. How good of a choice it is, then, depends on its price.

What Is the Price of Pine?

A 1×4 Pine board that is 10 inches long costs $5.70. Compared to the $37 price of an equivalent Oak board, pine is much more affordable. It is also more affordable than Cedar, which costs $14.90 for the same size. Adding this to the price of wood, one can derive that pine is a feasible woodworking material.

Reasons Why Pine Is Good for Woodworking

Having established that pine has acceptable quality metrics and is priced quite reasonably for Woodworking, let’s explore why it goes beyond being “acceptable” for Woodworking and actually qualifies as one of the best wood sources for Woodworking.

High Workability

Even though Oak beats Pinewood in almost all strength metrics, pine has high workability because it is not as dense as other woods. Most woods with high workability fall under the softwood category, so pine is truly among the few options woodworkers have when they’re looking for a relatively harder wood that is highly flexible. In that case, having an actual hardwood source can be a liability for the project.

Better Priced Than Most Alternatives

One of the key reasons behind a rise in Pine use in Woodworking is that it is cheaper. As a society, we have shifted towards fast consumption where most of the money is in creating new “stuff,” and most of the pleasure is in acquiring new “stuff.” 

Pine is in an advantageous position because it can be used at a low cost, and its drawback (potential of incurring scratches) isn’t as much of a concern for the short-term and the medium-term consumer.

It Is a Renewable Resource

All wood is renewable, but pine is practically renewable. If a tree hypothetically takes 1000 years to grow, is it really renewable? Fortunately, we don’t chop down Giant Sequoias, which actually take 100 years to grow. 

But we do chop down Oak trees that take 20 years to grow. Many hardwood trees take quite a long time to grow. Pine being a relatively hard softwood, can provide strong wood that is practically renewable in its average rate of growth is 1.5 feet per year. It can fully mature well before nine years.

Easy to Source

Pine can grow with less care and in a broader range of regions, which contributes to its ease of availability and generally lower prices. When you’re in the middle of a woodworking project, you don’t want to run out of wood and spend hours finding similar sheets. With pine, you ensure that you won’t have to waste time looking for new batches.

A Great Entry Point for Hobbyists

Since it is easier to work with and cheaper to replace, pine is the perfect material for woodworking novices and hobbyists alike. To stand apart in your craft, Malcolm Gladwell argues, one needs around 10,000 hours of practice. 

Ten thousand practice hours on Oak or Cedar are much more expensive than the equivalent on pine. That said, you cannot work with pine exclusively as that would accustom highly workable wood, and you will have a tough time with hardwood.

Resists Swelling and Shrinkage

If your project involves tight joints using wood that shrinks or expands with temperature change or humidity might not be the best idea. White Pine isn’t as weather-resistant as Cedar. It is definitely shrinkage-resistant. It also doesn’t swell and remains at a stable size, making it reliable for projects featuring compact joinery.

Goodlooking Grain

How wood looks and feels is a major part of why we buy wooden items. It is also one of the driving factors behind people taking up Woodworking. If you appreciate the texture of the material you work with, you will enjoy working with Pinewood. More importantly, the items made from it are in higher demand because of the attractive wood grain.

Reason Pine Can Be Bad for Woodworking

On average, the pros of Woodworking with pine outweigh the cons, but presenting the positives only would keep you from having the full picture. The drawbacks are fewer but worth considering, which is why this section explores what you must be cautious of when using pine for Woodworking.

Weaker Than Hardwood

White Pine is one of the few softwoods that comes close to a hardwood’s feel. Its density and compression strength prove that it is not as durable as high-quality hardwoods. Not all furniture needs to be made of hardwood, but if any project requires Oak-tier wood, you should not replicate it in Pinewood.

Requires Sanding

The flipside of having desirable grain is having high definition grain. High-grain is aesthetically pleasing but can compromise the compatibility of wood with a certain project. In most surface-facing positions, Pinewood will require light sanding. This can take around 15 to 30 more minutes per project or 10 minutes per surface.

Absorbs Paint Unevenly

Unprimed Pinewood absorbs paint very unevenly, presenting huge contrasts with even the slightest unevenness in paint strokes. This becomes more obvious around knots. Pine is nearly impossible to paint well without priming, which can extend the working duration of your project if it has to be painted. Add this to the time required for sanding, and you can see why pine wouldn’t be the go-to material for certain woodworkers.

Uses a Lot of Paint

When painting pine, even primed pine uses a lot more paint than alternative lumber. But given how much money one saves because of pine’s lower price, the overall project cost is not the issue. The issue is the time required to double or triple-coat the wood surface. Again, this points towards pine being ideal for projects with fewer surfaces and bad for ones with higher surface quantity.

Can Get Scratched Easily

Finally, the biggest drawback of using pine for Woodworking is that it gets scratched very easily. From keys to coins, plenty of everyday objects can cause dents and scratches in Pinewood. And almost any woodworking project aside from objet d’Art items require some level of handling. If you have pinewood furniture or decor, you might need a container of wood filler as well.

The Best Wood Filler for Pine

The best wood filler for pine is a water-based one that matches the natural color of pine. Goodfella Water-Based Pine Filler Putty is ideal for pinewood projects because it is stainable and can be painted over. It dries quickly and finishes evenly.

With over 4,300 reviews on Amazon, it is the highest-rated filler in its category. It is collectively rated at 4.3 out of 5 stars. More specifically, its durability has a 4.3-star rating, while its ease of cleaning is rated at 4.2 stars. Above all, the product can be used for other wood types that dent easily.

How to Keep Pine From Getting Scratched

While pine’s low density means it has high workability, it also makes the material easier to scratch. That makes some woodworkers hesitant to use it for their projects. But if you can scratch-proof the surface of your wood project, there is no reason you should let pine’s surface hardness keep you from using it. You won’t even need wood filler with a proper surface protection!

To keep pine from getting scratched, you can coat it in clear epoxy resin. For this, the surface has to be level and properly sanded, and primed for an even epoxy pour. The clear epoxy poured over it must be self-leveling or applied by a professional.

Both artist resins with sufficient hardener and surface epoxies can work for this. A countertop or floor epoxy will be much more durable but will require a lot of work. Art resin is easier to pour but will not make the pine completely scratch-proof. In my experience art, epoxy is sufficiently hard to protect everyday pinewood items.

Final Thoughts

Pine is good enough for Woodworking in most cases and the best option in some of them. More specifically, any project that requires tight joinery or has to be exposed to humidity or uses a lot of wood but doesn’t carry much weight is better off being built with Pinewood. New woodworkers should use pine as their debut craft material because it is cheaper and has an attractive grain that results in desirable DIY projects.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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