Known for its knotty and rugged look, eastern white pine wood is typically a creamy white color, though it can sometimes have a yellowish hue with the dark knots offering a pleasing contrast.
It doesn’t get much use among craftsmen who build high-end furniture, for floors, or for cabinetry because it picks up dings and scratches easily due to the softness of the wood. However, when scratch-resistance is not a major concern or when someone prefers a more rugged look, pine is a good choice. Moreover, it grows abundantly throughout the eastern half of North America, so there’s ample supply and it tends to be one of the more affordable options.
We source reclaimed pine for a few products to offer something for our customers with a ranch or farmhouse, as it’s perfect for creating that rustic cottage feel.
With so many options on the market today, it’s helpful to know the details about eastern white pine and how it compares to other varieties of domestic woods.
Most are familiar with eastern white pine wood as a creamy white hue, sometimes with a touch of yellow to it. Wood of this color comes from the tree’s sapwood, or outermost rings, and it generally darkens over time. The heartwood, or innermost portion of the tree, produces light brown wood, which sometimes looks a bit red.
During colonial times, eastern white pine wood was used for virtually everything, from building ships through homes, barns, fences, and furniture. Given that it is one of the stronger and more shock-resistant woods, it’s a good choice when sturdiness is the primary concern– most studded walls are constructed using pine 2” x 4”s.
That said, it also tends to show wear quicker than other types of wood. It is easily dinged up and scuffed. For this reason, most craftsmen concerned about a piece remaining in heirloom condition for generations will select an alternate variety like cherry or maple
Eastern white pine wood is straight-grained with an even medium texture. It also tends to feature quite a few dark knots, as pine trees grow branches down almost the entire trunk of the tree.
Under a classic definition, eastern white pine is a softwood, which means it comes from a gymnosperm tree. Other softwoods include fir and cedar. This is as opposed to hardwoods which come from dicot trees, such as a broadleaf variety.
This can be a bit confusing because most people equate hard vs softwood with the resilience of the wood, when it merely explains the group of trees the wood came from. In the case of eastern white pine, it is a softwood, and it is easily scuffed or nicked, but it’s also fairly strong.
Wood is assessed based upon the Janka Scale. During a Janka Test, a steel ball is pressed into the wood until it’s embedded halfway and the amount of force needed to make it happen is measured. Ergo, the wood will get a rating of “pounds of force” or “Janka.”
Eastern white pine wood has one of the lowest Janka hardness values of any wood, meaning it takes less pressure to embed the steel ball into it during testing. It’s rated 380 Janka or 380 lbf. It still tops things like balsa wood, which comes in at just 75 Janka, but it’s lower than most softwoods and light-years away from our most popular hardwoods. For example, some maples are considered soft maples. These usually start at about 700 Janka and go to about 950 Janka.
To provide comparison for some hardwoods, cherry sits at 995 Janka, walnut at 1,010 Janka, red oak at 1,290 Janka, and hard maple (aka sugar maple) is 1,450 Janka, making it nearly four-times more damage-resistant than eastern white pine. This is why, if you’re concerned about maintenance or keeping a piece in good condition, you’ll want to go with one of the latter options.
The wood comes from the eastern white pine tree, also known by the scientific name Pinus stobus L.
Eastern white pine trees grow in abundance across North America; throughout parts of the United States and Canada. They grow naturally and are also raised on farms.
As the largest conifer of the eastern and upper Midwestern forests, eastern white pine trees can reach 150 feet tall and be as much as 40 inches in diameter.
Generally speaking, eastern white pine wood is one of the least expensive wood types, so it would be a bit odd for someone to try to pass another type of wood off as pine. Pine furniture is usually easy to spot due to the frequency of dark knots as shown below.
On the flip side, because it’s not expensive and it takes stain very well, there’s more potential for someone to attempt to pass a piece of pine furniture off as another variety, particularly if the manufacturer took care to select boards without the characteristic knots. The only way to be totally certain that you’re purchasing a specific wood type is to purchase it from a reputable retailer or craftsman.
Eastern white pine wood has a few characteristics that could make it a good choice for outdoor furniture. First, it doesn’t shrink and swell as much as other varieties do when there are temperature or humidity variations. It’s also lightweight, so that would mean furniture could easily be moved for seasonal shifts. However, at best, it’s only moderately rot-resistant, and sometimes not even that. Moreover, its susceptibility to damage would likely leave any homeowner with immense amounts of maintenance in order to keep their furniture looking new.
At Vermont Woods Studios, we strongly advise customers not to put any natural wood furniture outdoors, even some of the more robust varieties. As an alternative, our Polywood collection gives the look and feel of natural wood, but is crafted with a special recycled high-density plastic. This way, it’s strong enough to stand up to the elements, is maintenance-free, and is guaranteed to last a lifetime.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) evaluates various plant and animal species to determine their risk of extinction and breaks them into three broad categories; Extinct, Threatened, and Lower Risk. Within the Lower Risk Category, there are three sub-categories; Near-Threatened, Conservation Dependent, and Least Concern. Eastern White Pine Trees fall into the very lowest category—Least Concern.
Learn more about our wood types on our wood page, or use the links below to read about specific types: