The Eastern White Pine


White Pine (Pinus strobus) 100′ (30m) tall

An excerpt from “With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood” by Christian Becksvoort.


Eastern White Pine Cone

Eastern white pine is also referred to as Northern, soft, balsam or Weymouth pine. The name Pinus refers to the pine family, while strobus means cone. The tree’s natural range is from Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to Wisconsin and Iowa, and east to the Appalachians down to Georgia. Ordinarily it reaches heights of 80′-100′ (24-30 m). Old king’s broad arrow pines, used for masts in the royal navy, sometimes grew to more than 200′ (60 m). White pines can reach 400 years of age.

Pines, like most conifers, grow a straight central trunk. The branches of white pine grow almost horizontally, usually in groups of five. The pine shoot borer, an increasing pest in pine-growing areas, kills the leader, forces one of the branches to take over as leader and results in deformed or multiple trunks. Pine needles are 2″-5″ (5-12.5 cm) long, grow in bundles of five, and are surrounded by a papery sheath at the base which drops off after the first season. White pine cones are 4″-8″ (10-20 cm) long, fairly thin, quite flexible and take two years to mature. The bark forms gray scaly ridges.


Eastern White Pine Bark

Sapwood of white pine is pale yellow-white. Heartwood is cream to light reddish-brown when freshly sawn, turning to a warm reddish-brown on exposure to air and light. Old, clear heartwood is often referred to as pumpkin pine. The wood contains a fair amount of pitch. It is generally straight, even grained and light, with a density of 25 lb/ft3 (.39 g/cc) at 12 percent MC. It is a real workhorse in most shops, used for jigs, braces and mock-ups. As a pattern wood it has no equal. Quartersawn white pine is the most well behaved of all the native woods. Pine’s ease of sanding, chiseling and planing makes it an ideal secondary wood. When used as such, it fills the entire interior of a chest or cabinet with a clean, woody odor. It is also used as a primary wood. Most of New England’s painted antiques are constructed of white pine. Shellac over the knots prevents the pitch from bleeding through. Perhaps it appears at its best when left raw, or oiled to age naturally.

Meghan Bates


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9 Responses to The Eastern White Pine

  1. pinusmuricata says:

    Actually, in terms of range, it gets down to Illinois (White Pine State Park). Pattern shops favor sugar pine, Pinus lambertiana (Englemann), which is a little lighter.

  2. hiscarpentry says:

    I live in Weymouth MA. How did white pine don the name Weymouth pine?

    • kenwanobi says:

      The irrefutable Wikipedia says…

      “It is known as the Weymouth pine in the United Kingdom,[3] after George Weymouth who brought it to England in 1620.”

      They actually give a reference in this case: Moore, Gerry; Kershner, Bruce; Craig Tufts; Daniel Mathews; Gil Nelson; Spellenberg, Richard; Thieret, John W.; Terry Purinton; Block, Andrew (2008). National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America. New York: Sterling. p. 77. ISBN 1-4027-3875-7.

  3. meghanlostartpress says:

    According to wikipedia (which is never wrong *cough, cough*) , “known as the Weymouth pine in the United Kingdom,[3] after George Weymouth who brought it to England in 1620.”

    Please correct me if anyone knows better.

  4. hiscarpentry says:

    Ah. Thanks much. Never thought of doing a Google search.

    I just started a blog myself check it out.

  5. The only Eastern White Pine available in Australia is structural lumber used for framing, it is the lowest grade, gummy and quite disgusting. I have made several mock up boxes using it but always for sure when resawn it will be gummy and will cup before your eyes. After a few days of air drying, it stablisers and works quite well there after.

  6. Great Post….Thanks…!!!

    Have some of our Amish Sawyers milling some huge beams for our current timber frame project now that are over 8 metres in length. The trees they are coming from are well over 150 tall. White Pine is a wonderful wood and one of my favorites. We “scrubbed out” plank/slabs fairly regularly that are over 1.2 metre (~40″) wide for a specialty flooring. White Pine is the “go to” wood for many timber frames (majority in the world area conifer species…not a hardwood.) and other than the occasional White Oak (et al related species) elements in a timber frame…White Pine is simply superior to most other species in current and historic use where it is found…

  7. I will be attending a weekend workshop with Chris Becksvoort at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks about three weeks from now. I attended one of his workshops three years ago and learned a great deal from him. Chris is an excellent cabinetmaker and a great teacher.

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