When thinking of a new project to start a question which always needs to be determined is which wood to use. For personal projects the obvious answer for me is often pine, since I usually have some to hand or know it won’t be too expensive if I haven’t. But there’s a familiar feeling which comes with this decision, a kind of guilt I think, as I wonder is pine really good enough? Pine is often looked down upon by woodworkers as an inferior wood. It has certainly always been the lesser in value and durability compared to any hardwood and that will always remain, however I do tend to question its real value to us, particularly as hand tool woodworkers, and wonder if it deserves to be looked down on at all.
Pine is easier to work. This is the case for most tasks that we carry out with hand tools and as a result it can be less demanding on us and on our tools. Perhaps being easy to work has had a bearing on our attitude towards it, like we see a woodworker using pine and feel they’ve opted for the easy route. Should we not challenge ourselves to master our skills on difficult grains rather than cheat with the softwood?
Pine is easier because it requires less force than hardwoods, but creating a beautiful finish or crisp detail can in fact be harder than with any other timber, not to mention the inevitable knots to contend with. It may be easy to build with pine but not easy to build something beautiful. I like to think it offers us the best of both worlds, since it allows a fast and enjoyable pace for the work and any fine and well finished piece will display a true understanding of your tools and techniques. Work it well and it gleams. Work it poorly, and it more resembles a scrotum sack.
If you are in need of any other excuse to use pine then it’s likely to be one of the more sustainable options to go with, but that’s another topic which I’m sure I’ll get in to another time. Photos from an upcoming video. Don’t forget to follow our sporadic Facebook page, for more sneak peeks of what we’re up to.