We’ve written of hard and soft woods in the past, and each has its best uses in a woodworking shop. Don’t conflate hard and soft as strong and weak, though. When used in the right projects, all woods have strengths and weaknesses to be considered when choosing the right wood for the right job.
Woods are classified as hard or soft based upon seeds and not strength or weakness. Trees whose seeds have a coating are classified as hardwoods. The seeds’ coating will take the shape of a fruit or shell, which determines the classification. For a wood to be classified as a softwood, the seeds will not have a coating and are simply dropped to the ground and left to nature for care.
Examples of hardwoods are walnut, maple, and oak. We have all seen acorns or seen the squirrels burying them for winter food. The seeds are in the hard shells. Examples of softwoods are spruce and pine trees, evergreen conifers. Conifers produce, as you’d expect, cones, which have no hard shells surrounding the nuts.
But, is pine a strong wood? Is pine a hardwood?
Pine Is a Softwood, But Is It Strong?
We’ve already established that pine is a softwood – – its seeds have no coating. But, pine is a stiff wood; this makes it both durable and strong when used in furniture making. Oak, a hardwood, is a stronger wood than pine, but both offer durability.
Pine can be broken down into additional categories that distinguish its use:
- Soft pine like white pine; and,
- Hard pine like yellow and red pine
White pine is the most common type of pine. It has a low density, a fine texture, and an even, knotty grain. Western white pine is slightly more dense than eastern white pine, but neither is particularly dense.
That low density makes it easier to dent, and scratch, which means it is not as good a choice for floors as a dense wood like oak would be. Nonetheless, with scatter rugs on the high traffic areas and because of its good finishing qualities, pine can still be an attractive choice for floors.
Pine wood properties make it a good choice for furniture. Its color, stiffness, and resistance to shock make it suitable for furniture makers, and even cabinet makers will often opt for pine wood. Pine wood won’t match the strength of a hardwood like oak, but pine wood strength is certainly sufficient for chairs and tables.
Is Pine Wood Stronger Than Plywood?
Generally speaking, no. Solid wood will always be stronger than plywood, most especially in terms of its stiffness. If you’ve used plywood for shelving before, you will have noticed that it will sag much more than a shelve of solid wood. This is as true of pine as it is of other woods.
What Are Pinewood’s Advantages and Disadvantages?
Again, this is a question that is project-determined to an extent. But, there are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when selecting among the common woods available for the home woodworking shop.
- Light in weight
- Easy to work with
- Nice grain
- Readily and steadily available
- Easily scratched and dented
- Defects and flaws, including knots and its tendency to rot
- Requires more regular maintenance and care, especially if exposed to the sun
What Is Pine Wood Best Used For?
We’ve already mentioned furniture as a good use of pine wood. However, if it is exposed to sunlight for a long time, it will crack and weaken.
And yet, it can be and often is a good choice for outdoor decking when pressure-treated. In and of themselves, pine woods do not have particularly good insect or decay resistance. But, pressure-treating pine adds water resistance, resistance to fungus, insects, and rot, fire resistance, and greater durability.
Inside the home, pine is also a good choice for trim and moulding – baseboard, window trim, door frames, chair rails, and picture frames.
In all of these uses, pine wood is easy to work with – light in weight, takes paint, stain, and wax well. Pine wood is also less expensive than hardwoods like oak and maple.
Matching the right wood for the right project is important, and the considerations include a wood’s strength, density, stiffness, durability, and price. Pine wood is a good choice for those projects mentioned and at a reasonable price. It will look good, serve you well, and save you money.