Christopher Columbus described the pines of the New World as "trees stretching to the stars with leaves that never shed." What a spectacular sight it must have been to see seemingly limitless forests reaching beyond the horizon. Being so plentiful, pine became one of the woods that early settlers depended on most for furniture and house building. A number of firms are now salvaging southern yellow pine from old buildings about to be razed. Beams, joists, and other timbers are milled into trim, moldings, flooring, and cabinet stock.
Pines are softwoods, meaning they are coniferous trees. However, there are hard and soft subcategories. A few pines are actually harder than some deciduous trees. To distinguish hard pines from soft pines, look at their needle formations. On hard pines the needles are usually grouped two or three in a bunch, while soft pines have bundles of five.
Eastern white pine is one of the most widely used soft pines for carpentry and construction. Southern yellow is a term used to describe several hard pine species (shortleaf, slash, and loblolly) sharing similar characteristics. The wood from these species is relatively heavy, hard, strong, stiff, and shock resistant. Southern yellow pines shrink quite a bit while drying, but the wood is quite stable once it has been seasoned.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com