Searching for Southern Yellow Pine

I’ve been on the phone a lot lately, trying to track down Southern Yellow Pine. Don’t get me wrong – it’s available, and can be found at Menard’s/Home Depot. But what we’re looking for is a different type of SYP.

The stuff that’s currently available is newer growth, and the rings and grain lines are a lot more open. This is a comparison between a board we got and a segment of the original trim on the house.

Notice the vertical lines of the grain (pinstripes) on the older trim.

Of course, it’s really difficult to find the type of older growth pine nowadays. We are wanting to match up trim from 100+ years ago, which is a tall order.

An example of some of the pine from the house (this is from the first floor pocket doors). The middle panels have what I think are called “cathedrals,” but note the tight grain patterns in the other pieces.

Really beautiful, and tough to come by.

I’ve been on the phone a good deal, calling up random places I’ve come across on the Internet. I think someone else likely would have learned their lessons faster than me, as I called a lot of companies that don’t supply SYP to homeowners (and mostly deal with 2″+ construction lumber meant for large job sites, or box stores).

I’ve slowly winnowed my way down, trying to find a lumber yard or mill that has SYP with a tigher grain pattern (rings per inch) that comes closer to our original trim.

I’ve had some success lately, finding a few places that deal with what are called “sinker pines.” And learned what I should be really looking for is Longleaf pine.

One source of Longleaf pine (clear, without knots) is actually logs that were destined for a saw mill decades ago… but were lost in transit, and fell into rivers while in transit. I thought that these would be harder to come by, but apparently it’s a more common thing than I realized. In some cases, at certain bends/points in a river, there can be hundreds if not thousands of such logs. Sinker pines.

It’s more expensively, obviously. But it’s been an interesting journey, over a ridiculous number of phone calls, to find places that actually have this kind of wood available. I’ve had a headset on for the better part of 4 days, making a lot of calls. Learning a lot, but with a lot left to learn.

I’ve spoken with several different individuals, at several different companies – most, if not all, are incredibly passioante about trees and wood. Fascinating conversations about both the history and science behind a raw material that we really take for granted.

It’s been a luxuring to be off work, and to have the time to do this kind of research and calling around. I know I could have done it while still working a normal day job, but would have been much harder. It’s been nice to have that kind of free time, to try to track this down.

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