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Working with Pitch Pine..

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HomeyJay

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Ok, firstly, I’m not even sure what it’s called - Pitch Pine or Pitched Pine.

I have several small beams of this stuff, around 5ft long x 10” wide x 5” thick. It’s been sitting in the shed for 20 years and I’ve never really paid much attention to it because each beam weigh a ton and it oozes sap if you do anything to it. I dragged out a couple a few years ago, set them on rough plinths to see if we could use them as rustic benches but they oozed an unpleasant and extremely sticky sap as soon as the sun shone on them!

Now that we have a movement ban in place and I seem to have very little usable lumber at home, I’m looking at the PP longingly and wondering if I can make some planks that I could put to use.

I don’t really want to gum up my saws with the resin but can anyone offer some tips? Is this wood likely to be usable and stay straight?
 

Argus

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If it’s real ‘Pitch Pine’ then the clue’s in the name – Pitch; it is a natural constituent of this type of American (I think) type of pine and was much-used in basic building timber, boat spars and the like where durability was needed. Even when dry it retains a proportion of heavy, bituminous sap.

The name was, in days past, sometimes applied generically to other European, ordinary building pine…. non-exuding in the gunk department, used in older buildings, often good stuff with wide boards and minimal knots and inclusions, which is worth having if it's in good nick - but not strictly Pitch Pine in the botanical sense.

If this stuff is still reactive to natural heat after all those years at rest, then you need to consider where you can use it to advantage. Having said that, there’s a certain rarity about this type of wood nowadays……… if it has been used before, be careful about hidden nails etc.

Good luck, let us know what you do with it.
 

Mike Jordan

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I assume that what you refer to as sap is in fact sticky resin which tends to be in little isolated ducts and is a bit of a drawback. On the plus side the timber is very durable and looks wonderful. Pitch pine is easy enough to work but the high resin content causes resin build up on cutters of both hand tools and machines.
The resin is easy to remove using white spirit or paraffin, the pain is having to remove saw blades and cutters in order to clean them. For hand planes the trick is to wipe the sole of the plane on a pad of material containing engine oil, this reduces the problem.
I think the resin build up is caused by friction so sharp tools that cut without heat might help when machining.
Some time ago a fellow woodworker purchased a large beam from the roof of a local mill, the second fix joinery he made was very attractive to look at. I managed to scrounge enough to make a small cupboard, an enjoyable little job!
Since you don't have a huge amount why not give it a try?I think it comes in differing qualities but I know nothing about what grades are suitable for what jobs, certainly it has been used for railway sleepers in the past.
Mike.
 

AndyT

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It was certainly popular in Victorian times for interior joinery. Found in better class small houses, especially in the hall and stairs. Also in churches and chapels for pews, panelling etc. Nice wide, clear boards.
 

pitch pine

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Yes it is definitely worth trying, but resawing it will coat any tool in resin. I have cut similar sized pieces on my bandsaw and after one pass the blade is covered. I had some beams professionally resawn and their bandsaw was lubricated with a flow of diesel! I would cut using a tool that is easy to clean (I have used a 3 tpi hand ripsaw constantly wiped with paraffin, slow but it works). As Argus says use it where the pitch is to your advantage. I made a garden planter from some and it has lasted really well.
 

Phil Pascoe

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I once had a house that was originally three one up one downs. Two lintels crossed in one corner, one was p.p. the other was a quadrant of elm about 15" across the flats. The elm one had rotted at the ends to the point that the whole thing was dust, the p.p. one under it was as it was the day it was put there. I had a couple of boards given to me that were about 12" x 2" that were quite beautiful - they were door linings from a demolished Victorian asylum.
 

woodbloke66

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Could be wrong but I seem to remember that the resin was used to distill true turpentine which is rarely seen these days. I've done a little bit of work in pitch pine but the resin makes it hard going with either hand or machine tools; not sure also how well it glues because of the resin? That said it looks great once it's been made into something - Rob
 

That would work

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Our stair case spindles, handrail newel etc were boxed in with hardboard. Ripping it off and finding pitch pine joinery was a nice surprise :shock:
 

Phil Pascoe

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My neighbour's were the same - unfortunately someone had removed every second spindle and bodged them for noggins to hold the hardboard. All the bolection mouldings had been destroyed to panel the doors flat, as well. :(
 

Argus

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Phil Pascoe":1tsanvtf said:
My neighbour's were the same - unfortunately someone had removed every second spindle and bodged them for noggins to hold the hardboard. All the bolection mouldings had been destroyed to panel the doors flat, as well. :(
A lot of good old stuff was hidden, mauled or cut off in the name of 'modernisation'.

I used to copy and hand-turn replacement spindles for people restoring old houses who had lost them.

Newel posts were also mangled by DIYers. I had a nice little sideline in replacement crown orbs and acorns for newel posts; the best ever was a pair of carved Pineapple Gadroons in Oak, recreated from an old photo.

Lovely work, that was.
 

Argus

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Argus":li89wcfu said:
Phil Pascoe":li89wcfu said:
My neighbour's were the same - unfortunately someone had removed every second spindle and bodged them for noggins to hold the hardboard. All the bolection mouldings had been destroyed to panel the doors flat, as well. :(
A lot of good old stuff was hidden, mauled or cut off in the name of 'modernisation'.

I used to copy and hand-turn replacement spindles for people restoring old houses who had lost them.

Newel posts were also mangled by DIYers. I had a nice little sideline in replacement crown orbs and acorns for newel posts; the best ever was a pair of carved Pineapple Gadroons in Oak, recreated from an old wedding photo on the staircase in the 1930s.

Lovely work, that was.
 

Argus

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Phil Pascoe":3csct25w said:
We used to say the stuff had been Bucknelled, after Barry Bucknell. I worked with a guy nicknamed Barry Bucknell as he was a bit of a bodger. :D
Precisely, but I was trying to be too polite, avoiding the pejorative.
 

Argus

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Argus":2e3zcrg1 said:
Phil Pascoe":2e3zcrg1 said:
We used to say the stuff had been Bucknelled, after Barry Bucknell. I worked with a guy nicknamed Barry Bucknell as he was a bit of a bodger. :D
Precisely, but I was trying to be too polite, avoiding the pejorative.
After all, if it were not for the much-maligned Barry, I would never have had the opportunity to do all that restorative work.

I suppose that for his time in the 60s it's what people wanted in their houses - even if we think differently now.
 

Keith 66

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A bloke i used to know had a barn full of the stuff, it had come from vats in a tannery & was well over a century old. The surface was dry & dusty some still with the tanning residue stuck to it. Cut into it over 1/8" & it was perfect. Machining it was interesting, My big dankaert circular saw coped fine but the sticky sawdust would build up on your shirt like glue. I made the mistake of trying to thickness a particularly sticky baulk & the machine jammed solid after cutting a few feet. I spent a happy hour or so cleaning the garmed up feed rollers.
Its great stuff for boats & a lump i picked up off the sea wall 40 odd years ago made a nice cigar box guitar neck, its strong, stiff & stable, No truss rod needed!
 

samhay

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I used some reclaimed pitch one recently for a coffee table.
Only other things to add are that it is quite pungent to work and the stuff I've got splintered quite badly in places.
 

Benchwayze

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I started my 'house ownership' in the '60s.
First one was a 'villa-type' in a row of six. Happy times for me and my lady.

I think I have always 'thought differently' and was quite happy with the house as it was built; it had some nice touches as regards to carpentry and joinery. I did modernise the kitchen with white goods of course! Loll!

John (hammer)
 

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