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Thread: Southern Yellow Pine

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Springfield, IL
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    413

    Southern Yellow Pine

    I need to build 11 drawer boxes under a workbench I'm building for my daughter. I went to the big box store (no real lumber yards around me, and none within reasonable driving distance open on Sunday) with the hope of buying oak, but that would have set me back over $400. Next choice was poplar, but I stumbled into some SYP that was spectacular looking, but just a little damp. checked the Janka hardness, and at 870 it seemed like a better choice than poplar.

    I read that SYP shrinks as it drys, so I stickered it in the garage with a fan blowing on it as I have other parts of the bench I can work on for a few days. My concern is that if it starts twisting on me I'll be in a spot. Since none of these drawer boxes will be very big (16" x 19" x 5" is the biggest) might I be better off milling and assembling the boxes while it's all perfectly straight stock?
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  2. #2
    Thoroughly dry first, then select and mill the parts for the drawers. If its finish grade 1x lumber it should be fairly dry. If its framing lumber it is not likely to be dry. If you don't have a moisture meter you can weigh the boards to see how much moisture vacates as time goes by.

  3. #3
    Usually, the SYP sold at big box stores is loblolly, not long leaf. And it's Janka is only 690. Not that it won't work. Just that it's not the same SYP they used to sell.

    It would take months to dry, if not longer. Usually, your best bet if you're trying to save money at the big box store is to buy some of that S4S European white wood they sell for a slightly higher price. It's not particularly strong, but it is fully kiln dried. Another option is to dig through the SYP and pull out the quarter sawn pieces, as they're less likely to warp. Though, if the price is cheap enough, sometimes it's best just to work it right away and hope for the best, and if a few pieces warp, then you'll have to remake some things. But sometimes the design of whatever you're making will keep it relatively straight.

  4. #4
    What kind of joinery?
    You can build drawer boxes out of plywood, too. Glue the bottoms in for strength and rack resistance. Just be sure they are square and stacked flat as they dry.
    Even dovetail them, though i don't get that vibe given the cabinet joinery?
    Dovetails or box joints will require back-up spoil boards more so that solid if the joints are machine made.
    Then face with your preferred feature wood.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
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    9,354
    The trouble is not with the wood, but the processing. We used to be able to buy SYP 2x4's that were straight and you could depend on them to stay straight. It's a very stable wood if processed properly, including Loblolly. They used to saw the high quality logs, sticker the rough cut boards in huge piles and leave them outside to air dry for a year. After this drying, they would kiln dry the boards slowly in kilns powered by burning sawdust. After kiln drying they were milled smooth and straight. I made most of my living building houses from this lumber. The last of these mills went out of business here in 1992.

    These days, the low quality logs are sawn one day, kiln dried overnight, milled and bundles tightly banded the next day. This is why it's almost impossible to buy a stable SYP 2x4 or 2x6 and the percentage of loss for all the other sizes is Much higher than it used to be too.

    I had two old carpenters quit working for me building houses after the 1992 closing of that last family owned mill. They didn't want to build houses out of lumber you couldn't count on to stay straight and built cabinets in their backyard shops for the rest of their lives.

    My family has grown Pine timber for generations. These days almost every timber grower produces it for minimum time before rotation. They teach it in Forestry schools. That's the opposite of what's required to grow top quality saw logs and why most of the lumber you see in box stores is full of knots. You only get top quality lumber out of top quality saw logs. I may be the last, or at least one of the last that still grows them for top quality.
    Last edited by Tom M King; 06-23-2024 at 6:51 PM.

  6. #6
    Glad to hear someone is doing good forestry practice!
    The Europeans seem to have it down - they have forested timber recognized as "great" in world terms since the 18th C, including forests of trees from America that we treat like weeds such as black locust.

    During the 1980's a wood lobby group in DC had me do 33 offices in their building with products from member producers around the country. Just one complete wall in most offices. I think my favorite was still the flatbed that showed up an my warehouse with a pile of 18" wide 5/4" SYP. It was unfortunate because the way the wall worked out, it was not possible to get 2 pieces out of every board. But at the end of the job, all the 7'+ off cuts, and even a few full 15'-4" boards were left.
    When we moved to upstate NY the house had no closets so i made this out of some of the remainders for the coat closet near the front door. These are old photos - the shelves to the right have all been replaced with drawers, sliding in the same dados. Doors are matched single boards 17-1/4" wide, except the RH door, where i tried to get too much extra width for the shelves and over did it. That door is 18" wide with a glued on 1" piece. They move over a year with the seasons, but plenty flat and stable. Case is 2' deep.

    DSCN0009Copy_03.jpgDSCN0014_01.jpg

  7. #7
    Assuming you mean HD or Lowe’s for the big box stores. Very expensive to buy oak from there. I have a Klingspore store pretty close where I buy a lot of wood. You can also check Facebook marketplace as there’s a lot of local smaller millers selling wood. Only major downside is that a lot of it is air dried.

    I use a lot of poplar for projects and think it’s a lot more stable than pine. It’s just not very pretty and needs to be painted.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    North Dana, Masachusetts
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    509
    Tom wrote:

    My family has grown Pine timber for generations. These days almost every timber grower produces it for minimum time before rotation. They teach it in Forestry schools.


    This is exactly my experience with the academic foresters, and professional foresters. They do not consider the growth rings per inch as a factor in good lumber. The goal is a race to the bottom to make the fastest growth possible. When the Red Oak market was up, a forester suggested I cut out everything but Red Oaks to make them grow faster. No thoughts about the market for other wood, monocrop forests, destroying the diversity of a stable forest, and growing good quality trees.

    I worked in a laminated beam shop making bent laminations out of Southern Yellow Pine. Making drawers, that work, out of that wood from a big box store is a big challenge. So much work, with such poor quality wood that will move, twist, and crack as it drys. Buy some good drawer wood, like Maple, from a hardwood distributor.

  9. #9
    Two snips from the Lowes website showing yellow pine boards. One is better suited for drawer sides than the other. S4S = moisture could be as high as 19%.

    Screen Shot 2024-06-25 at 6.17.15 AM.png Screen Shot 2024-06-25 at 6.17.46 AM.png
    https://www.lowes.com/pd/Common-1-in...ard/1000221413

    https://www.southernpine.com/wp-cont...s-Web-8.20.pdf

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    426
    I mean, if you're buying dimensional lumber to cut down to ~1/2" for drawers, can't you just resaw it down to 3/4-7/8", then sticker it, and mill it when it dries out? I would guess you'd cut the time by more than half. You're making drawers so you need like 15", not 8'. I feel like you can do it. Though it does seem like you're undervaluing your time for shop furniture. Its a workbench. Return the SYP and buy the poplar. Just work around the bad green parts. Or, get two sheets of 1/2" BB ply and be done with it.

  11. #11
    I would buy some 1/2" birch plywood like James said. Sticker the SYP and in a year or two it will dry and be good for another project.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by William Hodge View Post
    Tom wrote:

    My family has grown Pine timber for generations. These days almost every timber grower produces it for minimum time before rotation. They teach it in Forestry schools.


    This is exactly my experience with the academic foresters, and professional foresters. They do not consider the growth rings per inch as a factor in good lumber. The goal is a race to the bottom to make the fastest growth possible. When the Red Oak market was up, a forester suggested I cut out everything but Red Oaks to make them grow faster. No thoughts about the market for other wood, monocrop forests, destroying the diversity of a stable forest, and growing good quality trees.

    I worked in a laminated beam shop making bent laminations out of Southern Yellow Pine. Making drawers, that work, out of that wood from a big box store is a big challenge. So much work, with such poor quality wood that will move, twist, and crack as it drys. Buy some good drawer wood, like Maple, from a hardwood distributor.
    They know the downsides to harvesting lumber like they do. I have a friend who's a forester and he complains about that and a whole lot of other things that we do "wrong" here in the U.S. But here's the thing. You can't go into the commercial sector and tell companies that they need to decrease profits in order to increase quality and expect to keep a job. Same thing with monocrop forests. They know it's a bad idea, both for the health of the forest and the health of the tree. But they also know no one cares about that. It's all about profit, and price sells more than quality because we, as consumers (in general), aren't willing to use our wallets to demand better. Sure, there are a few of us willing to pay more for better quality. But not enough to dictate market trends.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
    Posts
    2,312
    It's not just the mills. Loggers are doing the same thing around here. In the past they would just harvest the logs that would make the most profit while leaving the smaller stuff in the forest. Now they are taking everything. The problem is that the forest needs what they were leaving behind. In the short term small animals that used the brush for cover don't have it. In the long run the wood that would rot and feed new growth isn't drastically reduced. Yet a 5 year old logger isn't going to be around in 40 years or so when the results are apparent. But people have to have their wood pellets for their stoves.

  14. #14
    they are advanced in drying in europe. Spoke to a European at the cottage show that has some special kiln cost a million and first or second one here maybe works by vacuum. He showed me fir, fir from interior where its colder. Their kiln drives the inside as well. Their kiln helps avoid cracking.

    Too much info and too new to me and at a show to get it all but remember they also got their lumber from the natives and it was cut responsibly. Maybe even their factory was in a native area. Might of said the kiln was the first one of its type in canada. Right now all material was for their own homes but he said maybe in time they would also sell the lumber.
    Last edited by Warren Lake; 06-25-2024 at 1:05 PM.

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