Long Leaf Pine: a bit of history, facts, and fascination.
Here is a close up of the Comfort Cabin flooring. It is a vertical or cross cut grain which means it was cut to have all the grain show at its ends rather than across its face. There is an example of a common cut board in the batch and you can see how the cut is along the grain. The vertical grain normally costs nearly twice as much but also takes much more wear and tear thus it was commonly used for schools, churches, and entry ways or dining rooms where the floors took a beating.
It is also important to note that the wood has no knots which is a characteristic of Long Leaf Pine in the lower 40-50 feet where it shed its branches as it grew. Long Leaf had to be 185 years old just to be mature enough to cut, in the old ways that is, because it developed a Heart of red super hard wood and is commonly called Heart Pine, not for the species which most who use the term don’t know, but for the cut of the tree. Some of the boards show the yellow of the sap wood and the red of the heart wood in the same board. as the rings mark the years of growth you can easily count as many as 10-15 growth lines per inch which tells you just how slow this tree grew and that the ones these floors were cut from were likely 400 years old or more.
This is sad when you see it burned or thrown into the dump as we will never be able to grow such trees again as there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now and the droughts won’t even let them get started. These required 40-50 inches of rain a year to grow and Texas had 5,000 square miles of them in its NE section in 1830. They were pretty much cut down by 1935 when the lumber industry was finally forced to pay its employees with dollars or currency rather than company store credits, housing, and no benefits what so ever. Kids started working in the mill at 12 years old sharpening the saws and families were virtually owned by the big lumber companies as they controlled the schooling, the supplies and prices in the stores, the housing was all theirs, and when someone got hurt and could no longer work, they were kicked out and sent away.
The other great characteristics of Long Leaf Pine include being the hardest of the 77 species of pine in the US, the most resistant to rot, termites and bugs, stronger than nearly any other wood in America because of its high elasticity (bend before breaking), its high sap content, and incredible lengths that you could get without knots. I have had beams 52 feet long and not a knot in as much as 30′ at 14″ wide.
Sadly it is considered commercially extinct and the few patches or trees left are rare and most are not even mature. If cut too early and not mature, thus without a big heart, it does not have all those great characteristics that it does develop later.
Why would we throw such incredible wood into the dump and use trees that are grown and harvested in less than 50 years, often as young as 30 years old. They are little more than bug bait in comparison… and the proof is in the wood bores, termites, and rot that new wood gives into within 5-7 years of being used out doors compared to Long Leaf lasting for a hundred years or more in the tough Texas heat, rains, and occasional cold.
There is your lesson on why I love Long Leaf Pine and why we should save all we can to use again, and again, and again. If not, our grandchildren will never even know such fine wood once grew from Texas to Georgia so thick that they say a squirrel could once climb a Long Leaf in Texas and not come down from the trees till he got to Georgia.