White vs. red pine
February 12, 2013 | 6:00 pm CST

Q: We make white pine furniture. I am sending you a piece of wood that has a little different color and texture than normal. Is it white pine? Also, what is the deal with winter cut versus summer cut pine?

A:  First, the piece you sent me is a piece of red pine (Norway pine), which is quite similar to white pine. It has some rings that are over 3/4 inches apart, meaning it was plantation grown. Fast-grown pine is weaker than slow grown. That's why you notice the difference between this wood and your normal slow grown (forest grown) white pine. Red pine is okay to use, but you might want to avoid this fast-growth material.

Second, winter- and summer-cut wood is the same (moisture is the same, chemical makeup is the same, etc.), however, the temperature is different. When it is warm outside (over 50F), fungal activity takes place, leading to the formation of blue stain. At 80F the stain can begin within 24 hours! Likewise, enzymatic oxidation brown stain (or coffee stain) is much more likely at warmer temperatures and "no drying" conditions. So, summer-cut pine is often accompanied by blue stain and brown stain, due to the temperature, and not to a difference in wood, if the wood is not dried promptly. The sap is not "up" in the summer and "down" in the winter. That this is a wives' tale for all species.

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Gene Wengert

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 45 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.