Q. I was in Colorado and saw some pine lumber that was called denim pine. I never heard of this. It looked good. What is it?

A. Let me begin by saying that wood manufacturing requires many processes, such as gluing, machining, and finishing. In addition, a great deal of effort and creativity is needed for marketing the manufactured products. Most, if not all of our successful companies will have excellent marketing.  

To be clear, marketing and sales are separate activities, but both must work together. In one sentence: Marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospective customers to buy your product. Included is the idea that marketing creates the value for your product.

Now, to your question. Some years ago, a beetle got into the trees, especially on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and killed the ponderosa pine trees. Once dead, the trees became infected with the common blue stain fungus that we see in the sapwood of almost all species of wood. In most cases, we consider this staining to be an unacceptable defect.

In a few cases the defect is ignored. However, someone decided that this blue stained pine was beautiful and worth more than ordinary stainless pine. A marketing effort for such wood required a new name to help make this wood special to the customer. The name you mention, Denim Pine is registered and in fact there is an association that works with members producing Denim Pine.

There are other examples of smart marketing of wood products. Years ago, bird’s eye maple (and bird’s eye cherry too) was considered a defect. Of course, today it is awesome and desirable.

American chestnut lumber, if sawn from a fresh tree is quite solid. However, if the tree is left on the ground for a while, it becomes riddled with worm holes; the resultant lumber is called wormy chestnut and is highly desired.

The white rot fungus (including shiitake mushroom species), when it infects wood, creates black lines throughout the wood. Most of the time we do not like to use rotten wood, so eliminate this material. However, these lines can be beautiful and so the name is spalted wood, which is highly sought after.

I should add that this is exactly what we need to do with our products too…market them effectively with the price reflecting their enhanced value.

A few examples: Mid Tennessee Lumber makes special oak flooring that they call “Walking Horse Plank” flooring. An outfit in Michigan sold Michigan Rose Red Oak and Arctic White Hard Maple. Maybe you know of someone selling the same product that you do but as part of their marketing effort they have renamed it (and maybe fine tuned the properties) so it is more attractive (desirable and expensive) to the customer.

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.