Pumpkin Pine: Rare and Treasured Wood Gives Off a Warm Glow

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Try as you might with warm stains and shellacs, you can never quite replicate the beautiful aged glow that comes with very particular growing conditions along with centuries of foot traffic, steaming tea kettles, and winter fires roaring in the hearth. True ‘pumpkin pine’ is elusive, developing on its own as if from some alchemical combination of fine quality wood and the passage of time.

What’s known as ‘pumpkin pine’ is actually Eastern White Pine that has been carefully prepared and stored, turning a striking shade of orange on its own over a period of decades. Slow-growing pine trees in old-growth forests are thought to accumulate colored products in the heartwood.

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These warm tones are brought out by tucking sawn boards between layers of straw for aging, and wiping them down and turning them every two years. The process isn’t complete until the workers who initially prepared the wood are long gone – a whopping seventy years.

Homes with original pumpkin pine flooring can still be found throughout New England, and antiques – like the blanket chest pictured above – occasionally become available at auction. The true pumpkin pine that can be found for sale in lumber form is typically reclaimed from demolished historic structures. It’s never stained – just protected with a clear coat of wax or oil.

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Staining Eastern White Pine to mimic this nuanced look might not produce exactly the same effect, but it does result in a welcoming antique feel. See Hull Forest’s pumpkin-stained wood floors, above, for an example.

DIY Woodworking: Shaker Furniture Project Plans

Woodworking Plans 1Want to try your hand at making your own classic Shaker-style furniture? Popular Woodworking Magazine has published a book called ‘Shaker Furniture Projects’ that’s packed full of 33 projects varying from small projects like traditional hanging shelves to larger projects like a Press Cupboard.

Shaker furniture, often made using Eastern White Pine, is an American tradition that was refined by our nation’s early craftsmen. Consisting of clean, minimalist lines and making use of innovative joinery and peg systems, Shaker furniture is known for a high level of quality and a look that fits into nearly any interior design style.

Prefer to check out projects one by one, and purchase plans a la carte? Peruse the options at Wood Magazine and Fine Woodworking, both of which offer plans for items like clocks, dining tables, chests of drawers and bed frames.

Traditional Craftsmanship Meets Modern Furniture with Notched Designs

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Creating wooden furniture that fits together without the need for glue is a longstanding tradition across all sorts of cultures and styles, requiring a high level of craftsmanship and skill. Traditional woodworking joinery, like dovetails, tongue-and-groove and mortise-and-tenon, can be even more durable than joints that rely on fasteners and adhesives.

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Some modern furniture makers are returning to these traditions for beautiful, high-quality products that still have a fresh, contemporary feel. Designer Ania Wolowska named the ‘Ban Table‘ after famed Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, known for his ingenious buildings and other structures that fit together using similar techniques.

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The table is specifically designed to bring attention to these joints, highlighting their beauty. Says the designer, “In this method of construction, pieces are put together with a basic technique that uses wooden joints, producing a highly pleasing table with excellent stability.”

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The table is collapsible for easy packing and transport, reducing its environmental impact. It’s handmade by master carpenters in Bacalar, Mexico.

Cozy Home Originals: Handcrafted Eastern White Pine Furniture

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Handcrafted in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania of solid regional Eastern White Pine, this series of classic American furniture by Cozy Home Originals highlights the natural beauty of wood. The small furniture maker offers everything from one-of-a-kind bathroom vanities to china hutches modeled after historic designs.

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The company crafts furniture and cabinets in their own original designs, and builds custom creations according to customer specifications, sometimes incorporating reclaimed materials like antique doors.

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Eastern White Pine is a popular wood choice for furniture makers working in traditional American style, using many of the same methods and tools to produce heirloom-quality results. Some other examples include the cabin-style work of Black Forest Designs, Shaker-style pieces and the timeless Windsor chair.

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Eastern White Pine is native to Pennsylvania, along with the rest of New England, and some of the nation’s most majestic specimens towering up to 148 feet in height can be found there at Cook Forest State Park. In fact, the park’s ‘Longfellow Pine’ is the tallest eastern white pine in the Northeast at 183.6 feet.

You Can Do That! Woodworking Projects in Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup Woodworking

If you’re interested in exploring some woodworking projects, there’s a cool way to get an interactive look at the mechanics of various items from tool boxes to furniture using Google Sketchup. Popular Woodworking Magazine offers Sketchup versions of all of the woodworking projects in its ‘I Can Do That!’ series and many more items, with over 200 free plans available to download.

For the uninitiated, Google Sketchup is a free program that enables you to create three-dimensional digital models of virtually anything. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use, with introductory lessons offering animated guidance and tips for each tool.

Check out the Sketchup plans for everything from a small Shaker carry box to a garden swing. Getting a look at them in Sketchup enables an enhanced understanding of how the parts fit together, so beginning to intermediate woodworkers have more confidence in their ability to tackle each project.

Eastern White Pine is an ideal wood type for many of these projects – learn more about its desirable characteristics for woodworking, and check out a few more small craft projects. 

Fresh Wood: Student Competition Promotes Woodworking Careers

Woodcraft-WinnerWhat does the future of the woodworking industry look like? The ‘Fresh Wood’ competition, sponsored by the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS), promotes woodworking and design education programs and encourages students to pursue careers in these fields. The competition gives students a chance to show off their work and win prizes including cash and woodworking tools and supplies.

The competition was founded when the industry faced shortages of skilled workers. But since then, there’s been a woodworking renaissance, with the economic downturn leading many people to reconsider their careers and return to hands-on trades that put old-world craftsmanship to work.

Woodcraft-ClockThe 2014 Fresh Wood Contest is closed to entries, but full-time and part-time students in accredited high school or post-secondary school woodworking programs are encouraged to apply for 2015. The winners in 2013 include a chair entry by Mollie Ferguson, pictured above, which won Best of Show and first place in the post-secondary chair category.

Work shown ranges from traditional furniture items to more artistic, sculptural interpretations of classics, like this fun clock.