We love Eastern White Pine (EWP) for most of our timber framing course projects. Why?
It’s lightweight, easy to work with hand tools and shrinks the least of all of the species readily available. This availability is also a big advantage, as we now have a good supply of mature timber growing in the hills around us. The price of this timber has not appreciably risen in the last ten years. One of our prime directives for green building is to use local materials wherever possible, and Eastern White Pine fills the bill.
Minimizing shrinkage is important, since we work all of our timbers green, as do most timber framers who do joinery with hand tools. Get the frame up and let it do it’s shrinkage in place after it’s “locked in”. Again, EWP shrinks very little so the effects are minimal. You can calculate how much it will shrink and in what direction for any species. You can design the frame and joinery to minimize the effects of any shrinkage. These are procedures we go through in our Timber Frame Design and Joinery Decisions course. The one disadvantage of EWP is that it’s not relatively strong, so the timbers may have to be bigger than if using another species, and timber sizing is also covered in the course.
We have a wonderful sawyer that understands timber framing and provides us with very high quality timber, and that is worth a lot in itself. Once you find a good sawyer you stick with them. This takes a lot of the uncertainty out of working with ungraded material, because we can be fairly confident that the strength design values we are using when designing the frame will be there in the timber that’s delivered. Grading is another issue we will discuss in future posts.