Pros and Cons of Pine
Pine conjures up an image in my head of a house frame. You know 2 x 4’s all nailed together forming the skeleton of a house under construction. Never in the 35 years I have been a guitarist did the term Pine give me any thoughts of building a guitar from this soft wood. I mean I literally buy bags of the stuff to use for kindling in the winter.
That was until a friend of mine Chris Hancock called me one day and said “Arlo have you seen this Glendale guitar site? The guy makes Telecaster body’s out of Pine!” Chris and I met on a forum. We were members of a WWII Submariners forum. We were posting about U-Boats and found out that each of us lived in Maine [The Pine Tree State]. Immediately the two of us hit it off and although never meeting face to face we talked almost daily on the phone. One day Chris mentioned that he played guitar and I proceeded to tell him that I did as well and from that day forward we were very good friends. We had a lot in common and we didn’t even know what each other looked like. Sound familiar?
Forums, what a cool invention indeed. They can be loaded with a wealth of knowledge and on the flip side of the coin a lot of stupidity. Forums are a strange unforgiving world of words. You post make friends, acquaintances, enemy’s, call some members, talk and learn from each other. Joining a good forum can be a serious eye opener. For me it was becoming a member of the TDPRI that opened up the world of guitar building and specificaly the use of Pine. At first I was bursting with questions about Pine. Was it too soft? Does it have good tone? How to paint it?
I found the TDPRI Googling for Pine Telecasters. Chris and I had made a bet to see who would be the first to own a Pine Telecaster. We were very competitive in many ways. Unfortunately my dear friend Chris died before either of us had the opportunity to actually meet face to face. Ironically it was an email from a friend of Chris’s that informed me of his death. This thing called the Internet is complex and yet so incredibly informative.
After joining the TDPRI and asking how to find a Pine body I was directed to a guy in upstate N. Y. by the name of Marty McClary. He had 3 completed Pine Telecaster body’s for sale at the time and all of them looked superb. So I bought em all. They were all Eastern Pine which is commonly found here in Maine and the North Eastern provinces. Two of them were straight grained and quarter sawn and both were one piece. The third was a reclaimed barn Pine two piece and said to be over 100 years old. One of the quarter sawn body’s became my beloved Ol’ Piney.
Chris and I had a plan to have a Pine Telecaster with no finish. That is why Ol’ Piney never got a coat of paint. I simply used Howard’s Feed n Wax as a preservative. That guitar is fragrant like Pine to this day.
The Pros of building with Pine.
It is a very beautiful species of wood. It is from the same family as Spruce and has an elasticity that according to my good friend Bill Lawrence propagates sound waves very well. It can be finished in a number of ways. And probably one of the biggest reasons people like it is it’s weight is usually very light. This of course depends on the species. Not all Pine is created equally my friend.
The Cons of building with Pine.
It is soft and can dent very easily. There are some people who use wood hardener. I personally have never used a hardener. Ron Kirn has an ingenious method of removing a dent using a steam iron and cloth. Some species of Pine like Southern Yellow are very heavy. I have used a species from California called “Digger Pine” that is a heavy species. Excellent for a bass guitar with a long neck or a baritone guitar. The weight helps counter balance the long neck.
There is a certain stigma that follows the word Pine. Pine used to make me think of junk wood. You know like “If your going to build a tree house in the back yard for the kids you might as well use a cheap wood.” Cheap wood usually means Pine. Easy to see why it is not considered to be a superb wood for an electric guitar. But not everyone will agree with that line of thinking at least in some circles. I am not just a Pine believer I am convinced.