That's pinus strobus. Eastern White Pine. I know it about as well as anybody, I guess.
I use a great deal of it making furniture. But I was introduced to it a long time before that in the housing industry. If you look at a piece of framing lumber, you'll likely see a grade stamp on it that says SPF with some numbers. No, your lumber isn't worried about sunburn. SPF stand for Spruce, Pine, Fir -- all evergreen trees with needles that have about the same strength and so are lumped together for grading purposes. Pine is immensely strong for its light weight and makes good framing lumber.
I know 1x12 number 2 common pine as well as anyone. (Some call that "C Select" grade. Lumber has a lot of inside jargon) My entire house, except the tile in the kitchen and bath, is floored with it, screwed and pegged. Number 2 is an appearance grade that means it has a few sound knots. 1x12 is a nominal size. It means the board was 1" thick and 12" wide before it was dried (it shrinks) and dressed (the cutters take their vigorish) A 1x12 is actually 3/4" thick by 11-1/4" wide. A "board foot" of this lumber is not a foot square. It is 12" long by 11-1/4 wide by 3/4" thick. People often buy board feet and forget nominal sizes, plus good old-fashioned waste. If you buy clear pine with no knots, it costs more than expensive hardwoods in many cases. I made my entire kitchen cabinetry out of the flooring stock by cutting out the clear sections of knotty boards first. I used the knotty sections for secondary things and kindling.
My property is covered with pines, many over 75 feet tall. Hundreds of them. They grow straight up like weeds. When I wanted to clear an acre of them to build the house, the sawyer didn't charge me anything. He took the nice, straight boles of the trees he felled to the sawmill and sold them to cover the costs of clearing the lot.
I've learned that pine is a slab of gasoline. Almost literally.
What I mean by that is, the cost of pine is almost 100% the cost of the energy involved in getting it to where you're going to use it in the form you want it. The wood is almost worthless just standing there with birds chirping in it. Here's the energy list:
- Getting your lumberjack butt out to the trees
- The big machines that fell big trees, and chainsaws, don't run on unicorn farts
- Truck it back to the sawmill
- The sawmill uses electricity, but that isn't coming from AA batteries. More energy
- They dry the boards in a kiln, often using natural gas or that electricity again.
- Just moving it around the yard requires more than a handtruck
- Put it on a truck and deliver it to wholesale yards
- More truck, to the retail yards
Read any news outlet. They'll tell you that since all that energy is required to get splinters into my finger, it's Armageddon and we're all gonna die in an inflationary tsunami.
It's true I didn't enjoy paying $4.07 per gallon to go to the lumber yard. But I need pine to make furniture. And I paid 34% less for it this week than I did exactly one year ago. Same quality. Same vendor. Same everything.
A fluke? Not hardly. I bought the same thing two years ago, too, of course. I paid 32% less than 2006. Same place. Same quality.
By any measure of what goes into the cost of a board foot of pine, I should have paid a lot more now. But like most things economic, you can't figure out anything by reading the papers. A lot of it is borderline counterintuitive, or obscure, anyway. The demand for lumber to construct housing is down, so the price is not goosed by any boom. Everybody sharpens their pencil a bit. But there are other factors in play.
Any news article you see that outlines inflationary pressures based solely on the price of raw commodities, without discussing productivity or other concurrent economies of cost, is written by, and aimed towards, a fool.
Just like the lumberyard, and the yards that supply them, I've had all sorts of pressures put on me that might make what I produce more expensive. But at the same time, I've had all sorts of labor and material saving devices come into the picture. It's only inflationary if the productivity gains don't outstrip the rise in cost of materials and labor.
The shorter version of all that is, in general, Something Else Happens. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but not linear. There is no more complex system than the modern economy.
Counterintuitively but wisely, the lumberyard is expanding their facility a great deal right now. When there was a boom, they used their existing location to its max and and made their money. Now it's slack, and they use the pause to get ready for the next rush. Maybe you could learn something from them. You're never going to learn anything worth knowing by watching Katie Couric.