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What is "whitewood?"

JasonG's picture

I was flipping through the HD circular this morning and saw "whitewood" 2X4X8s on sale. Having seen HDs 2X4s, I would assume that "whitewood" stands for "bowed and splitting junk," but what exactly is it? Where is it coming from?

Jason

(post #72738, reply #1 of 20)

Around here, "whitewood" is a label that's sometimes used to refer to SPF lumber from Canada. (As opposed to SYP lumber)

But labels like that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people from one region to another. It might be worth asking THEM what they mean.

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(post #72738, reply #2 of 20)

Lots of times "whitewood " is basswood or something similar.


But I doubt that's what HD is selling.

(post #72738, reply #3 of 20)

This is a good question Jason - if you look up "Whitewood" in the dictionary, you get this:



  1. Any of various deciduous trees such as the tulip tree, basswood, or cottonwood.
  2. The soft, light-colored wood of any of these trees.

If you look it up on google, you get this (which sounds closer to what I thought it was):


"European softwoods from a wide group of trees, including silver fir, yellow pine and spruces, with white to yellow heartwood and sapwood"


One says the wood is from deciduous (lose their leaves) trees, the other says its from evergreens (don't lose their 'leaves') - take your pick!


p.s. - don't expect that the fellas at the big box are going to tell you what it is, but maybe the grade stamp will say?


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(post #72738, reply #4 of 20)

"Whitewood" is a term cabinetmakers use for a secondary, utility lumber, used for unseen things like toe kick framing, cleats, brackets, webbing, etc. There are a variety of species that get called "whitewood", such as pine, poplar, spruce. Framing lumber should be stamped and you will see SPF on the stamp. This means the lumber is Spruce, Pine (southern yellow) or fir/hemlock all of which could be called whitewood. These days, I only see spruce in my area. In the old days, Douglas fir was common.

I don't know why HD would refer to 2x4's as "whitewood" unless the studs are not up to structural framing standards. They may be selling some inexpensive utility framing, or they may just be using the term loosely. Hemlock has been used for studs but it is often sold green. Sitting inside HD this would twist and check. Most carpenters around here would avoid hemlock, due to the way it moves. The only way to get a true answer to your question would be to ask HD. I've got a feeling "whitewood" sounds better than "bowed splitting junk" as a marketing description. I think most of the framing lumber on the east coast comes from Canada. There are species in the forest that are underutilized such as tamarack and hemlock, they have been marketed in the past.

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(post #72738, reply #5 of 20)

"Framing lumber should be stamped and you will see SPF on the stamp. This means the lumber is Spruce, Pine (southern yellow)..."

SYP means Souther Yellow Pine - Grown in Arkansas, Alabama, or Mississippi.

SPF means it's Spruce-Pine-Fir from Canada.

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(post #72738, reply #6 of 20)

"SYP means Souther Yellow Pine - Grown in Arkansas, Alabama, or Mississippi."...or NC, SC, Georgia, Florida...

"SPF means it's Spruce-Pine-Fir from Canada."...or New England, the Wet Coast, Sweden, Norway...

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(post #72738, reply #7 of 20)

I get a lot of "whitewood" from Lowes, and it all has been some kind of pine-ish stuff. I'm pretty sure it grows on Aisle 3 <G>

I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head

www.tvwsolar.com

The Village Woodworks, Inc

Chapel Hill, NC

 

We'll have a kid Or maybe we'll rent one He's got to be straight We don't want a bent one He'll drink his baby brew From a big brass cup Someday he may be president If things loosen up

(post #72738, reply #8 of 20)

more "true" definitions mentioned above

but here small pocket Northwest you talk whitewood in the lumberyard you talkin preprimed spruce or the like ready for facia etc

(post #72738, reply #9 of 20)

Thanks for the responses . . . I looked at the advertisement more closely and saw that these "whitewood 2X4s" are from a company called Millstead. According to their website, they seem to exclusively supply Home Depot. According to them "whitewood" is -

"Spruce, Pine and Douglas Fir (SPF): The most common western softwoods used in construction; also known as whitewoods. Because these species have similar characteristics, they have been combined into one grade for buying, selling and design standards."

Now I "know" what whitewood is . . . the quality is still pretty poor, though.

Jason

(post #72738, reply #11 of 20)

Funny ...all these posts about SPF and whatnot.


I was at Lowes last weekemd and wanted a half dozen 2x4x8's


I almost flipped ..a decent pile. Then I started picking and no lie, I got 6 that were as straight as an arrow, no wane edges, and ONE small knot in a nice straight grain that was fairly dense.


Like the Twilight zone.


I was making trellis for the garden, so I snagged six more that were lesser quality and stowed the 6 SWEET ones in the shop for something that needs good looking wood.


@ 3.27 ea. thats the kind of quality I'd expect.



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(post #72738, reply #12 of 20)

It's called whitewood because all it usually has is one ring's worth of summer wood and usually weighs about 3 ounces per stud.

Real high quality stuff from old growth trees. Yeah, that's it.

(post #72738, reply #13 of 20)

I have flipped thru those piles and found some primo stuff, but when put to use in a week or so --- well it sure wasn't straight. I have also seen "whitewood" stacks with aspen bark.

(post #72738, reply #14 of 20)

LOL

 

 


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(post #72738, reply #15 of 20)

Yeah, laugh so hard we cry, huh?


My guess is that the national buyer had to stick something in the "description" field to go with the SKU number in the "Dimensional Lumber" page of the big master pricing spreadsheet.  Given the number of international vendors out there, that "european" definition (by translation) may have just crept in.


Seems like I first started seeing "whitewood" over in the rough shelving aisle, and that it was an apt description, some sort of generic, blonde, wide-spaced growth ring, former tree, product.


I've not been tough enough to actually go walk down the "lumber" aisles at the box stores in a while now (just too traumatic).  So, I'm guessing that I would not be surprized to only see PT and "whitewood" in Lumber . . .


Hmm, just had a scary thought of what the No.2 "whitewood" wrigglesticks would look like . . .


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(post #72738, reply #10 of 20)

"What is whitewood?"


Well, it's like whitefish, only less good in a buttersauce and fried in tater chip crumbs <g> . . .


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(post #72738, reply #16 of 20)

"whitewood" is a name used for any of several types of graded lumber. SPF is one of those types, but Lowes' is not obligated to supply SPF.

The Lowes' here sells "whitewood" 2x4s:

They are straight. They are dry. They have few defects. They are graded.

One cannot ask for any more.

(post #72738, reply #17 of 20)

Cut HD some slack - at least they don't call their 2x4's "Top Choice" like Lowes does.  What a joke...


Jeff

(post #72738, reply #18 of 20)

JasonG


  Western white woods are any of the pine group, spruce, pine, fir, etc..   It does not mean Basswood although the low price paid for Basswood lately sawmills are just as likely to include it as any other wood..

(post #72738, reply #19 of 20)

From the way it takes a nail, it's something from the celery family.


Joe H

(post #72738, reply #20 of 20)

Look!


You've got to stop doing that.


I'm using my GF's laptop now, and if I spit Pepsi on this keyboard, I'll have to replace the whole damme computor.


SamT


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