Heart pine collection
– a unique building material

When the early colonists first arrived to the American South, they encountered vast forests of southern longleaf pine, the source of heart pine.These forests, which once dominated the South, existed throughout the coastal plains from southern Virginia to eastern Texas, covering approximately 90 million acres (36 million hectares).Today, less than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) remain.These trees had been growing for many centuries, often producing only an inch of growth rings every thirty years or so. It may take up to 500 years for heart pine to mature, when it can reach 160 feet in height.

The wood that came to be in demand
As the British colonies, and later, the United States, came into being and began to grow, the colonists quickly discovered the enormous value of the tall but relatively slender pines. Due to its densely grained heartwood, strength and durability, heart pine was declared the “King’s wood” for shipbuilding as America was first colonized.As the settlers moved steadily southward, the old-growth heart pine was logged and initially used for log cabins, and later for the construction of fine homes,hotels and other structures. Heart pine once framed eighty percent of all houses built in North and South Carolina,Georgia and Florida. It was used as flooring in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Heart pine played a huge role in the development and growth of the United States as an economic power. During the latter part of the 19th century, heart pine was transported in ships made of heart pine or, where their ballast consisted of heart pine logs and timbers, up the eastern seaboard and over to Europe. Consequently, there are buildings in Europe built using southern heart pine.The wood provided framework, flooring and paneling for factories, warehouses and homes. Appreciated for its beauty, it was used in many hotels and stately homes, where it can be seen and admired even today.
By mid-19th century, the South had constructed only 2000 miles of railroad, making the many rivers in the region the best way to transport longleaf logs from forest to sawmill. The most widely used method was to log the trees with axes and saws and then to drag them with oxen or mules to a landing by a riverbank.As time went on lumber companies started taking their crews further and further inland in search of more heart pine. Logging crews sometimes dug canals to carry these inland logs to the river.

It was impossible to turn around in the South without bum- ping into the naval stores industry, which tapped the longleaf trees for their valuable resin. The resin was used in paints, soaps, weatherproofing products, shoe polish and medicines and helped make the United States the world leader in naval stores until the mid-20th century.

Today’s heart pine
Less than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of original growth longleaf pine remain in protected forests. Clear cutting of the original vast forests continued into the 20th century until around 1915, when the supply of heart pine was nearly exhausted. Today, the only source of this unique building material is from reclamation of old buildings or from logs sunk during transportation in rivers on their way to the sawmill.

Rappgo reclaims its heart pine from pre-1915 non-historical buildings slated for demolition, such as textile mills no longer in use.The old framework timbers are shipped to a facility in North Carolina, where all metal is removed. The beams are then resawn into lumber blanks, which are sent to us in Sweden, where the blanks are sawn into wear layers to be used in the manufacturing of HeartPlank®.

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