Rare Woods Capturing the Attention of America’s Craftspeople and Homeowners

As hardwood interiors enjoy a newfound surge in popularity—in everything from home remodeling to new commercial applications—building professionals and homeowners find themselves combing through catalogs and magazines in search of “the perfect wood.”

For some, the decision is based on color. Others look at grain or for something unusual. Then it is always important to think about durability and strength.

One choice that is earning a second look, and often a first purchase, is a little understood wood that was so in demand during the 1800s and early 1900s that entire forests were clear-cut to virtual extinction. Southern Heart Pine is expected to take an even greater leap in popularity this January, when the well-regarded PBS television show, The New Yankee Workshop, features the wood sand heart pine specialist George Goodwin.

Host Norm Abram, intrigued with the unique method George uses to recover antique woods, took a camera crew on location to film Goodwin and his staff pull heart pine and cypress logs in a Southern Georgia river. The logs were lost from up to 200 years ago when loggers used the waterways to transport their cut timber down-river to the mills.

Goodwin Heart Pine Company, a small specialty lumber company owned by Goodwin in Micanopy, Florida, is one of a handful of companies in the United States that offer this rare wood and the only one to retrieve lost logs from riverbeds.

“Unfortunately, because of the changing ecological balance, the tree has nearly passed into extinction. It is only available in limited quantities either by salvaging timbers form old buildings, cutting down the few trees left, or like we do it … by putting on a wet suit and recovering the lost logs from the bottom of Southern rivers,” said Goodwin.

More than five million viewers will see the process in action Saturday, January 25, when The New Yankee Workshop airs on about 300 Public Broadcasting Stations nationally.

The show opens with the segment about the river recovery excursion and then will go on to show Abram giving step-by-step instructions in making a lidded bench from the wood of a recovered cypress log. The show is aimed at the amateur craftsperson and features a complete woodworking project from scratch.

“Sure it is hard work to recover this wood, but it is surely worth it. These logs, many of them 400 and 500 years old are preserved by the cool water and lack of oxygen so the heavy, dense heart remains in perfect condition, unspoiled by saws and nails.

“Because it is so rare and valuable, I stay involved at every stage. I do not pull every log out, but I do personally saw, dry, and inspect every board we mill. We cannot afford to make a mistake with this wood … it’s too hard to come by,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin predicts the interest in Heart Pine and other rare woods will increase as more craftspeople and homeowners gain more information about the woods. To help the process along, the company has just released a free video that documents the extinction of the Southern heart pine. For more information call Goodwin Heart Pine Company at 1-800-336-3118.