Updating tongue and groove oak panel
14, 2015: Hi everyone, I have done a great deal of research on The Pickwick Papers, and although I do not know the specific reason for the naming of “Pickwick pine panelling”, what I can say is that the name “Pickwick” was for almost a century the most powerful advertising tool in the world, and all kinds of products and businesses were called “Pickwick”.
Most commonly, it was applied to food and drink, because there is so much eating and drinking in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, but many other uses were found for the name.
In the industry, this profile is known as pattern “WP-2” — see the diagram above. Buy your boards, let them rest in the house for a few days to adjust to the humidity, start piecing the boards together, coat them in wood conditioner and then lay on the liquid bug poop — aka Amber Shellac, and voila, you got yer room full o’ knotty pine — just like at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
The catalog we found from 1960 also called WP-2 “butterfly pattern” (this terminology spotted in the yellow area of text in the image above). And likely, their grandma and grandpa’s, too — we have some reason this profile goes back to the early 20th century — maybe even earlier.
Some googling found this reference to pickwick pine — a 1956 ad in the Nashua, New Hampshire Telegraph.
It encouraged homeowners to use the paneling in their den, playroom, living room or kitchen.
In nearly seven years of blogging, we also have seen it used in basements, attics, porches — even bathrooms and ceilings — see our 2012 uploader of readers’ interiors full o’ the knotty.
Why the popularity of the decorative pickwick pine pattern in midcentury America?
Above: Yes, the 1960 catalog that we found says Americans have lived with knotty pine for generations…. This photo and the one above courtesy the MBJ Collection on
During the postwar housing boom, the pine industry promoted its use with lots of advertising.
It was very accessible for handy, thrifty do-it-yourselfers.
Pine was also a favorite tree of loggers since pine logs can still be processed in a lumber mill a year or more after being cut down. Fast forward to the middle of the 20th century, fast-growing pine remained an easy wood to obtain.
In contrast, most hardwood trees such as cherry, maple, oak, and ash must be cut into 1” thick boards immediately after felling or large cracks will develop in the trunk which can render the wood worthless. It’s a relatively soft wood — so it’s easy for lumber mills, pattern makers and installers to work with.