Oak is a popular wood for furniture and flooring in the United States. It is commonly used in traditional, artisan, and mission types of furniture, and it is the favorite wood of the Amish as well as notable furniture designers Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright. Oak is a very strong wood that is easy to work with and looks beautifully stained or in its natural form. This is also one of the most effective woods to burn because of its high BTU content.
Although oak wood comes in a range of hues, its grain pattern is quite recognizable, making it one of the most easily identified species. It has a long history of household use dating back to pre-colonial times and remains just as popular now. While this makes it a traditional design cornerstone, its versatility allows it to breathe fresh life into modern objects.
The United States alone contains over 60 different oak varieties. Red and white oak are the most often used species for furniture manufacture and other household needs. Both are lovely alternatives that, because of their endurance, work well in high use areas.
Oak Wood’s Characteristics
White oak tends to be a light beige through brown, while red oak has pinkish and reddish hues instead.
Oak Tree (Quercus L.)
White Oak 1360 on Janka scale; Red Oak 1290 Janka
$4.10 to $19.50 per board foot
Furniture, cabinets, flooring, wine caskets, boats, barrels, kitchenware
Frequently Asked Questions About Oak Wood
If you're not sure whether oak wood is the ideal choice for your home, read on to learn more about what makes it special and how to care for it.
How Does Oak Wood Get Its Color?
Natural oak wood may take on almost any hue, from mild beige to brown and scarlet. While white oak has a more beige-to-brown look and red oak has a more rosy appearance, distinguishing between the many species of oak based only on color is not always easy. Furthermore, the same oak trees may have a range of colors throughout, and both red and white oak stain well, allowing a piece to seem as dark as walnut or colorful when stained a vibrant shade.
The majority of trees' heartwood (the deepest component of the tree) and sapwood (the layer nearest to the bark that distributes the tree's nutrients) show a significant color shift. This is apparent in oak as well, because sapwood is generally lighter in color, though this is not always the case. In certain oak trees, the heartwood and sapwood are indistinguishable.
Furthermore, wood will naturally change color over time, with white oak developing an amber hue.
Why does the color of oak wood change?
Oak wood will darken progressively over time, acquiring more amber tones. This happens as a result of exposure to oxygen and UV radiation, and it is often irreversible. The majority of people will not notice the color shift in oak furniture since it is so faint. If they buy a set piece by piece or try to add a new piece years later in the hope of finding a match, they may finally catch on. For this reason, it is advisable to purchase the full collection at once.
What are the Most Common Applications for Oak Wood?
Oak wood is used for furniture, flooring, and cabinetry due to its durability, workability, and natural beauty. Because white oak is fairly water resistant, it has historically been used to construct wine barrels and boats. Oak barrels are commonly used to mature barrel-aged liquors.
The bulk of mission-style furniture is constructed of solid oak, though cherry and maple are also popular (note that most of our product photos contain cherry furniture).
What Causes the Grain Pattern in Oak Wood?
Oak wood is generally straight-grained and has an uneven texture. However, there are further features of oak grain that distinguish it. The pores of white oak, for example, are responsible for its water resistance. They are entirely encapsulated by tyloses. Red oak, on the other hand, lacks the same cellular growth and has open pores. The parallel rays running along to the grain are another defining characteristic of oak. When looking at red oak, you will notice dark streaks consistently throughout the grain. White oak has the same features, although the patterns are generally much longer.
What Is Quarter-Sawn Oak?
When discussing wood products, particularly oak furniture, the word "quarter sawn" is commonly used. This is a reference to the way the wood was cut. A tree is traditionally sliced in a series of parallel cuts parallel to the trunk, resulting in a grain angle of around 30 degrees at the top of the board. This type of cut, also known as plain sawn or flat sawn, allows for the extraction of a large number of functioning boards from a single tree, making it significantly less expensive to create and acquire.
As an alternative, trees can be quartered first. Take a look at a pizza that has been sliced into four equal pieces. Following that, each quarter is cut into smaller boards along the tip, beginning with the widest piece. As a result of the rings reaching the face of the board at a 60-90-degree angle rather than straight up, the grain of the wood has a unique look. A piece of flat sawn wood will have arched shaped grain patterns, but a quarter sawn piece would have very straight grain. Additionally, Quartersawn oak will have ‘ray’ patterns in the grain, creating a unique and unusual cross grain pattern that adds a lot of interest and charm to the wood grain pattern. It is also visually beautiful, which is why, despite its greater production cost, it is commonly used in high-end items. Lastly, the quarter sawn grain pattern increases the workability of the wood and enables for the construction of more structurally sound furniture.
Density/Hardness of Oak Wood
Hardness is measured when people want to know if a certain wood type is good for their lifestyle or intended use. In the United States, we use the Janka Scale to demonstrate damage resistance. Wood compression testing is a crucial practice. A steel ball is pushed against the board until it embeds halfway through, at which point the force required to do so is measured. It takes 1,360 lbf or 1,360 pounds-force to embed the ball halfway through white wood. As a consequence, white oak has a Janka value of 1,360, whereas red oak has a Janka value of 1,290.
As a result, it is one of the most challenging timbers to deal with. It is surpassed by sugar maple (1,450 Janka), although it is superior to walnut (1,010 Janka) and cherry(995 Janka). That means that if you have an active lifestyle or a family, oak will outlive other types of wood.
Learn more about the Janka Values of North American Hardwoods.
What Is the History of Oak Wood?
A vast number of oak species provide oak wood. Even when we use phrases like "red oak" or "white oak," we might be referring to any number of trees in the group. For example, "red oak" might apply to a northern red oak, a southern red oak, or another kind. White oak, on the other hand, frequently refers to wood derived from Quercus alba, the scientific name for the white oak tree, but there are other white oaks, such as the Arizona white oak or swamp white oak.
Oak trees can be found all over the world. Furthermore, they are native to the bulk of the United States. In Columbus, we have a variety of oak trees, including red and white oak.
What is the largest size of a white oak tree?
White oaks may grow to be 100 feet tall and 50 inches in diameter. They mature and begin to yield acorns after around 20 years.
How Can I Tell if the Oak Furniture I Have Is Real?
Oak has a highly unique grain pattern, so someone who is familiar with wood species should be able to recognize it very easily. However, depending on the milling process, species, and tree, ash or other woods can be misleading and occasionally misled, especially if stained. When purchasing furniture, your best bet is to engage with a reputable and competent company.
Is it okay to use oak furniture outside?
If oak wood can be used to build a Viking longship, it must be appropriate for outdoor furniture, right? Most certainly not. Despite the fact that the Vikings were aware of white oak's capacity to keep water out, they often maintained their ships. This used to include regularly combining tar with animal hair or moss and applying it on the ship. Although we no longer use animal hair or tar (thank goodness), outdoor wood furniture still needs major maintenance at least once a year, if not more frequently, and the wood will deteriorate with time. As a result, the majority prefers a kind that requires less maintenance. Our all-weather patio furniture looks like real wood but is entirely weatherproof and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Is Oak Wood a Sustainable Wood Source? Are Oak Trees Bad for the Environment?
There are many oak trees, especially in Columbus. Because of its durability, which keeps it out of landfills, and biodegradability, oak wood is often an environmentally beneficial alternative. Our craftspeople, on the other hand, go the extra mile by utilizing as much locally grown wood as feasible. This means you're not contributing to deforestation, rainforests are preserved, the local ecosystem is protected from alien species introduction, and your carbon impact is decreased because transportation is also carbon neutral.
What to Look for When Buying Oak Furniture
Finding high-quality oak furniture is not always easy, since some companies may advertise goods as genuine oak when they are really manufactured of an oak-look material, or they may cut costs and produce inferior products as a result. That being said, read between the lines and look for the following clues before making a decision:
Oak and Other Hardwood Stains and Varnishes
Oak is incredibly stunning in its natural state, made much more so by the presence of quarter sawn rays. Having said that, the light color of oak wood makes it an ideal staining material. With so many options, it's simple to match your furniture to your own style or the décor of your home. You may obtain wood samples to have a better concept of how a certain color would look in your home.