All About Oak Wood

Being one of the most common types of woods, oak wood is ubiquitous and easy to spot in things around. This wood must have certain advantages that make it highly used. More than that, here is the comprehensive description of the wood. 

Type of oak wood

The wood is a hard type of wood that comes from oak trees. In general, there are hundreds of different oak tree species. There are at least 600 species all around the world that most of them are found in the American continent and China. 

The wood from the same cannot be identically the same let alone from different species. It makes oak wood from different regions be slightly different. 

In the timber industry especially, there are eighteen common oak species in the minimum which are often used. Viewed by several characteristics, oak wood can be categorized into two general types that are white and red Oakwood.

White vs Red Oak wood

The most obvious difference between those two types is the color. Another difference lays on the hardness. White oak tends to be harder and heavier than the red one. 

The white one is denser and less porous than the red one. It also has longer rays and stronger yet smoother grains. The fiber structure gives White oak bigger scores in the Janka hardness scale with 1360 points. 

The white one is also more resistant to rot and decay compared to the red one which has a more porous fiber structure. The porous fibers make the red one more permeable.

It seems that white oak has better qualities but it is also pricey. With slightly different qualities, everyone can get red oak at a more reasonable price. 

White oak is also more limited. White oak includes chestnut oak, bur oak, English oak, post oak, overcup oak, sessile oak, holm oak, white Oregon oak, and others.

Meanwhile, red oak covers more oak tree species that are cherry bark oak, Black oak, swamp Spanish oak, Shumard oak, laurel oak, scarlet oak, willow oak, water oak, red southern oak and more.

Oak wood strength

This type of hardwood is well-known for its dense texture. Measured by hardness, the Janka scale is often used to indicate the damage resistance of many wood types including oak. 

From 0 to 5000 points, white oak scores 1360 and red oak scores 1290. The scores show that the wood is quite strong although there are still many stronger woods like Patagonian rosewood, Brazilian walnut, Bolivian cherry, and more.

Advantages of oak wood

White and red might differ a bit, but compared to other types of wood. The wood (red and white) has its typical advantages that are:

1. Water resistance

The fiber in Oak wood has a non-porous texture. It inhibits any moisture gets absorbed inside the wood. Due to its natural structure, waterproof chemicals are not needed for the finishing. 

Oak also has closed grains with the heartwood filled with tyloses membrane. The membrane makes the wood impenetrable of any liquid.  

2. Artistic Grains

Naturally, the wood has attractive colors that are ranging from mild cream to reddish-brown. The broad and prominent rays build a uniform grain. 

The grain pattern beautifies the look of the wood. Moreover, annual rings are often visible adding more uniqueness to the wood.

3. Strong texture and durability

The fibers give the wood solid and dense texture. Hence, warping, kinking, crooking, cupping, or bowing are less likely to happen during the limber process. 

Compared to other hardwoods, this wood is also relatively durable in any condition. It does not absorb water nor shrink easily because it contains tannins. Not only water-resistant but it also fungal and pest resistant.

4. Affordable price

There are still plenty of oak trees in many forests around the world. Due to its vast availability, this wood is on the list of hardwoods at a cheap price. 

Per January 2020, it costs less than 2.5$ for a square foot of the oak. Compared to other hardwoods, there are still many wood types with higher prices than oak wood.  

5. Availability

At home centers, oak woodcut is available in several types including flat, rift, and quarter-sawn cut. There are also several grades available. Those different types of cut can be used for different purposes. 

Unfortunately, the white one can be a bit rare to find at home depots, so people need to visit some lumberyards or lumber stores.

Disadvantages of oak wood

Despite the advantages above, this wood also has some drawbacks. They include.

1. Heavyweight

The strong texture does not only carry benefits but also disadvantages. The fiber mass of the wood is quite heavy. Moreover, the wood has dense fibers making it way heavier than other hardwood types. Furniture made of this wood is harder to move.

2. Hard to cut or deform

Again, the strong texture brings another downside. The thick rays and coarse grains take extra efforts to cut. Hence, some cutting machines would be a great help.

3. Dark staining

As finishing, staining is necessary for the wood. Unfortunately, there are many cases that the wood getting darker after staining. It results in an uneven two-toned look. Besides, oil finishes can get ravaged by cold and wet exposure and its tannin content.

4. Oxidizing metals

When metals are put closer to woods especially oak, they get corroded faster. It is due to the tannin, the acidic chemicals. The chemicals added with moisture and oxygen oxidize the metal more rapidly.  

5. Getting scratched easily and spoiled by heat

Direct sunlight or any heat affects the color of this wood. Thought it has excellent strength, its surface could get scratched easily by sharp objects. Any collisions could even break this wood.

Oak grain vs pine grain

Often used as household furniture materials, some might find them difficult to differ. However, their grains are essentially distinctive to each other. 

The first difference is about the color; pine tends to have softer and yellowish-creamy color, while oak has darker and even some hints of red. Knots are more likely to find in pine grains but only a few knots are found in the oak. 

These two also share some similarities like both are ring-porous and have straight grains. Yet, pine belongs to the softwood type.    

The common use of oak wood

With the characteristics mentioned before, this type of wood is often used for many purposes. They are:

What is oak wood good for

Oak has strong and durable criteria with an attractive look. Those make the wood good for both indoor and outdoor purposes. Covered with finishing stain, the wood is also safe as furniture materials because it will not cause any allergic reaction for humans. 

It also has no toxic chemicals for pets and other animals. However, this wood might get deteriorated by high heat and sun rays. Therefore, oak is better for interior furniture.

Best oil for oak wood furniture

It has been proved that oak furniture can last for generations. To make it last longer, finishing some oils needs to be applied. The oil can give a shiny result and bring out the wood character. 

Unlike varnish, wood oil comes from natural sources. However, the oil needs to be coated several times to securely protect the oak from absorbing any moisture.

There are some wood oils such as linseed oil, olive oil, tung oil, soya oil, mineral oil, and danish oil. Of all oils, Danish oil is the most suggested for oak interior and furniture. 

The finished result of Danish oil shows a lustrous look and avoids any crack or scratches. Moreover, the oil is easy to apply to the wood. Besides finishing, the oil can be used for routine care also.    

Best finish for oak

To keep its durable quality and aesthetic appearance, staining is needed for the final look of oak products. Before staining, make sure that all parts of the oak have been sanded and vacuumed to remove the dust. 

Then use wood oil especially Danish oil to stain the wood. Coat the wood several times until the smooth and desired surface appears. Dry it overnight to add topcoats. 

Shellac is well-known as a good topcoat for oak. For each coat, scuff-sand the wood. Use a circular motion while applying the stain so the oil can fill in the pores.

Oak wood care

Though oak lasts long, it does not mean that wood does not require any care. Not only routinely wiped with a damp cloth, but the wood also should be polished or oiled at least once in six months. 

Wax can be used as the polish and Danish oil also works well. Try to always provide normal temperature because the extreme cold or heat affects the wood’s strength.  

Oak wood facts

Oak trees grow in many different parts of the world and have been a part of many histories. This wood is not only for timber use but also as national symbols. 

Some countries that include oak as their symbols and national trees are England, Germany, Serbia, Romania, and more. Vikings’ boats were also made of this wood. 

To fill the space of the planks they use animal hair, moss, and wool that are mixed with tallow or tar. In Japan, this wood is used to make professional drums Meanwhile in Korea, the traditional houses use the bark as their shingles.