All About The Mighty Oak…

Oak wood is classified as a hardwood. A hardwood tree is a tree that typically loses its leaves annually.  They are generally denser than softwoods. Known for its unbending strength, there are over 200 subspecies of the Mighty Oak. The most common types – ones that you hear about most often – are Red Oak, White Oak, American Oak, and English Oak. There are other beautiful sub-species that include Willow Oak, Laurel Oak, Canyon Live Oak, and many more.

The “Mighty Oak” is a tree that has been used for centuries for its strength and beauty. In the 9th and 10th centuries, it is recorded to be the wood that was used for Viking ships. It’s even mentioned in the Bible and in Greek mythology as the tree symbolizing Zeus. King Arthur’s round table is said to have been constructed out of a single piece of Oak. It is the symbol for a number of countries and regions worldwide as well as the state tree for several US States, including New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois. In the year 2004, the Mighty Oak was officially declared the National Tree of the United States symbolizing the nation’s strength and endurance. Several trees that exist today are over 1,000 years old. This hardy tree species can grow to be as tall as 100 feet.

Red Oak

Of White Oak and Red Oak, Red Oak is the more traditional choice. Popular for its light golden to reddish pink tones and its more unique “wider” strong graining patterns, Red Oak is a sound long-lasting wood product. It is the most prevalent species used for hardwood flooring. Its popularity lies in its durability and pleasing grain and color. It works very well in numerous areas of the home as furniture, flooring, and woodwork. Because Red Oak is more common, it is less popular than white for very fine furniture.

White Oak

White Oak is the harder oak wood of the two, having less pronounced finer graining and a warmer golden brown color. White Oak is more stable, accepts stain colors more evenly than red, and may undergo a medium degree of color change developing a tawny patina over time. Used for hundreds of years in the building of boats, truck beds, wooden wagon wheels, and wine barrels, it is more resistant to air and moisture. It also has a tighter, more uniform straight grain than red. This wood is very hard, durable, and resistant to problems like insects and fungi. Though it is a better choice for outdoor projects, it is also a great option for high-traffic areas in the home, such as foyers and recreational areas.

American White Oak (Quercus Alba)

American White Oak is a species of oak wood found in North America. It has a pale yellow-brown to mid-brown color often with a pinkish tint. With a typically straight grain, it is medium to coarse in texture. The timber is durable, but not suitable for external joinery. It is a hardwood that’s principally found in Eastern North America as well as Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Oregon, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even California.

Oak wood is used in many different industries. 

  • Alcohol: Traditionally, brandy, sherry, wine, and beer are often stored in oak barrels. Usually, American and European Oak are used for that purpose.
  • Furniture: Oak was the prime timber until the late 1800s when walnut and maple became popular. American Oak species then saw a resurgence more recently.  Because Oak is readily available in volume it lends itself well to for mass production.
  • Architectural: Oak wood is great for Balusters, Spindles, Columns, and other Architectural Products. In general, most people use oak wood for indoor products.  When it is used for Balusters, it is usually stain grade. This is because most people love the look of the open grain and do not want to hide its beauty with paint.

Oak wood is also a common species for:

  • Handles
  • Dowels
  • Mouldings and Dimension
  • Shaped Wood parts and CNC products
  • Wood Displays
  • Flag and Banner parts

A quick and fairly reliable way to tell the two Oaks apart is simply by looking at the end grain. In order for this to work, the ends of the board can’t be painted, sealed, or rough-sawned. A freshly cut oak wood board should be easy to distinguish:

The Mighty Oak - White Oak

White Oak (endgrain)

The Mighty Oak - White Oak

White Oak (endgrain 10x)

Red Oak

Red Oak (endgrain)

Closeup of Red Oak - The Mighty Oak

Red Oak (endgrain 10x)

The Mighty oak

The pores found in the growth rings on Red Oak are very open and porous, and should be easily identifiable. White Oak, however, has its pores plugged with tyloses, which help make White Oak suitable for water-tight vessels, and give this wood increased resistance to rot and decay.

There is one tree in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England which is documented to be over 1,000 years old. Historically, Oak was the tree in the Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood found shelter.

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