By Dick Boak

Quarter-sawn white oak

Englifth oak major species names

Quercus rubra (Northern red oak; Canada and U.S.)

Quercus alba (White oak; Eastern U.S. and S. Eastern Canada) Quercus robur (European, English, or "pedunculate" oak; Europe)

trade names_

There arc at least five oak spccics sold as red oak and four sold as white, often carrying additional regional names like "Appalachian," "Northern" or "Southern" oak. Unusual trade names such as swamp or bog oak, and chestnut oak are also common. Oak from outside the United States is usually named for its country of origin, e.g., English brown oak, French oak and Japanese oak.


Domestic red oak is generally beige to slightly pink, with reddish overtones. It has a coarse texture and large open pores. Domestic white oak is light tawny yellow to tan and has a smoother surface texture. Oak from northern climates is usually tighter-grained and denser than the faster-growing southern varieties. Quartcrsawn and rift-cut (45┬░ to growth rings) white oak display dramatic medullary rav patterns, or "silver grain." prized for "Mission" oak furniture. European oaks often have a uniform or mottled brown color causcd by spores of a fungus that chemically alter the wood color without seriously damaging the tree.

technical properties

Oak weighs from 3A to 4 lbs. per bd. ft., with density from 4 1 to 48 lbs. per cu. ft. and specific gravity from .66 to .77. Red and white oak are heaviest, and European oak is at the lighter end of this range, because of its high tannin content, oak gives off an acrid and pungent odor during machining. Tannin rcacts with iron when moisture is present, producing a black stain similar to writing ink. Where possible, you should protect oak counters and tabletops with a film-producing finish and avoid steel fasteners and hardware.


Because it's dense, oak is hard on cutting surfaces, so use carbide-tipped blades and outers. Oak splits fairly easily, so it's best to drill before nailing or screwing. Oak accepts stains readily, although the porous "early wood" growth rings will absorb more stain and appear darker than the harder "summer wood." You also can producc unique coloring cffccts with substances such as lime, asphalt, bleach and ammonia. If vou want a smooth surface, use pore filler before applying a finish.


Oak is one of the most popular woods worldwide. It's used for furniture, cabinetry, flooring, plywood and vcnccr, barrels, tool handles and packing cratcs. The bark is used in tanning leather.


Oak is commonly available in thicknesses of 4/4 through 8/4. Widths of 6 in. to 12 in. and lengths of 8 ft. to 10 ft. are standard, but longer lengths arc common. European oak sizes are-less predictable and may be square-edged or "flitch-cut" (cut through-and-through, with the natural edge remaining).


Some woodworkers find its pungent odor irritating, but oak is not toxic. As with all woods, you should wear a dust mask to protect against airborne dust particles.


Although oak grows slowly, it is plentiful because it adapts well to a variety of climates. It is considered a sustainable-yield temperate hardwood.


Red and white oak are widely available at lumberyards and sawmills. European oak is less common but is available from lumber importers and some mailorder suppliers.

Oak prices range from $1.75 to $3 per bd. ft. for "select and better" and "FAS" grades. Figured, rift-sawn and quartered white oak sell for $3 to $6 per bd. ft. for FAS. English brown oak costs $7 to $10 per bd. ft. for air-dried, flitch-cut lumber, and $10 to $12 per bd. ft. for square-edge kiln-dried stock. A

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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