Of all the woods grown in northern Europe, oak probably has the most historical, architectural and cultural interest especially, perhaps, in Britain, where it is said to be the most common broadleaved woodland tree. There are ancient oak trees that could be up to 800 years old, and it is quite common for oaks to live 300 years. Acorns are not normally produced until the tree is over 40 years old, with maximum output between 80 and 120 years.
There is evidence that oak was used for building as long as 9,000 years ago in Germany and 7,000 years ago in Ireland. Since medieval times oak has had a great impact on building in much of Europe, with timber-framed construction dominant until the late seventeenth century. Oak was the principal material used for furniture in many homes at that time, and has remained a key joinery, cabinetmaking and building material ever since. Today green oak is used for exposed timber framing on specialist new housing, and seasoned oak for furniture making and cooperage.
The heartwood has a biscuit to pinkish or reddish brown colour. Red oak is similar in appearance to white oak, but has smaller rays, which results in a less pronounced figure. The grain is usually straight and open, but can vary. It generally has a coarse texture, but this can also vary on the origin of the tree. Quartersawn stock can have a flake pattern that is sometimes referred to as ‘butterflies’ or ‘tiger rays’. The sapwood is white to light brown.
American Red Oak
It is heavy and hard, with medium stiffness and bending strength and a high crushing strength. It steam-bends very well, and is very hard-wearing. The wood works well with sharp hand and machine tools. It has a moderate blunting effect on cutting edges, but can planed, sawn, turned, bored and sanded well. Pre-boring is advised for screwing and nailing, and it glues satisfactorily, Red oak takes stain and polishes well, and can be limed to good effect.
The wood dries slowly and is fairly difficult to season. There can be problems with end-grain checking, ring failure, honeycombing and iron stains. It is moderately stable in service.
Red oak has little resistance to attack from decay-causing organisms and insects. The heartwood has moderate resistance to preservative treatment, whereas the sapwood is permeable.
Typical Uses :
Furniture and cabinetmaking, joinery, office furniture, boatbuilding, trim, panelling, flooring, cooperage for wine and whisky, coffins, shingles, sleepers (railroad ties); also sliced for figured veneers and rotary-cut for plywood.