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 can vary in colour from light tan or pale yellow-brown to dark or pale brown, and can have a pinkish tint. The wood usually has a straight, open grain, and is medium to coarse in texture. It has longer rays than red oak (Q. rubra and related species), and therefore displays more figure, which can include swirls, crotch pattern, burrs (burls) and a tiger-ray flake pattern. The sapwood is whitish to light brown, and varies in width.
White oak is a hard and heavy It has medium crushing and bending strength, and low stiffness. The wood has steam-bending properties, is almost waterproof, and has exceptional resistance to wear. It has a blunting effect on cutting edges, but generally works well, though this depends on the precise species used. The wood planes, turns, bores, sands, mortises, stains and polishes well. Pre-boring is advised for nailing and screwing, and it glues satisfactorily. The tannin content can react with ferrous metals to cause iron staining.
It is slow-drying and difficult to season. End and surface checks, honeycombing, collapse, ring failure and iron staining can occur whilst drying. The wood displays medium movement in service.
The heartwood is resistant to decay, but the wood can be attacked by ambrosia beetles and other insects. The heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment, and the sapwood moderately so.
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.