Oak trees are typically found in North America and Europe. Oakwood is a common material for furniture, flooring, and other construction projects because it is durable and has an attractive grain pattern. There are many different types of oak wood that vary in color from light to dark brown or black with grains that may be straight or wavy depending on the type of oak tree.
The most popular types of oak wood include White Oak, Red Oak, Oregon Pine Oaks, and Northern European Oaks such as the English Elm. Depending on how you plan to use your oak wood will determine which type you should purchase since some varieties work better than others for certain purposes such as cabinet making while others work best for flooring applications.
What Is Oak Wood?
Oakwood is the material that is used to make a lot of different things from furniture to kitchen cabinets. The most common type of oak tree that is used for making oak wood is red oak. There are hundreds of different types of species but they all share some similarities.
All oaks have hard, durable sapwood and a soft, spongy heart center which makes up only about 10%–20%of the tree’s total cross-sectional area. All oak trees grow in temperate areas around the world with climates that are moderate enough to support oak growth.
Oakwood makes up a large percentage of materials in the United States as well as many other countries around the world with temperate climates such as Poland and France. Oakwood is very common and used because of its durability.
What Is A Janka Hardness Scale Rating?
The Janka Wood Hardness Scale used to measure a wood’s hardness, is the key test of a species’ durability and resistance to denting or wear. The higher the rating on the scale, the harder a species is and the more suitable it is for flooring.
It’s important to determine the hardness or softness of the oak you’re working with before executing any cuts on it. The Janka Hardness Scale helps oak woodworkers determine whether oak is suitable for their oak woodworking projects.
The Different Types Of Oak Wood
1. Red oak
Red oak also known as Quercus Rubra is a type of oak tree, or oakwood, that has leaves with spiny teeth and acorns. This oak is particularly famous for its very straight-grained look and coarse texture which makes it particularly suitable to be used in shelving, furniture, home fixtures, etc.
Red oak is a very common wood type and can be found anywhere around the world. The heartwood of red oak has a pinkish color to light brown color which produces an aesthetically pleasing look in furniture and flooring products such as oak cabinets.
The sapwood of red oak is white or light brown while the heartwood is pinkish reddish brown. The wood has a coarse texture with narrow rays that produce an attractive figure when quartersawn.
Red Oak, in terms of hardness, ranks in the middle of all woods in North America, with only Black Walnut being harder on average. If you try to drive a nail through oak it will be difficult and you may damage the tool, but oak is still easy to split and carve.
Lumber, railroad ties, mine timber, fence posts, veneer, pulpwood, and fuelwood are the main things that are made from red oak. This material is remanufactured to make flooring, furniture, general millwork, boxes, pallets, crates, caskets, wooden goods, and handles.
Cooperage work that involves tight spaces or exterior work is not appropriate for red oak. For centuries, oak bark has been used for tanning hides since the tannic acid it contains is naturally occurring. Our water is dyed blue when tannic acid is dissolved in iron. Water stains red oak black when it penetrates the surface….which is why you might want to be careful when water touches your flooring. “White oak” is its closely related cousin, which is known for rot resistance and exterior use.
Also Read: Types of Red Wood
2. White Oak
White Oak or Quercus alba is a hardwood tree that can be found throughout North America and Europe. It is divided into red oak and white oak, which each have very different wood characteristics. The difference between these two oak trees is not only their bark coloration but also the properties of their individual wood types. White oak trees are often known as “rock oak” or “post oak” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). One can find white oak trees growing near hardwood forests across Northern America including areas like eastern Canada, the eastern United States, and south to Florida.
White oak bears straight-grained wood with a coarse texture. The grain rays are fairly short as compared to those of red oak trees. This gives it a whitish appearance as opposed to the light brown hue of other oak varieties such as cherry or walnut. White oak typically exhibits less water penetration than red oak, which makes it perfect for flooring and construction materials that require minimal absorption rates; however, this property does make it more susceptible to rot and other forms of damage.
White oak trees also provide a more rounded leaf shape with widely-spaced lobes, which contrasts the red oak’s pointed and slightly closer lobed leaves. The oak tree that bears white oak wood is native to North America; however, it has been imported into Europe for use in various other construction projects. Additionally, its wood grain appearance makes it ideal for floorings such as hardwood, tile, linoleum, and resilient sheeting used in homes and commercial buildings.
White oak has a Janka Hardness rating of 1360 out of 4000, which makes it one of the hardest oak trees in the wood family. The oak’s decay resistance is very good because its natural oils, tannin, and high content of calcium offer great protection against fungi and insects.
White oak wood has many uses. It is used to construct cabinetry, interior trim, cabinetry, flooring, barrels, and veneer. The wood of the white oak tree is extremely strong and tough. White oak is sometimes substituted for live oak in some areas. This substitution can pose several problems because the strength of white oak varies with age – it becomes stronger as it gets older. Live or red oaks make excellent lumber but often show poor performance due to lower strength at an early age compared to white oaks.
Also Read: Types of White Wood
3. Black oak wood
Black oak wood or its scientific name Quercus velutina is used for many different purposes. It can be used in the construction of furniture, cabinets, hardwood flooring, and beams. The dark brown color provides great contrast when using black oak to build projects that have lighter wood tones already incorporated into them. Black oak is also known for its durability in addition to being soil-resistant. This type of oak can even stand up well against harsh weather conditions such as ice, snow, and rain.
Black oak wood characteristics include dark brown color with areas of medium to dark brown and even dark red. The grain pattern is often wavy or curly and can sometimes have a ribbon-like appearance. It’s also not unusual for black oak to feature gray streaks, burls, and black knot pockets as well as pin oak fruit clusters. Black oak is known for its coarseness and durability. Its weight ranges from 40 pounds per foot all the way up to more than 100 pounds per foot – heavier green oak is even better for building projects requiring strength such as trestles, beams, and poles.
Black oak wood is used for a variety of purposes that complement its characteristics. It’s wonderful to use in the construction of furniture, cabinets, and cabinetry as well as interior trim because it provides a very strong oak foundation that lasts for years to come. The durability of black oak wood makes it ideal for flooring projects including decks, porches, and doors. Black oak can also be utilized when building items such as beams or poles that require strength while still featuring a rich oak color.
According to the Janka Wood Hardness Scale, Black Oak is as hard as Red Oak – with a rating of 1280.
Also Read: Types of Blackwood
4. Cherrybark Oakwood
Cherrybark oakwood refers to oak trees in the Quercus pagoda species. These oak trees grow the best cherry bark oakwood — a name given because of its strong and smooth grain pattern and reddish-brown color (known as heartwood, which only makes up about half of oak tree wood) — in North America.
Oak trees are categorized by type according to where they grow best. Cherrybark oakwoods grow best in Sunset’s Climate Zones 8, 9, and 14. Its trunk measures 36 to 60 inches in diameter and it can grow up to 130 feet high.
Cherrybark oakwood, like other oak wood species, has a coarse texture and dull grayish bark. The oak bark is broken by narrow, scaled ridges, and as the oak matures and grows larger its bark will look blackish-gray to brown.
Cherrybark oakwood is very strong but lightweight. It has good stability and resistance to decay, which makes it the perfect wood for building furniture, cabinets, doors, and other architectural features like staircases.
It’s also valued in the garden because it contains natural chemicals that repel common pests like cockroaches or termites. This oakwood is also treated with preservative chemicals so it can be used in outdoor projects without treating each piece separately.
With a scale of 1,480 lb in Janka Wood Hardness, cherry bark oakwood is as hard as oak wood can be.
5. Willow oak
Willow oak, as the name suggests, is a North American tree species found in Eastern and Central U.S. The stand-out feature of this oak group member is its willow-like leaves, which are spear-shaped and appear as bright green during spring but turn into shades of red/yellow/orange during fall.
The oak wood made from this North American oak tree possesses fine grain and slight pores on its outer surface that look like small vertical lines running through the lumber. Willow oak lumber has light brown color with a yellowish tinge. It’s dense and straight-grained with a medium texture. Moreover, it consists of medium durability for decay resistance along with poor stability in changing weather conditions due to its high moisture absorption rate.
Willow oak wood is hard, strong, and tough with medium bending and crushing strengths. It has an interlocked grain that causes problems during planning or machining operations. It also has a high shrinkage rate along with poor staining qualities.
The special feature of the willow oak’s grain pattern makes it stand out from the other oak species. The narrow lines running through the wood are not at all similar to veins on any other oak group member but appear as if they are naturally occurring pores that give this oak lumber its distinctive look.
Though this North American oak species possesses many positive features, it is low in strength qualities including shock resistance and stiffness factor due to which it can’t be used for making critical applications where durability matters more than anything else.
With a scale of 1,460 lb in Janka Wood hardness, willow oak wood is somewhere around medium to hard. It’s not suitable for very heavy-duty work because its overall strength qualities are comparatively low. Drying oak wood properly before using it in any oak furniture creation or oak home decoration projects will help you get the most out of your investment.
Woodworkers who want oak wood with fine grain should go for this oak group member without worrying about oak wood price or oak lumber availability as it can be found at almost all online and offline stores for furniture makers, carpenters, cabinets makers, etc.
6. Pin Oak
Pin oak is a North American oak tree species found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada. This oak group member has leaves that are spear-shaped and appear as bright green during spring but turn into shades of red/yellow/orange during fall.
The oak wood made from this North American oak tree possesses fine grain and even texture with a brownish color and a very slight yellow tint. Pin oak lumber has medium to fine texture with a straight grain pattern along with interlocked grain pattern for extra durability.
Though pin oak wood is heavy, it’s not very strong and durable because of the uneven texture running through its surface while creating oak furniture or oak home decoration items.
The Janka hardness scale rates Pin Oak at 1500 lbf, so it is a fairly durable wood. As well as being stainable, it is easily finished.
7. English Oak
English oak, also referred to as European oak, is found in most of Europe, North Africa, and Asia Minor.
The color of English oak appears to be light to medium brown with a slightly olive cast. Straight grain, coarse texture, and a slightly uneven texture characterize this oak type. In some cases, the grain of the oak tree may even be interlocked or irregular, depending on the conditions of the tree’s growth.
English oak is commonly planted for forestry and produces highly durable and long-lasting heartwood. This oak wood is super famous for furniture and interior work.
English oak wood makes a perfect choice for oak furniture design and oak home decoration projects because it has a light brown color with a very fine grain pattern.
According to the Janka Wood Hardness Scale, English oak has a rating of 1,120 lb.
8. Chestnut Oak
Chestnut oak, also called rock oak due to its presence in rocky areas, is a species of the white oak group that’s native to the Eastern United States. Unlike other oaks in its range, the chestnut oak has been shown to survive on steep, rocky sites. Pink blooms transform into silvery and finally turn dark green. Another feature of the chestnut oak is its lovely silvery-white bark.
Chestnut oak’s color ranges from medium to dark brown which also reflects on its straight, grayish-brown, or sometimes light-colored grain that appears slightly wavy. This oak species has an even texture with a moderately coarse structure along with numerous open pores.
The wood of this oak is heavy and possesses a semi-ring porous structure that adds strength and forms wood that’s perfect for fences, and railways.
Janka Wood Hardness Scale rates Chestnut oak for a 1,130 lb hardness.
9. Bur Oak
Bur oak, also known as Mossycup oak or mossycup white oak, is a widespread species of oak that’s widespread in the Eastern and Mid-western United States and south-central Canada. They are among the largest species of oaks, with trunk diameters exceeding 10 feet.
The color of this oak type appears to be medium grayish brown with a slight olive cast. Among the white oak group, bur oak wood is known for its high quality, as well as its high durability. The decay resistance of Bur Oak is very good. Heartwood from this wood is dense and polishes well.
Bur oak is great for creating furniture and home decor because of its density along with a nice color. It is best suitable as a secondary cabinet wood for interior structures, drawer sides, rails, and other parts not visible to the eye, its strength and durability make it a good choice.
With a Janka Hardness rating of 1,360 lb ur, Oak is strong, hard, and durable as white oak, bur oak lumber is of less value due to increased branching and open growth characteristics of the trees.
10. North Red Oak
Northern red oaks have leaf tips with a pointed bristle that can grow up to 9 inches in length, and bloom in the spring with fragrant pollen-producing flowers. The oak tree’s acorns range from dark brown to nearly black and are about 1 inch in diameter. Heartwood from the northern red oak is a pinkish-red color but can be stained darker with exposure to tannin acids.
In general, northern red oaks heartwood is pink in color. Unlike other oaks, northern red oak has a coarse texture and a straight, open grain. The wood of this type is strong, hard, and heavy-exactly as walnut, only a little more.
North red oak makes for perfect oak furniture design and oak home decoration projects because it’s sturdy, beautiful, and works well in oak woodworking projects. It can be used as flooring as well as paneling and cabinetry.
In terms of the Janke Hardness scale, northern red oaks measure 1,290 lb.
Oaks are a fascinating and diverse species of tree that can be found all over the world. They come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors which is one of the reasons they’re such an important part of so many cultures around the globe. If you want to know more about oakwood or have any questions for our team, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’d love to hear from you soon.
Lawrence D. Reynolds is an experienced carpenter and woodworker who started this site to help others get into this craft by providing advice on choosing tools and materials and sharing How-To guides about woodworking. He has been into Woodworking for over 25 years and enjoys nothing more than sharing his knowledge and helping others learn about this wonderful material.