White Oak

White Oak

Quercus spp.

General Description

White oak is similar in colour and appearance to European oak. The sapwood of American white oak is light coloured and the heartwood is light to dark brown. White oak is mostly straight grained with a medium to coarse texture, with longer rays than red oak. White oak, therefore, has more figure.

Distribution & Availability

Widespread throughout Eastern USA. The white oak group comprises many species, of which about eight are commercial. Very widely available in lumber and veneer, in a full range of grades and specifications.

Physical & Mechanical Properties

A hard and heavy wood with medium bending and crushing strength, low in stiffness, but very good in steam bending. Its good overall strength means it is increasingly being used by architects and designers in structural applications. More detailed information can be obtained in the AHEC publication Structural design in American hardwoods.

Working Properties

White oak machines well, nails and screws well, although pre-boring is advised. As it reacts with iron, galvanised or copper nails are recommended. Its adhesive properties are variable, but it stains and polishes to a good finish. The wood dries slowly and care is needed to avoid checking. Due to its high shrinkage, it can be susceptible to movement in performance under variable moisture conditions.

Main Uses

Construction, furniture, flooring, architectural joinery, exterior joinery, mouldings, doors, kitchen cabinets, panelling, railway sleepers, timber bridges, barrel staves and coffins. White oak can vary in colour, texture, characteristics and properties according to the growing region. It is therefore recommended that users and specifiers work closely with their suppliers to make sure the wood they order is suited to their specific needs. Northern and Southern may be sold separately.

Other Information

White oak tends to be consistent in colour throughout its wide Northern to Southern range. Certain areas of the Appalachian Mountains produce a highly figured wormy variety and this is sold as Sound Wormy. Sapwood is admitted without limit in the NHLA rules, but usually sorted with a minimum of one heartwood face for export. Consult your supplier about their grading standards for sapwood. White oak is used around the world and complements European oak, although its colour consistency and the high volume of square edged lumber production make it first choice for many furniture, flooring and joinery manufacturers.

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