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Properties Of White Oak Wood

What Is White Oak Wood?

White Oak is among the most common Oak woods in North America.  There are near 500 species of Oak which exist creating a wide variety.

Some of these species are evergreen while most are not.  When people think of Oak generally speaking they are imagining White Oak or a similar species like Red Oak or Black Oak.

These three are easy to find within homes for fixtures ranging from floors to furniture. 

Sustainability Of White Oak

White Oak is not on the CITES Appendices for being in danger.  It is considered among the least likely species to face any danger.

It is among the most abundantly found trees within North America.

Properties Of White Oak

The scientific name for White Oak is Quercus Alba.  The tree typically grows between 65 to 85ft tall and will have a trunk diameter of 3 to 4 feet when mature.

Its average dried weight is 47 lbs/ft3 with a specific gravity of 0.6 to 0.75.  Janka hardness has been rated between 1,350 lbf (5,990 N) which is slightly more than Black Oak and Red Oak.

The Modulus of Rupture, or strength to the point of breaking, 14,830 lbf/in2 or 102.3 MPa.  The Modulus of Elasticity or otherwise the stiffness of White Oak is 1,762,000 lbf/in2 or 12.15 GPa.

White Oak Crushing Strength or also known as compression strength parallel to the grain is 7,370 lbf/in2.

Its Radial Shrinkage is 5.6% and its Tangential is 10.5%.  Volumetric shrinkage is 16.3% and has a T/R ratio of 1.9.

Color Of White Oak

The color of White Oak is typically very consistent.  It can range from light brown to a medium brown.  Some trees will have slightly darker grain lines.

Oaks that have seen stress from the elements across time can develop more diverse grain line colors.  Generally, it possesses an olive cast to the wood whereas its cousin Red Oak will have a redder cast.

Oak will patina quite nicely with age growing slightly darker with a deeper tone.  When refinishing the sanding process can restore the surface back to its original color with ease.

Texture And Grain Of White Oak Within Woodworking

The texture of White Oak is uneven and coarse.  The grain is straight with little deviation within the grain lines.  This allows for ease of consistency when using the wood for projects.

When tooling by machine or wood carving by hand the grain is easy to remove material.  When proper techniques are used tears in the grain are of little concern.

While the texture is coarse, with sanding it allows for stains to be accepted to achieve consistent color.  There is little to no bleeding when mixing different color stains onto an Oak board.

Note that while drying or curing White Oak it does have higher shrinkage than many other species.  Therefore this impacts its dimensional stability.  This is seen more when drying flat sawn boards.

White Oak Resistance To Rot

White Oak has a high resistance to rot and has been used in boatmaking.  This resistance can be attributed to tyloses.

The pores of White Oak are plugged by tyloses which prevent water from penetrating.  This becomes an important matter when identifying species.

Note that Red Oak is not rot resistant and this is one important difference between similar species.  If you are looking for rot resistance then select White Oak for this quality.

How To Identify White Oak When Compared To Red Oak

To tell the difference between White Oak and Red Oak you must look at a freshly cut end grain.  The pores of the White Oak will be plugged by tyloses.

On a Red Oak you will notice that the pores are open.  If the pores are open then you can be assured that what you are seeing is not White Oak.

There are many varied species which will fall under a general umbrella of White or Red Oaks.  Essentially it becomes two categories.

While there can be other differences found within the tree, grain, and its color, the end grain pores is the easiest way to gain a distinction between them.

Some will attempt to blow air through the board.  If air can be blown through the board it is Red Oak.  I have literally seen someone blow bubbles in water through a Red Oak dowel rod.

White Oak Resistance To Insects

Due to the high tannin content within White Oak it possesses a natural resistance to attacks and damage from insects.  Because of this the wood becomes great for many outdoor applications.

Whether it is for fences or siding White Oak can extend the lifetime of a given project due to this attribute.  Application clearly can extend beyond the typical uses found indoors for homes.

Because of its resistance to rot, White Oak can be used for placement within the ground.  Still use proper treatments to aid in protecting the wood from moisture.

Sustained exposure to moisture will still cause damage.  Resistance does not make it waterproof.  Once the Oak is compromised it becomes prime territory for insects to begin their work in causing damage.

White Oak Cost By Comparison

White Oak is within the moderate range of prices for hardwoods.  It is typically a little more expensive than its cousin counterparts Red Oak and Black Oak.

While it is a common durable resource, it is its abundance which allows for the resilient qualities which it possesses to be had affordably when compared to others like walnut.

Using White Oak For Firewood

I will add this final note concerning using White Oak for firewood.  This Oak provides 24 BTU’s per cord and Red Oak will also be similar.

Note that not all Oak wood will be suitable for use as firewood.  Willow Oak as an example can contain up to 20% moisture content which will greatly inhibit a good fire.

The difficulty comes from misidentification of the wood species.  Select to suit your purpose accordingly.

What Other Oak Is The Closest By Comparison To White Oak?

There are other closely related species within North America but the closest match is found in Europe.  The English Oak is nearly identical in all its properties.

Some distinct differences can be found within the grain and structure.  It would require close inspection to really tell these differences apart.

In terms of application while White Oak was commonly used in boat building in North America, English Oak was also used for this purpose in Europe.