Have you ever wondered why oak is considered to be the most attractive and sturdiest of hardwoods available out there? Or why it is the most popular choice of wood used in flooring and furniture by most people? Not only this but the fact that it sports a steel-like structure and contains some amazing rich tones make it an absolute favorite among woodworkers, carpenters and furniture makers.
Such popularity majorly comes from the fact that oak has been a national symbol of survival, endurance and strength for centuries and the oak tree has also been chosen as the national tree by several countries like Germany, USA, France, Romania, Serbia, and many others.
What’s even more fascinating is that the Latin name of Oak is Quercus Robur which translates to “strength” in the English language.
Oakwood is also very easily recognizable because of its grain pattern that is exceptionally unique and distinguishable. It comes in a number of hues which is why it can take on so many different amazing looks. But most importantly, the reason why you often see such a plethora of types of oak wood is because there is no single type of oak tree. In fact, research shows that there are more than 60 varieties of Oak that grow throughout the United States alone.
Imagine how many there would be if you were to combine all the different types of oak trees growing all across the globe?
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Related: All types of hardwood flooring
Major Species of Oak Wood
While there is a huge variety of oak wood, due to a large number of oak trees present, there are two major popular oak wood species or groups, each containing a list of classifications of oak wood.
1. Red Oak
The red oak, also called Quercus Rubra in Latin produces some of the most common types of oak wood. It mainly grows in North America and has a very straight-grained look with a coarse texture. This wood is particularly famous for shelving, furniture, and other similar home fixtures.
Red oak Janka rating is 1,260.
Red oak wood takes on a pinkish-red hue and the red oak trees consist of broad, lobed leaves. These trees are known to be very stable in both city and woodland environments because they have the ability to withstand city pollutants way better than many other trees.
There is a variety of oak wood that falls under the red oak species. These include:
- Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
- California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii)
- Cherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda)
- Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
- Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
- Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
- Shumard Oak (Q. shumardii)
- Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)
- Water Oak (Quercus nigra)
- Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
2. White Oak
Just like red oak, white oak is also found in great abundance in North America. It sports a straight-grained look with a slightly coarse texture. White oak is highly popular among woodworkers and many people for flooring and construction.
Compared to red oak, white oak has longer grain rays and allows for fairly little water penetration. However, in the wild, white oak trees tend to have really broad leaves with rounded lobes that help provide overshadowing shade.
White Oak Janka rating is 1,360 (slightly harder than red oak).
The variety of oak wood that falls under the white oak group includes:
- Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
- Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinus)
- English Oak (Quercus robur)
- Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) Oregon
- White Oak (Quercus garryana)
- Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)
- Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
- Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)
- Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus michauxii)
- Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
Popular Types of Oak Wood
There are all sorts of color and shade variations that you would see in oak lumber that not just depend on the exact species of oak but also on the growing conditions of every single tree.
If you were to tell apart the different types of oak wood just by looking at the color, it would be quite an impossible task because many oak wood types can be quite similar and difficult to differentiate.
Perhaps, the best and easiest way to be able to do that is by learning about the different types of oak wood, their features, and characteristics.
1. Black Oak
Black oak wood, also referred to as Eastern Black Oak is popularly found in the region of Eastern North America. It has a light to medium reddish-brown color, however; there can come with a slight variation in their color some times. It has a fairly coarse and grainy texture with the appearance of medium to large pores.
Black oak has quite a tell-tale smell that is commonly found in other types of oak and is also considered to be very appealing by most people. Some of the most common uses of black oak include flooring, veneer, furniture, interior trim and furniture making.
2. Cherrybark Oak
This type of oak wood is commonly found in the Eastern United States and sports medium reddish-brown color appearance; however, you can expect variation in color and shade. It consists of medium to large sized pores and slightly coarse grain texture.
Cherrybark oak contains a very minimal level of rot resistance yet it is categorized as one of the highest qualities and the strongest of oaks in the red oak group. Typical uses of this type of oak wood include flooring, furniture, and cabinetry.
3. California Black Oak
This type of oak wood is also referred to as Kellogg Oak and is typically found in great abundance in the Western United States. It commonly appears in a brownish-red color with slight shade variations. When it comes to grain and texture, California Black Oak contains medium to large pores and has a coarse grain texture.
In terms of rot resistance, this type of oak wood is considered to fall between slightly durable and non-durable. However, it has proven to be exceptionally valuable to woodworkers, one of the reasons why it’s popularly used in cabinet and furniture making.
4. Willow Oak
Willow oak is a North American species of a tree belonging to the red oak group and is native to Eastern and Central United States. The stand-out feature of this tree is its willow-like leaves, as the name suggests. It consists of spear-shaped foliage that appears as a bright green color during spring, changes to dark green in the summer, and turns into red, yellow and orange shades in the fall season. Willow oak, in particular, consists of fine grain and a slight appearance of pores.
The willow oak wood is primarily used for pulp and paper production and many times for lumber. A surprising yet interesting fact about willow oak is that it has a lot of medicinal properties and has been used externally as an analgesic. A decoction of willow oak wood chips or bark has also been proven to be extremely beneficial for chronic diarrhea and hemorrhages.
5. Pin Oak
Pin Oak, also known as swamp Spanish Oak is native to the Eastern United States and is one of the most commonly used oaks due to its relatively fast growth, ease of transplant, and pollution tolerance. Pin oak has quite a distinctive shape that is found to be extremely unique among other hardwoods. The leaves of the pin oak tree are broad and lobed and the name “pin oak” is primarily due to the fact that it contains many small, slender twigs and quite distinctive dead branches on the lower trunk, referred to as ‘pins’.
Pink oak wood is typically sold as red oak however, it is known to be somewhat weaker and inferior in quality compared to other types of oak wood, perhaps because it contains many small knots. Still, the wood is found to be hard and heavy which is why some of its typical uses include firewood and general construction.
6. Bur Oak
This type of oak wood belongs to the white oak species and is also commonly known as Mossycup Oak. It is distributed between the Eastern and Mid-western United States and also south-central Canada. Bur oak is one of the largest types of oaks, with a trunk diameter going up to 10 ft. The bark of this tree is somewhat medium grayish and really rugged as well.
Bur oak wood is one of the finest qualities of wood found in the white oak group and also highly durable. It is most often used in hardwood flooring, cabinetry, fence posts, and barrels. A very interesting fact about bur oak is that it has been used by many Native Americans to treat broken bones, diarrhea, heart ailments and as an astringent, i.e. to close bleeding wounds.
7. English Oak
This is also referred to as European Oak and is primarily 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. The grain of this type of oak wood is straight with a faintly uneven and coarse texture. Often times it may even have interlocked or irregular grain but that depends on the growing conditions of the oak tree.
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. An overriding characteristic of this oak wood is it’s distinct, usually wide, light and dark brown growth rings.
8. Chestnut Oak
Chestnut oak, a species of the white oak group is native to the Eastern United States. It is often referred to as “rock oak” due to its presence in rocky habitats such as in montane.
One of the most distinctive features of chestnut oak is its massive dark gray-brown ridged bark that is believed to be the thickest of any oak found in North America. The wood of this oak is dark brown in appearance and is found to be super heavy, tough, hard and close-grained. It is popularly used in railway ties, fuel and fencing. However, white oak trees are generally not the best timber trees because they aren’t very straight and are usually branched low.
Be it a new cupboard, a coffee table or a lavish dining table, the variety of oak wood you can use is endless. Now that you know the most popular types of oak wood, which one are you going to use for your home?