White Oak is an outstanding domestic hardwood that is widely available and therefore quite affordable. It is a very strong wood that displays a very straight and consistent grain. This feature makes White Oak very versatile and easy to match when making wider panels, and as such, it is widely used in building furniture and cabinets.
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The characteristic that has made White Oak famous is the presence of striking medullary rays (see below) that appear when the wood is quartersawn. Quartersawn White Oak is highly stable. In the early 1900s, White Oak was the standard species for the arts and crafts movement in furniture building.
This beautiful table by Keith Jones Woodworking is a great example of the medullary rays visible in quartersawn oak.
Today, White Oak retains its popularity as a furniture wood, but its use has expanded to include many more applications. Its unique cellular structure makes the wood highly water resistant, and it is therefore used in great quantities for exterior applications from trim and general construction to furniture and garden structures. White Oak is also commonly used as a timber frame species in Japanese style architecture.
Essentially, White Oak is the perfect species for many applications, and the only drawback is the wood's relatively unremarkable appearance. However, it finishes beautifully and can take stain well, so this drawback is easily overcome.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.