Oak Tree Identification Guide For The Purposes Of Woodworking

The task of oak tree identification can be full of limitations and obstacles. Therefore the right approach for this task is important. A proper mindset and the right kind of knowledge and information can help you identify the perfect kind of oak for your woodwork and skilled carpentry. By far, the most common method for this identification is to study the face grain of the wood. Relying on unspoken intuition and instinct to identify oak is not at all a good idea. Oak wood is highly valued and hence it is important to know all about its properties, features, different types, and its uses, to be able to identify it correctly. So, here’s all the knowledge that you will need for oak tree identification.

Oak wood: An introduction

As is obvious from the name, oak wood is derived from the oak tree. It is the most popular kind of wood and is hence in demand for carpentry and many other types of woodwork. Any piece of oak furniture can last for years, or even generations. There are over six hundred oak species from which oak wood can be obtained, but not all species give oak wood that can be used to make furniture or flooring or other wooden items. The oak genus can range from the more common large deciduous oak trees to small shrub-like species. All oak species are found only in the northern hemisphere, from colder regions to tropical regions of America as well as Asia. Not all species of oak are used for wood production. What makes many species of oak so ideal for furniture making and other woodwork is the fact that this hardwood is sturdy and strong, and yet you can work with it with ease. The quality of oak wood makes oak tree identification easier.

Oak wood is the hardest naturally occurring material and the high tannin content protects the tree from diseases and fungal growth. Oak wood has been in demand for making furniture since the middle ages, thanks to its durability and strength. Also, its grain markings are unique and very appealing. Red oak and white oak are the most popular species. Northern red oak is sought after for its beautiful rich color but it is not suitable for outdoor use as it is prone to fungal attack.

English oak, or the European oak tree, is famous for its naturally beautiful light and dark rings and is used for both indoor and outdoor furniture. Sessile oak is suitable for making timber framing and wine barrels. The knowledge of the various oak trees and their uses will prove helpful in oak tree identification.

However, there is a disadvantage to oak wood. This disadvantage is that the maturing of the oak tree happens very slowly over a long period of time. The seed-bearing acorn does not appear until the oak tree is mature. This makes oak wood a little expensive.

Oak tree identification

There are several species of oak trees found all across the northern hemisphere. These trees provide shade, enhance the aesthetic appeal of the landscape, and have also been a source of wood for many years. But to correctly and accurately identify oak trees it is important to know about the features that make it unique.

  • Leaves with sinus pattern: the leaf lobes are extensions of the stem. The leaves may be round or pointed with a sinus or indentation between each lobe. This sinus accentuates the lobes.
  • Grey bark with deep grooves: what makes oak the best choice for furniture is the hard bark. Even though the color may vary across different species, it is always a shade of grey. The girth of massive oak trees can be up to 30 feet.
  • Acorns: if you find acorns near the base of the tree, the tree is an oak tree. Acorns can be found in varying colors and sizes, but mostly they have a smooth bottom with an uneven top.
  • Size: oak trees grow to be very large in size. Look at the size of the tree for oak tree identification. Some may grow up to a hundred feet. Another characteristic of this tree is that it is fairly rounded, with its width measuring almost as much as its height.
  • Color changes of the leaves: the leaves of oak trees have a rich deep green color during the summer months which changes to red or brown in the fall season. Because it is one of the most colorful trees in the fall season, oak tree identification becomes easy.
  • Other characteristics: the branches of the oak tree tend to deviate from a straight line hence they do not hinder the growth of other branches. Old oak trees lose their leaves late in the fall season while younger ones do not shed their leaves before new ones start growing in the spring season.

How to identify oak wood

Now that you are aware of these tips for identification of oak trees, you might also need to know how to identify oak wood after the felling of the tree. Oak wood is generally the first choice for making cabinets, furniture, flooring and all sorts of other woodwork. The key to identifying oak wood is to understand the structural characteristic of the part of the oak wood that is visible.

  • Color: white and red oak are the most common varieties available. White oak may have a white, tan, or a creamy white appearance while the color of red oak ranges from pink to deep red.
  • Unique patterns: oak wood is known for its unique and distinctive grain patterns.  They bear a color different from the base color and the pattern is open, large and even dramatic at times, visible clearly to the naked eye.
  • Density: oak wood has a very high density. Feel the quality and density of it to figure out whether it is oak or not. This dense material is quite shock resistant, and a mere knock on it will tell you whether it is oak or not. There shouldn’t be any hollowness in the sound produced by knocking.

Finally, look for expert advice

If you are still unsure of the identity of the piece of wood, the best thing to do would be to ask an expert, as oak wood and oak tree identification may be a little difficult at times.

Author: John Clax

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