Why Use Oak to Make Furniture?
The Oak tree is a hardwood tree. Hardwood trees are generally deciduous trees that produce flowers and fruit and lose their leaves during the winter months. Oaks can be recognised by their spirally arranged leaves, with a lobed margin in many species; some have serrated leaves or entire leaves with a smooth margin. Their flowers are known as catkins and are produced during the spring.
The fruit from the Oak tree is a nut called an acorn which sits in a cup-like structure known as a cupule. Every acorn contains one seed which can take 6–18 months to mature, depending on the species. Wood from the Oak tree is generally known to be physically harder than the wood from softwood, or conifer, trees. Hardwood trees are also known to produce wood that is dense and heavy, making items built using this material structurally strong. Oak wood has a density of about 0.75 g/cm³. It is known for its strength, and durability meaning it is difficult to break or damage.
Oak wood is also very resistant to attack by insects or fungus due to it having a high tannin content. These qualities and characteristics make solid oak a material suitable for a variety of uses, including furniture building. From an aesthetic point of view, Oak is an attractive hardwood due to its beautiful grain markings. Oak has an identifiable grain that can be described as open and fairly long. The wood also has occasional crotch marks, wonderous swirls and burls that all add character and warmth to items of rustic furniture. These kinds of markings tend to make you run your finger along a particular section of the wood and people will often describe being drawn to a particular item of solid wood furniture due to the markings on a section of an oak table ,or the arm of a solid oak chair.
Different types of oak hardwood can have many variations in colour. For instance, white oak wood can be light brown with a pinkish tint, but the heartwood of the oak is more creamy white in colour. Red oak can be tinted rose, while various dark and light browns can be found throughout that same tree. The exact colour for any piece of oak will depend on the part of the tree from which the wood comes, as well as the specific variety of oak tree. All these colours and grain add to the creation of a piece of oak furniture that is unique, tactile and engages your attention.
When making a handcrafted item of oak furniture, a woodworker will take time to consider the colour and markings of the wood to ensure that where possible these effects are maximised. A simple regular application of a natural oil, such as Tung oil or Danish oil then helps to accent the natural beauty of the wood and protect the surface of the furniture from premature wear and tear.