Oak is one of the most popular woods used in woodworking today - specifically for molding - and it's used by craftsmen in everything from flooring to furniture and everything in between. In fact, over one third of all hardwood produced in the United States is oak. Oak wood has been an important part of man's history and it has served every conceivable purpose from supporting peasant shacks to building and decorating castles, mansions, churches and even grand battleships. Oak has become a dominant part of our lives and the world around us - especially with decorative oak molding in homes and on fine furnishings.
There are actually about 295 kinds of oaks, but for woodworking there are two broad categories: red oak and white oak - and we stock both. When you're considering this choice you should first compare the shades of each species. Oak wood can vary from a bright white to a dark brown so the choice you make can influence the look of the room greatly. Next, consider what you're using the wood for because each wood has it's own special characteristics.
Red Oak molding
Red oak is popular these days for molding for it's reddish-tan to medium brown color and distintive, course grain. Red Oak should be selected for applications where moisture and water will not come in contact with the wood because it is full of tannic acid which will stain the surface black. For this reason red oak is used mostly on home interiors and furniture and not on exterior wood moldings. Red oak finishes and stains nicely and due to it's open pores and it absorbs stain easily. It has been said that red oak wood grain is so open that smoke can be blown through it from end-grain to end-grain on a flatsawn board. When stained the grain pattern is easily defined as well because of it's prominent, open grain patterns that range from tight and vertical to arched or "cathedral". Red Oak also lacks the patterning and figuring found in White Oak woods. Other related oaks are also sold as Red Oak, although their wood is not always of as high a quality.
Interesting facts: The inner bark of the red oak tree first chewed then soaked in water provides a wash said to be good for sore eyes. The red oak is New Jersey's state tree.
White Oak molding
In contrast to red oak, white oak is used more for exterior applications due to it's ability to withstand moisture and resist rot. White Oak is a dense hardwood that varies in color from light grayish-tan to brown. It is commonly used in exterior applications and boats but It was a signature wood used in mission style oak furniture by Gustav Stickley in the Craftsman style in the Arts and Crafts movement. The pores or cellular structures of the wood contain tyloses which is a membranous substance that makes the wood impenetrable by water. The aforementioned red oak does not have any tylose and can be damaged by water easily. White oak is usually lighter in color with a tinge of red or pink. White oak is valued for its density, strength and resiliency. It is mostly straight-grained with a medium to coarse texture. White Oak tends to have longer rays than Red Oak. It has fewer distinctive marks than other species.
Interesting facts: The USS Constitution is made of white oak. Named after the Constitution of the United States of America by President George Washington, she is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat in the world. White Oak is also the official state tree of Illinois.