||ALTHOUGH ONLY ONE SPECIES,
alba, is botanically correct when called white oak, the forest products industry
lumps 16 species together under that name because they share the same character-istics.
When you buy white oak lumber, it may have come from bur oak, chinkapin oak,
live oak, overcup
oak, or others in the Quercus family.
Though somewhat revived at present for furniture and
cabinets, white oak has traditionally been more of a workhorse wood, a role that
began with the seafarers of Colonial New England. Their ships of white oak sailed
the world in trade of molasses, rum, silks, spices,
and wine. America’s ocean-going white oak also proved its mettle in battle. The
frigate Constitution, known as Old Ironsides, boasted a gun deck, keel, planks,
of this rugged wood.
world trade earmarked
white oak for yet another role—barrels. Cooperage became a thriving
the 1920s Arts and Crafts creations
of Gustav Stickley and others. This
mission furniture, as it has come
to be called, took full
advantage of the attractive ray flecks
exposed in quartersawn stock.
Where the wood comes from
With the exception of an Oregon and
Arizona species, white oak hails from
the East. It grows plentifully from
southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Great Plains.
the eastern forests, white oaks can
attain heights well over 100' and 4'
diameters. (Trees with
WHITE OAK was
used for this Mission-style end table
have been logged).
You’ll find the largest white
oak trees in Delaware, southeast-
ern Pennsylvania, and the Eastern
Shore of Maryland.
What you’ll pay
White oak, given its application
to so many uses, surprisingly
remains quite a bargain. Readily available, although not in the
same abundance as red oak, white
oak FAS 4/4 (13/16" ) flatsawn stock
sells for about $3.50 a board foot.
Add at least $1 per board foot for
riftsawn or quartersawn boards.
Plain-sliced veneer runs about $2
per square foot (a lot more for
fancy grain). White oak plywood, when you can find it, costs
around $60 a sheet.