Lawrence Brown

Identifying red vs white oak

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I've got this big pile of oak cut-offs and whatnot and I'd like to use them on a project. Unfortunately, some of it is red and some white and I'm concerned that there might be differences in taking stain, etc.

Is there any fairly accurate way of distinguishing between the two? Some of it has more of a pinkish tint, but there are also variations due to age, sun exposure, and so on. I've read that there are also differences in the pores and grain structure, but I'm not seeing anything obvious.

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I've got this big pile of oak cut-offs and whatnot and I'd like to use them on a project. Unfortunately, some of it is red and some white and I'm concerned that there might be differences in taking stain, etc.

Is there any fairly accurate way of distinguishing between the two? Some of it has more of a pinkish tint, but there are also variations due to age, sun exposure, and so on. I've read that there are also differences in the pores and grain structure, but I'm not seeing anything obvious.

The way I do it (which might be the stupidest way) is try to suck air through the end grain, just like sucking air through a straw. Red oak you can almost drink water through the pores (?) while white oak is like sucking bowling ball.

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I use a wee bit of oak in my furniture and cabinetry - I think there are about 27 varieties of oak common in North America, which fall into the White/Red catergories.

One of the simplest methods was already touched on - While I don't try to drink, or suck through the grain, I have blown through the grain into a bowl of water - You'll end up with foaming in the water if it's red oak, with it's open grain.

The closed grain of the white oak is part of what makes it a durable wood for outdoor and boat use.

There are other ways of determining the difference as well - Looking at the grain through a 10x lens will show the differences quickly, but the simplest method is the straw trick above

Hope this helps

Gregory

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if you have a piece that you can disseminate the ray flecks better, this is how I do it, look at them. red oak the ray flecks generally are no longer than 1/2 inch or so. the ray flecks in white oak are sometimes longer than 3 inches. when you get two pieces you can compare them and get a better idea of just how different they look. I noticed on most red oak it has a redish or purplish haze to it while the white oak almost looks bleached. its not always the case some red oak will have a whiter look to it.

ps the straw trick is actually a good one too. It may sound silly but its effective.

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