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Thread: Anyone Ever Use Bur Oak?

  1. #1
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    Anyone Ever Use Bur Oak?

    Yesterday I picked up what I think are two Bur oak logs via an arborist friend.





    Bur oak is a member of the white oak family and pictures of the lumber look sort of similar, at least color wise. Does anyone here have any experience using it, any cautions, etc.? If it's poor to work with as furniture grade wood I can always just slab it and sell it to the Fixer Upper market. but if it's as nice to use as white oak I'd rather use it for furniture/cabinets. Thanks.

    John

  2. #2
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    The link below will give you a tiny bit of information about its use as lumber.
    https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_quma2.pdf

  3. #3
    I live in Iowa. We are in the epicenter of the bur oak blight outbreak. The trees are really showing the damage from the blight now. Unfortunately I am afraid there is going to be a ton of bur oak available for lumber or firewood as the blight will eventually kill most of the bur oaks. If the BOB kills the bur oaks and the emerald ash borer kills all the ash we are not going to have many trees left around here as those two species make up most of the trees in this area

  4. #4
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    My only experience with bur oak is planting one in the back yard 18 months ago. The info supplied by Robert says it is too big for a yard landscape but I will not be around when it approaches maturity 50+ years from now. It is a native species to Ohio.

    Your logs appear to have a few knots which may or may not enhance the use for furniture depending on your tastes. Since it is used in cooperage, it must be stable and straight when dried correctly. The link indicated that the wood has no taste or odor which is quite different from some other white oak varieties. Those of us with a taste for bourbon appreciate the flavors added by the white oak barrels used for aging the brew. Good luck with the lumber.
    Rustic? Well, no. That was not my intention!

  5. #5
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    Is the bur oak blight the same as the sudden death oak blight we had in California. In 1980 almost all the native oaks in California were 200 years old. So they would be about 240 years now. I assume sudden oak death killed them all off then was a good rainfall season that allowed acorns to grow big enough to make it through a few summers. Are your oaks of varying ages or all about the same?
    Bill D
    Last edited by Bill Dufour; 08-30-2020 at 1:39 PM.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the replies so far. The Bur oak I've seen in WNY haven't been nearly as large as what you folks in the midwest have. These are only 18 - 22". My arborist friend who cut them down said they were white oak, but the minute I picked up the sawdust I knew they were not because there was very little odor, nothing like white oak and the wonderful barrels made from it have that hold the bourbon and wine I regularly enjoy.

    The one log is definitely going to have some character and I'll likely cut it mostly into live edge slabs and lumber with one live edge for the shelving the Fixer Upper crowd loves these days. I'm not criticizing those folks at all; they are looking, and willing to pay good money, for umber with defects; stuff furniture makers don't want. The other log looks to be mostly clear on one side and will likely have quite a bit of clear lumber.

    John

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    ...My arborist friend who cut them down said they were white oak, but the minute I picked up the sawdust I knew they were not because there was very little odor, nothing like white oak and the wonderful barrels made from it have that hold the bourbon and wine I regularly enjoy.
    Interesting you mention the arborist thinking they were white vs bur. When I saw the leaf in the original post, I felt it was white oak as the bur oak leaves I've seen look more like pin oak leaves with rounded points.
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  8. #8
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    I have some wide boards with a pronounced "wave" in the grain figure. It is cantankerous, very hard and (this sample, anyway) still prone to seasonal movement.

    I would recommend quartersawing, for stability.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Tymchak View Post
    Interesting you mention the arborist thinking they were white vs bur. When I saw the leaf in the original post, I felt it was white oak as the bur oak leaves I've seen look more like pin oak leaves with rounded points.
    I'm not positive it's Bur oak, but I am pretty sure it's not white oak because it doesn't have the characteristic smell of white oak. In fact, it has essentially no smell which is consistent with Bur oak. And the leaves look like Bur oak, at least in the book I have more so than in the link Robert provided above. More to follow when I mill them.

    John

  10. #10
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    We have bur oak in central Texas and both the bark and leaves look quite different. The bark is rough, heavy and thick a bit darker too. The lobes on the leaves are deeper. The acorns are huge as well. I love the trees in the winter because the leafless limbs are disproportionately large and with the dark bark they remind of something from The Wizard of Oz.

    With that being said you could have bur oak and the differences mentioned are regional characteristics.

  11. #11
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    Could definitely be Q. macrocarpa, maybe not, too. Oaks are notorious for hybridizing, so sometimes an individual doesn't even fall into a straight "species" category. In addition, juvenile leaves can look totally different than leaves from the mature portion of a tree. Acorns are usually good for ID.

    I'd go for as much quarter and rift as you can get-they look like nice, straight logs. Dice it up and post pics!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    I'm not positive it's Bur oak, but I am pretty sure it's not white oak because it doesn't have the characteristic smell of white oak. In fact, it has essentially no smell which is consistent with Bur oak. And the leaves look like Bur oak, at least in the book I have more so than in the link Robert provided above. More to follow when I mill them.

    John
    It's not really an either-or situation. Quercus alba and Q. macrocarpa hybridize freely in the Midwest. I have two "burr oaks" in my front yard, one is a tree identification guide poster child of Q. macrocarpa, the other just as clearly an intermediate form with ordinary white oak.

    If I had to make a bet, I'd say yours are closer to the Q. alba end of the spectrum, based on both the bark and the leaves. But it would be a high error guess.

    If they are Burr Oak - not really a woodworkers / cabinet makers dream wood. Often twisty-grained, knotty, and harder than hell. Most of it goes into railroad ties and timber frames around here.

  13. #13
    It seems to affect all bur oaks from saplings to 100 year old trees. It is caused by a new fungus that bur oaks have no resistance too. Apparently it will eventually weaken and kill all bur oaks.

    UOTE=Bill Dufour;3050014]Is the bur oak blight the same as the sudden death oak blight we had in California. In 1980 almost all the native oaks in California were 200 years old. So they would be about 240 years now. I assume sudden oak death killed them all off then was a good rainfall season that allowed acorns to grow big enough to make it through a few summers. Are your oaks of varying ages or all about the same?
    Bill D[/QUOTE]

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jared herbert View Post
    It seems to affect all bur oaks from saplings to 100 year old trees. It is caused by a new fungus that bur oaks have no resistance too. Apparently it will eventually weaken and kill all bur oaks.
    I don't minimize the potential impact of Burr Oak Blight, because obviously some emergent (or imported, which this probably isn't) tree diseases really have devastated American forests, but I think the jury is still out on this one. First, it doesn't affect, so far at least, all Burr Oaks - it has only been observed in the small-acorn Midwestern Burr Oaks. Secondly, even in those populations, there seems to be significant variation in susceptibility. It's impact is very much less devastating, at least so far, than Chestnut Blight, or Emerald Ash Borer.

  15. #15
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    I milled the four logs last week. I got some nearly clear 8/4 boards about 12" wide from a couple of the logs.



    And from one of other logs I got some pretty nice live edge slabs for the Fixer Upper crowd:




    All in all, some pretty nice wood. I wasn't thinking nice thoughts when I hit 5 nails in one of the logs though, but that's the risk you take with residential trees.

    John

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