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Thread: White Oak or Red Oak? I need and ID

  1. #16
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    The color of the end grain is what made me wonder, but the pores do look open. I bought this wood from a local sawmill. I can't take a chance on this one, because I told the customer I would use White Oak.

    I see the evidence that Chestnut Oak rots faster than what we call White Oak here. The White Oak logs last forever in the woods, and the Chestnut Oak logs don't. There is one White Oak in the woods near me that was killed in the Gypsy Moth infestation of 1981. It's still there.

  2. #17
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    I always have to look up which is which..somewhere I read that you take a 1/2” cube of the wood and put it end grain down in a shallow dish of water. The open. pore stuff will wick water to surface. If the top is wet, don’t use it outside.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Demuth View Post
    In the lumber trade, essentially everything oak gets labeled either Red or White Oak, when in reality there are a couple of dozen species of oak that are reasonably common in North American forests. Add to that the complexity introduced by hybridization (primarily within the White or Red Oak groups, not across them), and there is going to be lumber in the trade that doesn't really match the textbook definition of either Red or White Oak. This one may well be such.

    But, one thing is clear - this timber is open-pored, so it's not a good choice for outdoor use. The rot resistance of white oaks generally is closely related to the tylose-filled pores that radically slow movement of weathering, rot and water through the wood.
    Steve, I think you might know more than me here. When I took botany ( one class only) in central North Carolina three of the five oaks on the final exam were ‘pink’, hybrid red/ white. My prof said probably a couple hundred times during the semester that all those blankety blank white oak acorns on the campus at UNC-Chapel Hill have been getting blown all over NC for a couple centuries by every hurricane to come ashore. Do red and white oaks hybridize by pollen only?

    At OP my botany professor would probably have called that one a pink oak, white oak color with open tubules like a red. I only ever took the one class so I have never before Steve above faced conflicting opinion.

    Red Oak in small pieces can render satisfactory outdoor service up here but I only see about ten inches of annual precipitation. For a bBBQ cooker I can make the handles from red oak, fit them all in a one pint mason jar, then fill the jar with equal parts BLO and thinner. I leave them in for about another week after they sink and stop bubbling. With more precipitation or bigger pieces it might make sense to just buy white oak in the first place.

  4. #19
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    Scott, all hybridization in oaks is by pollen. An interspecies hybrid is merely a tree whose two parents - the male pollen parent, and the female ovule parent (which grows the acorn) - come from different species. To get the hybrid acorn from which the hybrid tree grows, you have to have a pollen parent and an ovule parent in reasonable (wind spread of pollen) proximity, they have to bloom at the same time, and the pollen grain from the pollen parent, having landed on the female flower in the ovule parent, has to win the competition with other pollen to fertilize the ovule, and produce a viable seed. The likelihood of the latter is much greater, the closer the two parents are on the evolutionary tree. The trees we consider to be Red Oaks, and the ones we consider to be White Oaks, diverged tens of millions of years ago, whereas the common White Oak species diverge much more recently. So, a Red-White hybrid isn't impossible, but it's not nearly as likely as a White-White hybrid, or a Red-Red hybrid. For example, in our forests here along the Northern Mississippi and at the prairie edge, hybrids between the Burr Oak and the common White Oak, are very easy to find. I've got one in my yard that is the offspring of a Burr Oak female parent. But you could spent a lot of time in the woods here and never find a true Red-White Oak hybrid.

    All of this is made very complicated though, when you look at it through the lens of lumber, rather than genetics. Some of the White Oaks have wood structures that look more "red" than "white" in terms of structure. Scott mentioned the Chestnut Oak, e.g. Botanically, it's a White Oak, but it's lumber looks more like a not-very-pink Red Oak's. The lumber trade tends to treat every tree as if it were a Quercus rubra (Red Oak) or Quercus alba (White Oak). But as there are dozens of oak species, plus hybrids, this just isn't the reality.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Hodge View Post
    I need to be sure have the right one. The photo is larger if you click on it.

    Attachment 469650
    Go to the online Wood Database for detail on this and other wood ID:

    https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...rom-white-oak/

    JKJ

  6. #21
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    The local white oak around here smell like bourbon. Local red oak has a sour smell. Pin oak can smell like vomit.
    Rustic? Well, no. That was not my intention!

  7. #22
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    Yet another case where proper naming would clear up a lot of confusion. (DW being a serious gardener I've been learning to call everything by their genus/species names.) Our most abundant oak locally is Quercus velutina, known as Black Oak, which, confusingly enough, is a red oak.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Edgerton View Post
    Not arguing with you at all, but the red oak from up here has a color very close to white oak. I can not use locally sawn red oak with red oak from say Indiana as it does not even look like the same thing, Indiana wood being a very nice deep red. Our walnut is the same way, much nicer when it is from 300+ miles south. Hope you are doing well Scott.
    Very salient point Larry; thanks for chiming in.

    We're persevering down here!

  9. #24
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    Being a total amateur, what I do is take a piece of what I think is Red oak, and blow in the end along the direction of the grain. Amazes me is how easy it is to blow air through the wood along the end grain direction if red oak. Maybe there are other woods that exhibit the same characteristic? Do not know.

    Not sure if this makes any sense… But it’s still amazing how easy it is to blow a bit of air through a piece of wood! if red oak anyway.

    And no, I never developed a taste for different woods. LOL
    Too much to do...Not enough time...life is too short!

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Space View Post
    Being a total amateur, what I do is take a piece of what I think is Red oak, and blow in the end along the direction of the grain. Amazes me is how easy it is to blow air through the wood along the end grain direction if red oak. Maybe there are other woods that exhibit the same characteristic? Do not know.
    Not sure if this makes any sense… But it’s still amazing how easy it is to blow a bit of air through a piece of wood! if red oak anyway.
    And no, I never developed a taste for different woods. LOL
    Makes perfect sense! This video shows blowing bubbles through red oak:



    In general, the pores in the red oaks are open (like open soda straws) and the pores in most of the while oaks are clogged, full of something called tyloses. The tyloses prevent air and water from moving easily through the straws. This picture shows the difference:

    red_white_oak_smaller.jpg

    Tyloses are described as "bubble like" structures that grow inside the pores, sometimes clogging partially and sometimes completely. Under a microscope with good light the tyloses sometimes look sparkly. If you look up a wood species in the Wood Database and see the words "abundant tyloses" the pores are likely completely clogged. (Other things can clog up pores too, things like resins and gums.)

    Many species have abundant tyloses, for example osage orange and black locust are listed as "tyloses extremely abundant". That the tyloses keep the water out of the wood contributes to the rot resistance that makes some species better for outdoor furniture. The tyloses in white oak are the reason it's used for making barrels made to hold liquids.

    If you see the words "tyloses common" the pores may be partially but not completely filled.

    Lots of wood species have open pores but one distinctive feature of red oak is the large size of the pores. Oaks are classified as "ring porous" so the large pores are concentrated along the rings in the "early wood", the part that grows quickly in the spring.

    If interested in wood structure, a nice article to read is Hardwood Anatomy in the Wood Database: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...dwood-anatomy/
    His article on wood identification is also excellent, describing how to use a razor blade to clean off a small area of end grain to examine with a low power hand lens:
    https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...ication-guide/

    Even better are two books by R. Bruce Hoadley: Understanding Wood and Identifying Wood:
    https://smile.amazon.com/Understandi.../dp/1561583588
    https://smile.amazon.com/Identifying.../dp/0942391047

    BTW, I got interested in wood identification when I saw a bowl marked "Cherry" on the bottom. Even without a magnifier I could see the wood was ring porous - definitely not cherry! (Cherry is "diffuse porous"!)

    JKJ

  11. #26
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    Nov 2012
    Location
    North Dana, Masachusetts
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    Thank you for all the replies. I have learned a lot. Doing mostly exterior work, I have only used White Oak for 35 years.

    I needed White Oak, the saw mill said it was White Oak, but it looked like Red to me. I looked up magnified end grain photos online to help ID the wood. I came up with Red Oak. I sent my photo to the saw mill owner asking for an ID, and I haven't heard a word. No bill, either.

    I found some White Oak at a different mill. They sawed it out on Tuesday, and I picked it up yesterday. Today I'm going to oil up the tools and cut and carve green wood.

  12. #27
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    Oct 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    Makes perfect sense! This video shows blowing bubbles through red oak:



    In general, the pores in the red oaks are open (like open soda straws) and the pores in most of the while oaks are clogged, full of something called tyloses. The tyloses prevent air and water from moving easily through the straws. This picture shows the difference:

    red_white_oak_smaller.jpg

    Tyloses are described as "bubble like" structures that grow inside the pores, sometimes clogging partially and sometimes completely. Under a microscope with good light the tyloses sometimes look sparkly. If you look up a wood species in the Wood Database and see the words "abundant tyloses" the pores are likely completely clogged. (Other things can clog up pores too, things like resins and gums.)

    Many species have abundant tyloses, for example osage orange and black locust are listed as "tyloses extremely abundant". That the tyloses keep the water out of the wood contributes to the rot resistance that makes some species better for outdoor furniture. The tyloses in white oak are the reason it's used for making barrels made to hold liquids.

    If you see the words "tyloses common" the pores may be partially but not completely filled.

    Lots of wood species have open pores but one distinctive feature of red oak is the large size of the pores. Oaks are classified as "ring porous" so the large pores are concentrated along the rings in the "early wood", the part that grows quickly in the spring.

    If interested in wood structure, a nice article to read is Hardwood Anatomy in the Wood Database: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...dwood-anatomy/
    His article on wood identification is also excellent, describing how to use a razor blade to clean off a small area of end grain to examine with a low power hand lens:
    https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...ication-guide/

    Even better are two books by R. Bruce Hoadley: Understanding Wood and Identifying Wood:
    https://smile.amazon.com/Understandi.../dp/1561583588
    https://smile.amazon.com/Identifying.../dp/0942391047

    BTW, I got interested in wood identification when I saw a bowl marked "Cherry" on the bottom. Even without a magnifier I could see the wood was ring porous - definitely not cherry! (Cherry is "diffuse porous"!)

    JKJ

    Exactly, you can take a small piece of oak and put the end grain in water and blow on the other end. If it bubbles then it is red oak.

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