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Thread: White oak color variation

  1. #1
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    White oak color variation

    This spring I went 2 hrs south of Indianapolis to get a pickup load of lumber to refill my racks. I got some plain white oak for a project to go with an antique desk I have. This came out of the same pile at the mill and I did not pay a lot of attention at the time, but.... is the brown piece on the left actually white oak or red oak? More brown than red, but certainly not white like the others. thanks brian

    20230916_082554.jpg
    Brian

  2. #2
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    Looks like red, but a closer photo of just the red would help
    I feel a whole lot more like I do now than I did a little while ago.

  3. #3
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    White oak can be quite brown. I've seen red and white oak nearly the same color and mixed in the same bunk. The definitive tells are: 1. The end grain of white oak has closed cells and red oak has cells that are open. You need a clean cut to see that. 2. White oak has longer rays (thin dark streaks), maybe 1/2"-3/4" long, red oak has shorter rays, maybe 1/4". You may need to plane or scrape a piece of the flat grain to see the rays.

    Google "white oak vs red oak end grain" and you should get some images of the 2 side by side.
    Last edited by Brian Tymchak; 09-16-2023 at 10:30 AM.
    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

  4. #4
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    Make a clean cut at the end of a couple boards.

    red vs white oak.JPG

    The end grain tells the definitive story between these two woods. You can almost use red oak as a soda straw due to the continuous pore structure.
    "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".


    Ė Samuel Butler

  5. #5
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    A really low tech method I've used to tell the difference is to get a long narrow piece - 6" long or so - that's pretty smooth. Stick one end in a glass of water, stick the other end in your mouth (hence the smooth part). Blow and if there are bubbles out the other end it's red oak, no bubbles it's white oak. More about the difference between red & white oak.
    https://www.finewoodworking.com/2020...er-look-at-oak

  6. #6
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    Looks like plain sawn white oak to me. The straw test will tell you for sure.

    John

  7. #7
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    Thanks men, much appreciated. Brian
    Brian

  8. #8
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    Most wood I donít mind buying in the rough, but Iíve gotten myself in a situation once or twice buying white oak in the rough. The color can very greatly. Something Iíve been picking up on is that the heavier the board, often the darker, or at least much more likely to have some dark figure.
    So now I always buy s2s oak.

    Red oak isnít just a ďredĒ version of white oak. If you look closely you would see an obv difference between the two. Go to home depot and take a look at the red oak.

    White oak can be really dark and once oil hits it, its gonna get a lot darker. If you need to lighten it up some woca lye can kinda blend it.

    I feel like most antique oak desk are gonna be pretty dark, excluding mcm danish design stuff.

  9. #9
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    There is close to 100 species of oak that grow in the United States, all sold as 2 different names of red or white.

  10. #10
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    They are both white oak, just a lot of color variation. On me to be more careful when selecting lumber. thanks brian
    Brian

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