Oak trees grow on each of the five continents and cultures at every level have relied on the wood and acorn, the tannic acid and the bark throughout the millennia. Great ships with oak bows and rudders crisscrossed the globe.
Oak leaves have a unique and distinctive leaf shape
I don’t know that I would describe oak so much as a lovely wood, as I might cherry or black walnut perhaps, but oak stands alone in its own identity as a strong, resilient, durable, stout wood. That done, I have made hundreds of pieces from red and white oak throughout the years. Both have similar characteristics and work as well with hand tools as they do with machines. Much furniture in the castle at Penrhyn is made from oak and so too the doors, casings and panelled walls.
Oak is quite stable when seasoned well and especially when using quartersawn oak where the grain exudes an unpredictable yet often spectacular array of grain configurations beyond the range of any other wood.
I first used oak in my mid teens when I learned to work with its rebellious, stubborn streaks to discover an inner beauty of structure only a craftsman working its fibres can. Machinists know nothing of what I speak for they merely lift the wood and feed the machine. They miss the medullary rays beneath the chisels edge and the planes levelling swipe. They have never traced their hands over the smoothed wood after the plane’s work.
With these oak stiles I will form new doors at Penrhyn Castle
The wood is densely heavy and ideal for a wide range of household projects as well as timber framed buildings. In the UK American-grown oak sells for three times its US price whereas European oak adds another 25% premium to the lesser quality US grades.
Here are the intersecting oak rails of a cabinet I made last year