by Gene Wengert
firstname.lastname@example.org WOOD DOCTOR’S Rx
QWhat is the difference between red oak and white oak?
AThe difference is primarily in appearance. Of the 20 commercial red oak species, many have a slight reddish
tinge to the color, while the 20 white
oaks are paler or browner. It is impossible to separate the red and white oaks
by color alone.
The ray cells in white oak are larger
and more distinct, creating more
character (in the eyes of some people).
For this reason, quartersawn white has
a distinctive, heavy appearance that
many people love.
Also, most of the pores (the large
cells that characterize oak) are plugged
in white oak (so most white oaks can
be used for whiskey and wine barrels)
while the red oak pores are open. This
difference in pores openness creates a
slight difference in surface smoothness
and can affect finishing.
White oaks tend to be slightly heavier and slightly stronger, but this is not
an important difference in furniture
Basically, sawing, drying, grading,
machining and gluing are identical for
the oaks. Quality issues are essentially
man-made. However, there are a few
species among the 40 that create special issues.
Swamp chestnut white oak is very
hard to dry properly.
Live oak is in the white oak group,
but it is really different from all the
others, it is very difficult to process. A
lot of people avoid pin red oak because
of its appearance.
Overall, it is best to work with the
wood supplier to make sure you get a
consistent product that looks like what
you want or need.
QWhat is the difference between regular wood ad- hesives and those that say
AHere is a general explana- tion…read the label for complete information. Interior Adhesives will
soften or lose strength (the joint will
likely come apart) when exposed to
water or heat, especially after an hour
or two of exposure.
Essentially, the glue, with water
exposure, begins to return to the con-
sistency that it had in the bottle before
it was used. We might say that the glu-
Grain raising after finishing.
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Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor,” has been training
people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is
extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“White oaks tend to
be slightly heavier
and slightly stronger,
but this is not an
in furniture and
“Joints with exterior
adhesives are not
than interior if kept