Oakwood is amongst the most popular hardwood species of wood used commercially in the US, particularly in woodworking. This wood comes with the advantage of affordability and appearance, yet, it maintains a pleasant and attractive appearance without putting in much effort.
In fact, nearly 50% of commercially available wood used in woodworking comes from oak tree species. Even with its commonality on the market, it is good to learn exactly how to use this wood. Here is our in-depth guide on woodworking with oakwood to help you figure out how best to use the wood.
Types of Oakwoods
There are countless species of oak available globally. But, the most common are European and American oak. Typically, European oak tends to be more favorable due to its durability. This is evident in many older and monumental buildings and ships from decades ago that you will find today. But let’s focus on the American oak variety.
Generally, American oak comes in a choice of red or white oak. Red oak offers a more porous profile with open grains and resistance to shrinkage. On the other hand, white oak provides a closer grain profile and is nearly impenetrable by water. A good example of white oak includes bur and European oak.
What is Oak Best Used For?
Oakwood has a variety of uses and applications in woodworking. These include making furniture, flooring, paneling, decking, and veneers.
White oak wood’s most prized characteristic is its water repellency. This makes the wood ideal for flooring and surfaces prone to water penetration. This characteristic also explains why white oak is commonly used for wine barrels or boats.
On the other hand, red oak is favored for its beauty. This makes it a better choice for furniture pieces. However, red oak isn’t the best option for flooring due to its poor repellency to water. Nonetheless, you can find people who use it for hardwood flooring due to its attractive appeal. Common red oak varieties include black, willow, and pin oak.
Before you embark on your woodworking project, you have to learn the correct way to use oak wood. We’ve shared some of the essential woodworking techniques for when you use oak:
Most oak wood varieties have the same characteristics when it comes to cutting. Make sure you have sharp enough tools when cutting wood. This is because oak wood easily burns during cutting, so delicate blades can easily damage while burning the wood quality too. You are better off using carbide blades since they don’t dull easily.
Finishing isn’t complicated for oakwood, either. You have to sand your oakwood before finishing it like any other wood. To achieve the best appearance, you are better off sanding your wood at different levels based on the appearance you want to achieve. Your choice of sanding paper highly depends on the type of stain you want to use.
If you plan to use water-based stains, opt for a 120 grit sander and work your way up to about 150 grit. If you plan to use oil-based stains, opt for 150 grit to 220 grit paper. Due to some of the oak wood being grainy, make sure you wear a dust mask, gloves, and safety goggles.
The next step for finishing oakwood is staining, and both red and white oak undergo the same staining process. To ensure your stain easily sets on the wood, you want to apply a wood sealer. What a wood sealer does is even out the stain absorption.
Apply at least two to three coats of sealer to ensure adequate absorption. The more sealer you apply, the better its absorption. This, in turn, improves your wood finishing. Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to gauge if you have applied enough sealer. If you still notice excess sealer on the surface of your wood, the application should be adequate.
Once you apply the sealer, you want the wood to absorb it and settle for at least 24 hours before you start to apply the stain. Unlike tough woods like cherry, applying a wood finish is pretty simple once you seal oakwood. A simple cloth or brush is adequate to apply it on the surface of your wood.
Staining White Oak
White oak has a light to deep brown color and sometimes a slight yellow tint. Therefore, you have to consider how you want the finished product to look before picking its stain.
Staining Red Oak
On the other hand, red oak is slightly different. When stained, red oak turns slightly darker in nature due to its grainy texture. The staining also enhances its beauty as it starts to develop black lines. However, you need to prepare red oak wood slightly differently for staining due to this grainy texture.
In addition to applying a wood sealer, you must use a wood grain filler. The grainy texture gives red oak large pores. Thus, if not properly filled, you may risk destroying its appearance. The grain filler helps improve and maintain the attractive red oak appearance.
Adding the wood grain fillers to the wood helps fill out the more visible pores. But don’t just add any grain filler. Before applying it to your wood, test it out on scrap paper to ensure it doesn’t contrast with your wood color too much. Furthermore, you want to go for the thinner wood grain filler instead of the thick regular wood filler.
As mentioned above, red oak is a perfect wood option for furniture. With its attractive color and appearance, you can add its appeal through décor and patterns. You can use a wood router to cut patterns, designs, and grooves on your wood pieces. But don’t limit your use of a wood router to red oak alone. You can also use it on white oak wood. A good quality fixed-based wood router will do the trick.