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Terms You May Come Across When Shopping For Solid Oak Furniture
When you are in furniture stores looking at oak furniture you may come across a few terms that you’re not familiar with. The purpose of this article is to explain some of them so that you can come to an informed conclusion on the best oak furniture for your purposes.
Some of the terms are specific to oak, others to certain groups of wood and some are more general wood terms.
Quercus: This is the Latin name for oak. Quercus is also a subgenus of the genus Quercus.
White oak: The common name for Quercus Alba. The bark of the tree is most commonly grey, despite the name. White oak is also a group of Quercus trees, including Quercus Alba. The pores on the growth rings are blocked.
Red oak: The common name for Quercus Rubra. Red oak is also the name of a group of Quercus trees, including Quercus Rubra. The pores on the growth rings are open and therfore allow water in.
Hardwood: All oaks are hardwoods. A hardwood is simply the wood from a deciduous tree. It doesn’t mean that the wood is physically hard, although oak actually is.
Medullary rays: Ribbons extending vertically through the wood, perpendicularly to the growth rings. Not all woods show these but oak does. Plane trees also show them well. They show up on the wood as flecks.
Quarter sawn: Wood has been cut at right angles to the growth rings. The grain will be in straight lines. This sort of cut is the one used to show the medullary rays. It is structurally more sound than wood sawn in other ways but more expensive and more difficult to cut.
Plain sawn: The wood has the growth rings of the tree parallel to the board’s broad face. It is also known as ‘slabbed lumber’.
Grain: The texture produced by wood fibres. You can get dramatic grain patterns with red oak.
Unfinished: The furniture will not be coloured with any stains and it will not have any sort of top coat. It is cheaper to buy unfinished oak but it will then need to be protected with some sort of finish.
French polish: Lots of very thin layers of shellac are rubbed onto the furniture to produce a very high shine surface with a rich colour.
Shellac: A resin created by the female lac bug which is processed and dissolved in ethyl alcohol to produce a liquid to glaze the wood.
Seasoned: Seasoned wood has had the moisture content reduced to make it stronger and more reliable. It can be air dried or kiln dried.
Buying oak furniture can be good fun but in order to get the right piece for you it helps if you understand the terminology used in the industry.