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What do I need to know about buying oak?

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Anonymous

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I have built pine furniture in the past without worrying much about about the wood other than its general appearance. But I'm now planning a much more ambitious dresser to be made in oak. It will be slightly larger than one I've seen advertised for some £3,000! I've located internet sites selling reclaimed oak beams, creosoted and uncreosoted oak railway sleepers, and green oak. But before confronting any salesmen on the phone, let alone spending a lot of money on timber, I would be very grateful for some impartial advise on the subject.

Jim
 

Argus

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If you’re making decent furniture be very careful about the materials: a dresser will need almost exclusively board material.

1 Reclaimed beams will need resawing into boards. There is a strong likelihood of a lot of knots, plus it will almost certainly twist or split….. even if it is quite old. Besides, you don’t know what has been laying eggs in it. You may be lucky, but I have been disappointed more often than not. Having said that it is OK for carcass work if out of sight.
2 Unless you enjoy the pong, forget creosote!
3 Railway sleepers likewise … and they’re probably not oak. Useless for furniture. Good in the garden.
4 Green Oak is totally unsuitable for furniture. It will split all over the place.

So, what do you need?
I suggest American White Oak for 3 reasons. It is stable, of consistent quality, and readily available. There are lots of suppliers in the UK.

Most of it is supplied sawn through and through, generally with 12% or less moisture content - but my experience is that it will be quite stable. It is even better if you saw it to rough dimensions and let it settle in a heated environment before cutting to final dimensions for a few weeks.
Give some thoughts to the drawer sides that should ideally be quarter sawn.
Two disadvantages with Oak is the weight and hardness. You will need good sharp tools and be prepared to keep them well honed. In comparison to pine it’s harder work.

But, the rewards are there. I use it a lot and if the work is well done it will last for decades or centuries.

Hope it helps. E mail me if you need and more help.
 

kityuser

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are there any examples of these suppliers? prehaps with websites?

cheers
steve
 

Charley

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I've never asked my timber merchant if they could get white oak but if the prices are anything like english oak I woudn't want to get it from them anyway..

British Hardwoods look quite good I haven't tried it yet but I've heard a lot of good things said about them in the past.
 

Argus

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I knew you’d want chapter and verse!

I have used a couple of National suppliers with good results. The price varies a bit against the exchange rate of the dollar and other factors.


What I do is to buy a selection of timber, mostly American White Oak, American Cherry (outrageously expensive!) plus cedar for drawers etc about once or twice a year.
It will come sawn in random lengths, usually 3 m plus.
I then run a wire brush and a metal detector over it (Some trees have bullets in) and thickness it. It then gets sticked up until I want to use it.

Buy the thickness you need and don’t be tempted to re-saw. It will twist like mad.

Try these, you’ll have to ring up for a price and be prepared to convert to cubic feet if that’s your language.

Timbmet in Oxford
http://www.timbmet.co.uk/
Plus Arnold Laver’s world of wood. All over the place.
http://www.laver.co.uk/
I’ve not used SL, but they sound OK. They are in south London somewhere.
http://www.slhardwoods.co.uk/

You may have to add VAT and transport costs.

You get what you pay for. And quality is never cheap. I have used decent English oak in the past but it's a hedgerow tree these days and the quality is variable, not to mention the MC.
The Yanks are consistent in quality in the drying department.


Hope it helps
 
A

Anonymous

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I've found that for first quality American White oak, a price tag of around £25+vat a cubic foot is about right (don't forget that most commercial suppliers sell hardwood by the cubic meter or foot, and not running meter). Lavers tend to be the cheepest if you have one neer you.

A/W Oak tends to be very uniform in figure, with little character. If you want something with a bit more about it (eg small patches of knots, and figured grain) try English or French oak. The price per cube is about the same as A/W, but English and french oak mis normally sold in waney edged boards, meaning you can be looking at 50% wastage, as opposed to 10-15% for square edged boards (the way most A/W is supplied)

Just one other thing. When you buy softwoods they tend to come in standard set sizes, e.g 6 x 1, and are sold by the running meter, but hardwoods come in either waney-edged boards, sorted by thickness, and sold by thickness and total volume, or in square edged boards, sorted by thickness and random widths seperated into brackets e.g 4" and up or 9" and up and sold by thickness, bracketed width, and total volume. :?

clear as mud????????????

Hope this helps
Doughnut
 

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