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11 Different Types of Oak Wood for DIY Projects (With Pictures)

oak wooden bar blocks stacked at carpentry woodwork workshop with tools

Oak wood is one of the most beautiful and most accessible materials in the lumber world. It is particularly famous for being one of the easiest pieces of wood to work with due to its softness and malleability.

If you’re thinking of doing a project involving oak wood, it’s good to know the difference between the different oak varieties that exist. That way, you can better know how to use the material to its highest potential and truly get the result that you are looking for, as there are tiny variations within the various wood oak wood types.

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Types of DIY Projects Involving Oak Wood

Oak wood is quite a versatile material, as it also has some beautiful aesthetic qualities, it can be used both as a decoration or for its practicality as a material.

  • Building: Many small building projects will use oak wood because it is quite soft and it’s easy to cut, shape, and even model.
  • Furniture: The structure of a lot of furniture is made from oak wood because it is easy to work with, but it is also quite sturdy and resistant.
  • Fire: Oak wood can burn quite well due to its high BTU (British Thermal Units) content, if your project involves fire, it could be a good choice.
  • Arts and Crafts: If you´re thinking of working with wood for sculpting or crafting something, oak could also be a good choice since it’s cheap and great to work with, it also has a naturally beautiful color.

General Oak Wood Properties 

In the color scheme, oak wood is one of the best around, the many types of wood in existence range from light browns to as dark as redwood. Some pieces of oak can offer different colors throughout their surface, it has the versatility to adapt to almost any environment for whichever purpose you wish to give it.

As the years pass, oak tends to get darker. What makes this process happen is exposure to the mix of oxygen and UV light, which slowly deteriorates the wood’s color.

Oak wood has historically been used for many things, from building stairs, tables, cabinets, floors, and even entire houses. It has great durability, and some types, like white oak, can withstand water without deteriorating. It is even used for making barrels for alcohol fermentation.

Oak is a very easy wood to work with, it is generally found at 1250-1350 in the Janka scale, which is used to measure the wood´s hardness. Oak is also generally considered a hardwood.

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The 11 Types of Oak Wood

There are over 20 trees in the US that fall under the category “oak”. Each of them has special qualities that can be appreciated when you use them. Some are for building, others are used as fuel, others for its durability. For any use you can think of, there is a piece of wood for that.

When considering types of oak wood most of them fall into two categories: white and red. There are many species that can be reduced to this category, though sometimes they do have variations in properties. The reason for this difference, other than color, is its pore structure, as white oak has its pores completely closed, red oak is not like this.

1. Red Oak

red oak wood
Image Credit: guillermocinque, Pixabay

Gets its name from its leaves in autumn, it is almost endemic to North America and it thrives in mountain ecosystems. Red oak is particularly famous for being the standard building material. Because it grows so fast, there are many more people who turn their attention to this type of wood.

Pros
  • Sturdy and resistant
  • Reasonably light weight
  • Fast growth
Cons
  • Quite costly
  • Can easily darken
  • Isn´t water resistant 

2. White Oak

White oak wood has slowly developed some fans, particularly around the building department as it is primarily a very strong, sturdy, and resistant material. It is also considered to have a modern look and feel to it, as even more people are using this new wood because it is one of the best types for building.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Aesthetically beautiful.
  • Water resistant.
  • Strong and sturdy material
Cons
  • Its density makes it more difficult to work with
  • Slightly loses color over time
  • A bit more difficult to work with than other oak variations

Related Read: White Oak vs Red Oak Tree: What’s the Difference?


3. European Oak

Crossing the ocean, European oak is also quite a popular material, again mostly used to build and decorate. It has been used for centuries in buildings like old churches. One great example of this was Notre Dame in Paris, despite the majority of it burning in 2019.

Pros
  • A very strong wood
  • Aesthetically beautiful with a yellow-brownish tone
  • Durable
Cons
  • Hard material to work with, given its sturdiness
  • Considered quite expensive
  • Highly flammable

4. Black Oak Wood

This type of wood can be mostly found in North America. It has a distinct reddish to brown color, but what makes it so famous is its special oak smell. It is mostly used for interior decorating, firewood, and building.

Pros
  • Very cozy feeling
  • Moderately priced
  • Sturdy and strong
  • Distinct woody fragrance
Cons
  • Can easily burn
  • It isn’t impervious to water
  • Quite heavy, making it a bit hard to work with

5. Cherry Bark Oak

One of the strongest trees within all of the existing red oak variations, cherry bark oak features a beautiful dark red color, however, its best feature is its texture. It is mostly used for floors, furniture, and other building projects.

Pros
  • Very strong wood
  • Unique and special texture
  • Rich, beautiful color
Cons
  • Does not do well against water
  • Can easily rot

6. California Black Oak

You can find this beautiful type of wood on the West Coast. Despite not being the best type of wood against rot, it is a beautiful wood and is easier to work with when compared to other types of oak. California black oak also possesses a rough texture. It is mostly used in the cabinet and furniture building world.

Pros
  • Great texture
  • Quite soft
  • Has a beautiful dark color
Cons
  • Not resistant to water
  • Vulnerable to rot

7. Pin Oak

This oak species is endemic to the eastern United States and it is one of the most popular oak woods to use because it’s one of the fastest-growing species and helps with the environment. It is particularly good to use as firewood or for general construction purposes.

Pros
  • Easily and quickly grown
  • Can be easily transplanted
  • It doesn’t pollute
  • Quite cheap and accessible
Cons
  • Known to have lower quality than other oak woods
  • Highly flammable

8. Willow Oak

This type of oak is generally considered a subspecies of the red oak tree. Willow oak is generally used for paper making but can also be used for other projects such as construction or furniture making.

Pros
  • Quite cheap
  • Easy to work with
Cons
  • Not resistant to water
  • Not the sturdiest wood out there
  • Quite fragile

9. Bur Oak

This type of oak tree is considered to be a white oak. You can find it mostly in North America, in fact, bur oak is one of the biggest trees in the entire oak species. It is also particularly famous for being considered one of the highest quality oak woods, mostly used for projects such as construction, flooring, or decorations.

Pros
  • Very high quality
  • Sturdy and strong
  • Resistant material
Cons
  • Not the easiest material to work with
  • Quite heavy
  • It’s a bit on the expensive side

10. Chestnut Oak

This species also falls within the white oak category, you can also find it in mountainous areas across the US. One of its most appealing traits is its distinctive dark wood, which is tough and very heavy. Its most popular uses are for railway tracks and fuel, so it’s popular for industrial projects.

Pros
  • Can withstand water
  • Great aesthetic properties
  • Easy to work with
Cons
  • A bit on the expensive side
  • It is very heavy

11. North Red Oak

Quercus rubra red oak tree
Image Credit: Maren Winter, Shutterstock

This tree is considered to be at the very top in oak wood quality. You can find it in the northeastern region of North America. It has a beautiful color and it has very high sturdiness. As a result, it is a great building material.

Pros
  • Highest wood quality
  • Strength and sturdiness
  • Immunity to water
Cons
  • Quite expensive
  • Very heavy

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Conclusion

When looking out for a type of oak wood, we can now clearly see there are many different variations of wood, each with its own peculiarities. It’s essential to know the differences between them in order to choose the best type of wood to go with your next DIY project.

Oak wood is also one of the most abundant types of wood out there. You can easily access it, and with the aid of the proper tool kit, you can create a beautiful end product, whatever it may be.


Featured Image Credit: Gorlov-KV, Shutterstock

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