Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

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Common Name(s): Black Oak, Eastern Black Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus velutina

Distribution: Eastern North America

Tree Size: 65-80 ft (20-25 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 45 lbs/ft3 (715 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .56, .71

Janka Hardness: 1,210 lbf (5,380 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 14,430 lbf/in2 (99.5 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,736,000 lbf/in2 (11.97 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,450 lbf/in2 (44.5 MPa)

Shrinkage:Radial: 4.4%, Tangential: 11.1%, Volumetric: 15.1%, T/R Ratio: 2.5

Color/Appearance: Has a light to medium reddish-brown color, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color. Conversely, White Oak tends to be slightly more olive-colored, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak.

Grain/Texture: Has medium-to-large pores and a fairly coarse grain.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large, exclusively solitary earlywood pores, numerous small latewood pores in radial arrangement; tyloses absent; growth rings distinct; rays large and visible without lens; apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates (short lines between rays).

Rot Resistance: Falls somewhere between slightly durable to non-durable. Red oaks such as Black Oak do not have the level of decay and rot resistance that White Oaks possess.

Workability: Easy to glue, and takes stain and finishes very well.

Odor: Has a tell-tale smell that is common to most oaks. Most find it appealing.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, oak has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation, as well as asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Slightly less expensive than White Oak, Red Oak is in good/sustainable supply and is moderately priced. Thicker 8/4 planks, or quartersawn boards are slightly more expensive per board foot.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring, and veneer.

Comments: Not to be confused with Bog Oak (which is actually black in color), Black Oak falls into the red oak group, and shares many of the same traits as Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Red Oak, along with its brother White Oak, are commonly used domestic lumber species. Hard, strong, and moderately priced, Red Oak presents an exceptional value to woodworkers—which explains why it is so widely used in cabinet and furniture making.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

Black Oak (sanded)

Black Oak (sealed)

Black Oak (sealed)

Black Oak (endgrain)

Black Oak (endgrain)

Black Oak (endgrain 10x)

Black Oak (endgrain 10x)

  • Kerry Bannister

    I use quartersawn black oak a lot for ukulele sides,even have made entire ukuleles out of it.We had some friends that had a tree in their yard here in Washington that had to be cut down in 1990..bandsawed the tree with a neighbor.I made a set of shaker style kitchen cabinet doors for a vacation home also from the wood..works well,like red oak.Quartersawing the wood brings out ripples and flakes!It’s been dry for 20 years or more…wonderful to work with,soaks/steams/bends well in thin slices.The ukulele pictures..sides have only tru-oil gunstock finishing oil on them.

    Nice website!..I’m trying to figure out some species of wood I have.

  • rick

    I live in Missouri where we have a lot of hardwood… Most is oak but I have a hard times determining what type it is. I can look at the grain and match it, but it all old, I have lumber out of barns that is 80+ years old. The most of it nail free, used in a loft of a barn if you know what I mean. There are no nails, and better than 15″ wide and I see a lot of quarter sawed lumber…I also have some oak floor joist that are 20+ ft. long that came out of a building here in my home town that is 3×10 ” that is 130 yrs old. I have not used any of this wood because it is full of nails on the ends. The barn lumber is hard on the planner but has a nice finish to it… just looking for advice.

  • Kerry Bannister

    We matched up our tree/wood type by the LEAVES that were on the living tree at the time it was fallen..which doesn’t help you,of course.It would be hard to tell red oak from black oak other than the finished grain seems more ripply and more flakes in the black oak.The black oak is a rare tree around here,only one that I have ever seen locally.More than likely if the species you have was used for a barn building,it was a species that was very common in your immediate vicinity.
    I’d take one of the “common”(boards that you have several of) oak boards and look for flake and ripples in the grain.Use a handheld belt sander and smooth out a section to see what the grain really looks like,if it is rough sawn.Then wipe some water or denatured alcohol(if you don’t want to wet it) on the smooth spot to see how it would finish.I’ve used pieces that have more plain sawn wavy grain of the black oak for soundboards and backs on the ukuleles above,save the flake and ripply stuff for sides mostly…no problems with cracks or warpage on pieces about .075-.080” thick.
    Belt sanding one board of each “type” will give you a good idea of what the rest of that species will be like and if it worth the trouble to use it for a certain project.Try to sand the straightest and best looking grain of the bunch because you’ll probably use it first and it’s a good example of what’s possible to get out of the rest.
    The black oak planes/works okay(just like red oak) but of course 8 inches and wider can be tough on planers.
    The nails on the ends?..sacrifice the ends..cut them off a few inches beyond the nails before planing them.It’s definitely not worth chancing the destruction of planer blades.
    You could find someone locally with a small bandsaw mill to take a look at it that would give you a better idea of value and species,depending on whether you want to sell it..or use it.

  • Kerry Bannister

    I use quartersawn black oak a lot for ukulele sides,even have made entire ukuleles out of it.We had some friends that had a tree in their yard here in Washington that had to be cut down in 1990..bandsawed the tree with a neighbor.I made a set of shaker style kitchen cabinet doors for a vacation home also from the wood..works well,like red oak. Quartersawing the wood brings out ripples and flakes!It’s been dry for 20 years or more…wonderful to work with,soaks/steams/bends well in thin slices.The ukulele pictures..sides have only tru-oil gunstock finishing oil on them.

    Nice website!..I’m trying to figure out some species of wood I have.

  • William Fourness

    Is this Black Oak? I found it in southern New York

    • ejmeier

      Whatever it is, those are some nice looking pieces! I’d need a closer/clearer/sanded view of the endgrain to get a better idea of species; but there isn’t a way that I know of to tell various oak species apart beyond just white or red oak categories. Maybe the bark could give some clues, but I don’t know much about bark and mainly have knowledge of the wood itself. (It should also be noted that Black Oak, despite it’s name, is not really any darker or different than plain old red oak.)