Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

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Common Name(s): Red Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus rubra

Distribution: Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada

Tree Size: 80-115 ft (25-35 m) tall, 3-6 ft (1-2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 44 lbs/ft3 (700 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .56, .70

Janka Hardness: 1,220 lbf (5,430 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 14,380 lbf/in2 (99.2 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,761,000 lbf/in2 (12.14 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,780 lbf/in2 (46.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.0%, Tangential: 8.6%, Volumetric: 13.7%, T/R Ratio: 2.2

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light to medium brown, commonly with a reddish cast. Nearly white to light brown sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn sections display prominent ray fleck patterns. 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: Grain is straight, with a coarse, uneven texture. The pores are so large and open that it is said that a person can blow into one end of the wood, and air will come out the other end: provided that the grain runs straight enough. (See the video below.)

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: Rated as non-durable to perishable, with poor insect resistance. Stains when in contact with water (particularly along the porous growth ring areas). Red Oaks do not have the level of decay and rot resistance that White Oaks possess.

Workability: Produces good results with hand and machine tools. Has moderately high shrinkage values, resulting in mediocre dimensional stability, especially in flatsawn boards. Can react with iron (particularly when wet) and cause staining and discoloration. Responds well to steam-bending. Glues, stains, and finishes 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: Abundant availability in a good range of widths and thicknesses, both as flatsawn and quartersawn lumber. Usually slightly less expensive than White Oak, prices are moderate for a domestic hardwood, though thicker planks or quartersawn boards are slightly more expensive.

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: Arguably the most popular hardwood in the United States, Red Oak is a ubiquitous sight in many homes. Even many vinyl/imitation wood surfaces are printed to look like Red Oak. 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: You can see from the picture below that the color of Red Oak looks almost identical, though slightly darker, with sanding sealer applied. However, the grain and pores become much more pronounced if a pigment stain is used.

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Red Oak (sanded)

Red Oak (sealed)

Red Oak (sealed)

Red Oak (endgrain)

Red Oak (endgrain)

Red Oak (endgrain 10x)

Red Oak (endgrain 10x)


8 Comments

  1. Austin Kubin May 14, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Hi I had a question about something I’m building with red oak. I was wondering if I have a 1 x 15 board for a tv stand across 5ft across, would I need a support half way to keep it from bowing? The tv is about 50lbs

  2. Scot59 April 30, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Let’s face it, some of use just plain like the hue of it and the historic use of red oak it a favorite of some of us. Built a warm rifle rack with antler mounts for a Hawken rifle I built . Gave it ghe 100 year treatment and Tung oil. The red came shining thru.

  3. Martin February 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Mark I very much agree with you

  4. asadefa May 4, 2017 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    I think red oak (Q. Rubra) in particular is overrated and pathetic

    • Walker Riley June 13, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Why

      • asadefa June 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

        because WHY BOTHER WITH RED OAK WHEN THERE IS WHITE OAK??!! Red oak”s rot resistance is non durable to perishable, whereas white oak is very durable. White oak also has a higher Janka hardness!

        • mark August 9, 2017 at 9:53 pm - Reply

          Well, red oak has some qualities of better to work with. It’s easier to cut, plane and has a deeper look to it qtr. Sawn that is.
          It’s a fine wood to work with when your building indoor furniture or milling trim.
          It’s also about 50 cents per nd foot.. considerable savings when you run a shop like me.
          I do love white too. I would use real for outside projects tho.
          Or just a good pine.. firs or lodgepoll ..

      • mark August 9, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

        I like red..
        Not for outside, but what craftsman uses oak outside.
        Teak is affordable and has better resistance I experience..

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