White Oak (Quercus alba)
White Oak (Quercus alba)

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Common Name(s): White Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus alba

Distribution: Eastern United States

Tree Size: 65-85 ft (20-25 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 47 lbs/ft3 (755 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .60, .75

Janka Hardness: 1,350 lbf (5,990 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 14,830 lbf/in2 (102.3 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,762,000 lbf/in2 (12.15 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,370 lbf/in2 (50.8 MPa)

Shrinkage:Radial: 5.6%, Tangential: 10.5%, Volumetric: 16.3%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light to medium brown, commonly with an olive cast. Nearly white to light brown sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. Quartersawn sections display prominent ray fleck patterns. Conversely, Red Oak tends to be slightly redder, but is by no means a reliable method of determining the type of oak.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a coarse, uneven texture. 

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

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable; frequently used in boatbuilding and tight cooperage applications.

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 more expensive than Red 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, boatbuilding, barrels, and veneer.

Comments: White Oak is the state tree of Connecticut, Illinois, and Maryland. Connecticut’s state quarter was minted with a picture and inscription of a famous White Oak tree, The Charter Oak.

White Oak is strong, beautiful, rot-resistant, easy-to-work, and economical, representing an exceptional value to woodworkers. It’s no wonder that the wood 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 White 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.

White Oak (Quercus alba)
White Oak (sanded)
White Oak (sealed)
White Oak (sealed)
White Oak (endgrain)
White Oak (endgrain)
White Oak (endgrain 10x)
White Oak (endgrain 10x)
Quartersawn White Oak box
Quartersawn White Oak box
White Oak (turned)
White Oak (turned)
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Rafael

Hi, is this queréis alba the best wood for barrels for aging rum or bourbon??
It’s there a place where I can bay already cut this wood for barrels.
Thanks.

Ja

It’s the ONLY wood for bourbon, by definition.

Scooter

Hi there, we recently bought a 1920 farmhouse in MD. The house itself needs to be completely renovated and updated. This is going to require multiple structural changes. There have been various pieces of the structural elements that have been confirmed to be white oak. Can someone tell me how strong a 5.5”x 5.5” beam would be? What find if load can white oak carry?

Michael

Lumber span tables are commonly available on the internet with a simple Google search. The span tables will give you all of the essential load data you need.

Dillon Fitzgerald

You will need a knowledgeable structural engineer to tell you the strength of your beam. The member can be grade in-situ to provide a better representation of strength. It also depends how the beam is installed and its connections.

I can help you with that or you can find another professional to help you out.

Sam edens

I’m refinishing a rocking chair( white oak) frame.is there another wood that will match up with a clear coat . need to replace some slats on seat.

Amy Phelps

Hello. I’ve recently acquired this beautiful side board (dated approximately 1910-1915). I’m going to bring it back to life and I’m wondering what type of wood it is. Oak, Cherry? Also, what stain would you recommend for restaining the top and mirror area.
Thank you.

Amanda Berger

I am trying to find out what kind of wood my headboard is.. Any help would be appreciated.

Jason

From what I can tell from this picture it looks like walnut

Donna Smolinski

I am thinking of using White Oak in lieu of Cypress for rebuilding my exterior porch railing. I know that White Oak can be stained, but can it be painted to a nice smooth finish?

Silas Jura

Cypress has excellent rot resistance and will hold up much better in exterior conditions but to answer your question: Oak in general is not a very friendly wood to paint if you are looking for a smooth surface. The grains are very open and porous so you will still see the graining even after being painted. Hard Maple is a much better wood if you are looking for a smooth finish paint job and it is just as strong as White Oak. Make sure it is Hard Maple as there are soft maple woods as well. The other option if… Read more »

ORO Woodworks

White oak is not difficult to paint to a smooth finish, so long as it is well sanded. It doesn’t absorb the paint nearly as much as red oak, as its grain is MUCH tighter. But, that said, I would suggest not painting high quality expensive hardwoods in general — you’re covering up half of what you are paying for. Softwoods actually tend to expand less than hardwoods due to moisture exchange, which is one of the reasons they are used often in exterior builds. Plus, they tend to be less expensive, and paint easily. You’ll likely pay $5.50+ per… Read more »

Rickey Bryan

How stable would true American white oak be in instruments, such as guitar body’s? It seem to have a high shrinkage rate, but if it is quarter swan would or will that apply assuming that it has been properly dried?

jody frenzel

Fantastic writing ! Apropos , if your business requires a IRS 4868 , my business partner filled out a sample version here https://goo.gl/jyjFyS.

Mario Cargol

I always found the same but i think is just because the grain sometimes has ondulations. If you peel the bark of a holm oak(quercus ilex) you will see it more clearly. Those parts seem to have bad grain but they never gave problems to me when doing steam bending of kayak ribs ;)

D

So…. Isn’t “Quercus Alba” actually the Japanese white oak?
This articles says its from the US. Is all white oak lumped into a
generalized category?