Red Oak Lumber
Red Oak

Botanical Name: Quercus

Family: Fagaceae

Other Common Names: Northern red oak, Red oak, Gray oak, American red oak, Canadian red oak.

Uses: Furniture, cabinetwork, interior trim, and slack or “dry” barrel making and is often sliced into veneer for paneling and plywood.

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Red Oak

Distribution: This species is reported to occur in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, all in Canada. In the United States, it is reported to grow in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. The species usually forms pure stands and prefers moist, loamy, sandy, rocky, and clay soils. Northern red oak is reported to be a popular shade and street tree because of its dense foliage and good form. It is one of the most fast-growing oaks, is reported to regenerate easily, can tolerate the climate in cities, and can endure cold weather. Red oak is also reported to be planted as an ornamental tree in Great Britain.

General Characteristics: Northern red oak trees are reported to be typically smaller than White oaks (Q. alba). They reach a height of about 60 to 90 feet (18 to 27 m), with a trunk diameter of 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm). The heartwood is pinkish to light reddish brown or light brown. The wood may also show a pronounced cast of flesh color. The sapwood is whitish to grayish or pale reddish brown. The texture depends upon the rate of growth of the tree. Red oaks grown in the north are less coarse textured than the faster-grown red oak from the southern states. Red oak rays are generally shorter, narrower and darker in color than White oak rays. The grain is usually straight and open. Plainsawn lumber usually exhibits a plumed or flared grain appearance, while riftsawn members show a tighter grain pattern and low figuring. Quartersawn red oak boards often have a flake pattern which is sometimes referred to as tiger rays or butterflies. Grain and color variation is usually pronounced and is dependent upon the origin of the wood and the growing season in that locality. Upland red oaks, which tend to grow more slowly, generally have a more uniform grain pattern than lowland red oaks. There is no distinctive taste or odor.

Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) 0.64; air-dry density N/A.

Working Properties: Blunting effect on cutters is reported to be moderate. Red oak is hard, but it is reported to respond readily to sharp tools in planing to yield clean, smooth surfaces. Turning qualities are rated as good, and turned surfaces are generally clean. Although it is ring porous, Red oak is reported to have good boring properties. Moulding properties are reported to be very poor. The material is reported to respond readily to mortising, with very good results. The wood has satisfactory gluing qualities. The wood is heavy, and must be pre-bored. Screwing characteristics are reported to be good, and the wood holds screws firmly. The wood is reported to sand readily to produce clean surfaces. The timber is reported to be often used for steam bending. The wood has good staining qualities. Large pores tend to produce strong contrast in staining. Consistent use of a batch of either quarter sawn or flat sawn stock for a given project is recommended since prominent rays can render seams in edge-glued stock very obvious. A darker colored stain preceded by a light colored filler is reported to produce the 'lime' look, and high tannin content allows the wood to be treated with ammonia to yield a nearly black or 'Jacobean' finish.

Durability: Red oak is reported to have little resistance to attack by decay causing organisms and other wood destroying insects.

Preservation: The wood is reported to be resistant to preservative treatment.

Mechanical Properties

Bending Strength:

Green: 8,300 psi
Dry: 15,200 psi

Modules of Elasticity:

Green: 880 @ 1,000 psi
Dry: 2,050 @ 1,000 psi

Maximum Crushing Strength:

Green: 3,560 psi
Dry: 7,440 psi

Drying and Shrinkage:

The wood is difficult to dry. It dries rather slowly and requires care. Drying defects that may occur in this species include end- and surface-checks, iron stains, ring failure, collapse, gray sapwood stain, and honeycomb. Kiln Schedule T4-C2 is suggested for 4/4 stock and T3-C1 for 8/4. Shrinkage green to ovendry: radial 6%; tangential 11%. Dimensional stability of seasoned timber is reported to be moderate, and the wood is reported to exhibit medium movement in use .

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