Oak: The King of Hardwood Furniture
by Lorena Benchis
Traditionally the King of British hardwoods, the English Oak is prized for its strength and durability. It has been used in the United Kingdom for construction, ship-building and furniture, for thousands of years.
Unsurpassed durability and strength...
Furniture crafted from oak has always been of a superior quality than pine furniture, because oak is stronger and more durable than a softer wood like pine. This means that oak furniture stands the test of time and can be passed from generation to generation, increasing its sentimental value. The patina of oak improves with age, developing a warmth and lustre not found on modern furniture. Oak responds well to carving, which means that additional details can be added to furniture to make them special and unique. As a result, oak is often found in places of worship in the form of magnificent rood screens.
Not your mom's oak furniture...
When you think of oak furniture you may first think of the heavy, dark Jacobean and Tudor pieces that can be seen in stately homes around the country. The oak has simply been darkened by time. Exposure to smoke and soot from the fireplaces, and years of beeswax mean that the wood becomes almost blackened. The result is an overpowering, almost oppressive piece of furniture that is incredibly solid and does not sit well with modern decor.
However, oak is not naturally a dark wood. Furniture made today from oak is much lighter and the grain shows up beautifully, making it very popular with today's householders. When you first cut into a piece of oak, a vanilla-like aroma is released and it is this quality which means that oak is prized in the wine-making industry to add vanilla tones to wines such as New World Chardonnay. On a practical note, oak is a good load-bearer, and is resistant to insect and fungal attack. This makes it a good choice for beams and timber-framed buildings. If you are purchasing timber, European Oak is the most environmentally-friendly choice, as opposed to oak grown in America or China, as it will travel less distance from the saw mill to your home.
So, next time you're thinking of buying new furniture - give oak a try. This is something you can pass down to your children one day and it will have so much sentimental value.