“The” White Oak

This photo shows the color of fresh cut white oak on the left and white oak that was out for hours after cutting on the right.

Today, I was working on the large white oaks from the previous blog post, and I had a chance to snap a quick photo of an interesting phenomenon. On the stack of white oak lumber that I cut yesterday, I added some fresh lumber from this morning. It just worked out that I had two boards next to each other that clearly demonstrated a color change in white oak. This doesn’t happen in just any white oak, it happens only in “The” white oak, the one that is commercially sold as white oak.

You see, there are many different species of white oak in the white oak family of trees, like burr oak, swamp white oak, post oak and others, but none change color like “The” white oak. The change starts quickly after the lumber is cut. The wood goes from a tan color to a tan-pink or even just pink within an hour. However, don’t get too attached to the color because after the lumber dries for a day or two the color migrates back to the original tan color.

“The” white oak is not the only one to change colors after being freshly cut, but it is the only one where the color change is a key identifier. Others that change color include walnut, which goes from a green-brown color to a medium-dark brown color with no hint of green. Another one is cedar, which goes from a vibrant pink/purple to a medium-dark brown. The only other one that changes color like the white oak is ash, which develops a pink cast to it that then fades away in a day.

“The” white oak is in the white oak family and called white oak. This is tricky because it doesn’t have another name that clearly identifies it. For example, in the red oak family, the most desired species is called Northern Red Oak. But in the white oak family, the most desired species is also called white oak. I know that many people, including myself in the past, may be cutting a tree and wonder if it is “The” white oak. If it turns pink shortly after you cut it, it is.

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

One response to ““The” White Oak”

  1. dad says :

    It’s probably the same as getting “road rash” on you knee. Starts red and goes to black!

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