Whenever the old song "Roll Out the Barrel" is heard, white oak should come to mind. In days of old, most of those barrels were made from this sturdy species. That's because the pores of white oak are filled with tyloses, a substance that gives the wood watertight and water-resistance properties. The name refers to numerous species with similar characteristics, all of which are woods worth singing about, especially when considering their natural beauty and good working properties.
Oak once had a reputation for dulling tools quickly, but modern power tools and machinery make it an easy wood to work today. Generally speaking, white oak offers somewhat less dimensional stability than red oak, but it is a relatively minor problem for both. Quartersawn white oak offers more stability than plain sawn lumber, a factor that played a huge part in its selection by Gustav Stickley for his Arts and Crafts furniture. However, quartersawn white oak is limited in availability and generally more expensive.
Beyond barrels, white oak is used extensively in fine furniture. Tannic acids, which protect the wood from insect and fungi attacks, make white oak a good choice for outdoor applications, too, where decay resistance is essential. Its hardness, strength, durability, and easy-to-finish nature have made it an enduring favorite of woodworkers.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com