Is oak a softwood or hardwood?


oak tree

This blog post explains, is oak wood hardwood or softwood?

Your first step should be to understand what hardwood and softwood are before you find out the truth about the oak. As with no knowledge will leave you in a space where it will be difficult for you to catch the fact.

A common belief among people is that softwood is what is soft to touch, and hardwood is what feels hard to touch. This is actually completely off-base saying as every wood feels hard to touch.

And considering the strength factor. Some hardwoods such as species of balsa wood are softer than many softwoods such as fir, pine, and spruce. Killing the doubt every hardwood has a lot of strength. In fact, softwoods can have much more strength than hardwoods.

So, the term softwood and hardwood is described based on certain factors. For example, reproduction, density (sometimes), structure, and appearance. Also, the main difference lies in their seeds and the shape of the leaves.

So, understating these factors will help you understand better whether a wood tree belongs to softwood or hardwood.

Hardwoods: 

All hardwood trees grow broad leaves that change color according to seasons and fall off. In Every spring season, new and fresh leaves are born that later follow the circle of life. 

Flowers are identical property to tell if a tree belongs to hardwood or not. And their seeds are enclosed in either a hard shell or soft skin, for example, an acorn produced by oak wood has a seed inside, enclosed in its shell-like walnut or cherry.

All trees that produce fruits with enclosed seeds, such as cherry, almond, are typically hardwood. 

Softwoods:

Softwoods are botanically termed as coniferous trees, their leaves remain evergreens all-around a year that keep their foliage. 

These trees have either needles or scale-like leaves, shaped like a long needle.

Unlike deciduous trees, their seeds are open, meaning no skin or shell is there to protect them. Resulting in much more production per area as when the seeds fall into the soil, a new tree is born without self-growing.

Common coniferous trees include pine, cedar, spruce, fir, and juniper.

Why is oak hardwood?

Since there are more than 500 subspecies of oak, we’re talking about the most common ones; red oak and white oak. All the below properties are true for both. 

Enclosed pores:

Structure-wise, the oak trees have tiny and much more closed pores. A property of hardwoods that makes them more resistant to water than softwoods like pinewood, with open pores that absorb water.

Slow-growth:

The slow growth of the oak trees is evidence of why this can belong to the hardwood species. 

Their growth rate is about 12” to 15” per year, meaning that it takes 80 to 100 years to become a mature tree. In contrast, most softwoods, like pinewoods take around 30 to 40 years to reach a height of 20 feet under general conditions.

Angiosperm:

Oakwood trees have angiosperm seeds. According to studies all trees that produce angiosperms seeds are categorized as hardwood.

Produce flowers:

All angiosperms trees produce flowers, and seeds are covered in a shell. Oak trees follow this same phenomenon, and studies say these characters made a tree hardwood.

Hard density:

Hardwoods tend to have much more density than many softwoods. Similarly, the oak wood has a density of 0.59-0.90 g/cm3, twice more than pinewood, fir, or spruce. 

However, the harder density of wood cannot alone describe their belongings. For example, few hardwoods are out there such as balsa wood which is softer and one of the least denser. 

Shed their leaves:

All hardwood trees shed their leaves once a year and grow new leaves in spring. Oak trees do the same, they shed their leaves when their color gets faded away. Then born new leaves.

Broadleaves:

One of the botanical properties that present oak wood trees hardwood is their shape of leaves. Oakwood trees produce broad leaves that later become flowers, this is a hardwood property.

About oakwood

Tropical hardwoods like oakwood grow in tropical climates. Originally from the Northern Hemisphere, oak is native to North America, Asia, North Africa, and Europe. 

Therefore, North America has the most species of Oak, while China ranks second. 

In India, oak forests make up a significant portion of the Pir Panjal Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, according to studies held by Jazib and Rather in 2015.

The use of oakwood in construction dates back hundreds of years. It takes 150 years for oak trees to produce wood that can be used for construction.

 There are more than 600 species of oak wood.

The popular species of oak wood are as follows:

  • Red Oak
  • White Oak
  • Chestnut Oak
  • Scarlet Oak
  • European Oak
  • Bur Oak
  • Willow Oak
  • Pin Oak

Properties of oak wood

The following properties are taken from this blog post: reference- https://gharpedia.com/blog/guide-on-oak-wood-strong-and-durable-hardwood/

Color: Oakwood comes in a wide variety of colors, from light beige to brown and red. The color of white oak wood is light brown, while the color of red oak wood is pinkish and reddish. As oakwood ages and is exposed to oxygen and ultraviolet light, it may darken slightly. Oakwood has a random texture and straight grain.

Hardness:

Hardness is a measure of wood’s resistance to denting and wear. Measured by a scale known as Janka hardness used to test the hardness of wood.

According to studies held by the US agriculture department. 

  • Janka hardness of oak wood is about 4900 Newtons, while red oak has Janka hardness of 4700 Newtons, which is fairly higher than that of Walnut and Cherry. J

Rot Resistance:

  • Oakwood is a good resistant to rot, getting fungus, and infected by insects due mainly to the natural odor it has.

Workability:

  • Oakwood works well with both hand tools and machine tools and finishes well when carved. You can bend it and glue it very easily, making it an excellent material for furniture.

Odor:

  • Oakwood has a peculiar smell, which is common to all species of Oak. The smell also helps the termites away, and the furniture of oak also smells quite nice naturally.

Water Resistance:

  • Oakwoods are well resistant to water, ideal for making boats and outdoor furniture. Although in different species of oak the absorption property might be different, for instance, the white oak resists water more effectively than red oak.

Maintenance and Cleaning:

  • Keeping it clean is easy and it requires little maintenance for the furniture made of oak wood. The material is harder and denser, ensuring that scratches and dents don’t ruin the surface. And with finishing, the furniture can become more long-lasting.

Heavy: 

  • Oak is durable and harder due to its increased weight. The weight of oak per cubic foot ranges between 37 and 56 pounds, whereas pine’s weight ranges between 22 and 35 pounds. 

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