It's a common misconception that oak is an outdated wood, relegated to the hard candy finish and chunky, heavy furniture of the 1980s. But the truth is, oak is a timeless and versatile wood that can be used to create furniture that is both beautiful and functional.
One of the key factors that determines the appearance of oak furniture is how the wood is cut. Quarter sawn oak, which is cut perpendicular to the growth rings of the tree, produces a straight, uniform grain pattern that is often prized for its stability and consistent appearance. On the other hand, plain or flat sawn oak, which is cut along the growth rings of the tree, has a more irregular grain pattern that can be more prone to warping and cupping.
While both quarter sawn and plain sawn oak can be used to create beautiful furniture, the key is in how the wood is finished. A thick, glossy polyurethane finish, as was popular in the 1980s, can give oak a hard, candy-like appearance that may not be to everyone's taste. However, by using more subtle, natural finishes, oak can be given a fresh, modern look or even an antique look, depending on the desired aesthetic.
It's also worth noting that oak is a dense wood, which means it can be heavy. But experienced furniture makers know how to balance this density in their designs, ensuring that the finished piece is functional and comfortable, without being needlessly heavy.
So the next time you're considering oak furniture, don't be put off by its reputation as an outdated wood. With the right techniques and finishes, oak can be used to create beautiful, timeless pieces that are both functional and stylish.