Quality of Southern Grown Oak

Though slightly different from northern wood, it's suitable for furniture. July 12, 2005

I am interested in finding out if white and red oak grown in the south (midwest GA) are suitable for constructing fine furniture. I have been told that due to the longer growing season in the south, the growth rings are not as tight as those grown in colder climates. Does this have an effect on the quality of the wood?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor E:
I live in south AL and have been using red and white oak for years in my shop. I've made just about any kind of furniture out of each, and have not had any problem with either. I also custom saw both for other people.

From contributor B:
I run full time near Andalusia in south AL, and cut, sell, and even use quite a bit of red and white oak. It sells fine for small shops - even cabinet shops love it kiln-dried. The problem I've run into is moving it in quantity to larger millwork shops. I guess it depends on the area in which you are selling and what they think fine furniture might be.

From contributor C:
Maybe someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I was not aware that tightness of growth rings was important in ring porous hard wood. Many times I have read that new growth hard wood (wider growth ring) is stronger than old growth hard wood (narrower growth ring). Also, the appearance in furniture of either is in the eye of the beholder.

From contributor L:
Southern oak is fine for furniture if it's dried to correct moisture content. If the moisture content varies by more then 2%, the southern oak will be more prone to splitting or joints opening since they are more dense and will move more then a northern wood. Just make sure it's dried to the correct moisture content with adequate moisture tolerances.

From contributor G:
Southern hardwoods are fine unless you are used to northern (especially oak). Here, southern red oak is referred to as Appalachian oak and interpreted as being available in long and clear lengths, but not as desirable or stable as northern red. The southern will work just as well and nobody but those with trained eyes will know or care about the difference. If you mix the two, a difference in color and texture will show an undesirable difference.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Southern oak has a lot more sapwood than northern or Appalachian. As the sapwood stains (fungal and chemical grey stain) easily, this means some loss of color in a few pieces. The rings are spaced further apart in southern, but this means slightly stronger wood. The color is often more red, especially in cherry bark (or southern red) oak. Often southern air drying is more rapid than northern, leading to more checking risk in the south. Southern white oak (lowland) does seem to check quite a bit more easily than other oak even at the same RH conditions.