White Oak or Red Oak?

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Forum topic by Andre posted 07-22-2016 03:15 AM 1072 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Andre's profile (online now)


2201 posts in 2004 days

07-22-2016 03:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: oak

Refinishing a Desk for my Favorite Daughter and while I am sure is is Oak not 100% positive is it White or Red, any simple way of telling which is which? White color when dry but red tint when wet?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

20 replies so far

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 900 days

#1 posted 07-22-2016 03:28 AM

not an expert on it, but ive bought lots of red oak in the past rough cut you cant miss the red tint in it when its dry, I don’t think that’s red oak could be white but there are so many oaks, the experts are probly asleep now but they ll be back in the morning, Nice work by the way

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1100 days

#2 posted 07-22-2016 03:55 AM

white oak, 98 % sure.

View kiefer's profile


5621 posts in 2865 days

#3 posted 07-22-2016 03:59 AM

Take a look here
this may help and if there is a leaf left on the desk that may help even more .LOL


-- Kiefer

View Aj2's profile


1869 posts in 1996 days

#4 posted 07-22-2016 04:02 AM

Looks like white oak to me.White oak also has a very distinctive smell.

-- Aj

View BurlyBob's profile


5974 posts in 2463 days

#5 posted 07-22-2016 04:14 AM

I’m another vote for white oak. Check the end grain. White oak is much tighter and won’t show the holes in the dark rings.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


617 posts in 2135 days

#6 posted 07-22-2016 04:18 AM

cowtown eric also bets on white oak. Mostly because I am not seeing the openish grain pattern of red Oak. That’s my bet.

If it has been refinished before, there may be residues of a poplar finishing technique which used an underlying red dye (???dragons blood) as a basis for colouration.

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View rick1955's profile


264 posts in 1628 days

#7 posted 07-22-2016 04:37 AM
Sodium nitrite is 100%. Not sodium nitrate

-- Working smarter with less tools is a true crafts person...

View Andre's profile (online now)


2201 posts in 2004 days

#8 posted 07-22-2016 05:02 AM

Yup, Klaus first place I looked and thus the question, I was about 90% sure it was White and that the previous finish caused some confusion! Looking at some of the lumber laying around found a couple of planks of Red and white Oak, cut of a chunk of the White to replace some ruined pieces and looks very close! Rest of the story is that I had ordered 2 more 8/4 boards to build a Bible stand and book shelf for the Daughters classroom, these Kids get real expensive!
Thanks for all the confirmation.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Tabletop's profile


138 posts in 945 days

#9 posted 07-22-2016 06:39 AM

Wet with mineral spirits, if it has any red in it, it is red oak. White oak, where there is a color, will be a true brown, no red. Others may be able to make a educated guess based on the picture but I will refrain from doing so. Colors don’t show up well on this phone. Be safe.

View Kirk650's profile


576 posts in 946 days

#10 posted 07-22-2016 07:11 AM

In my view, the only way to tell the diff is that the red oak has open grain (tyloses?) and you can blow through red oak like it was a straw. A little straw, but it will pass air (or glue). White oak will not do that.

Color of the wood is not a clear determining factor.

View rick1955's profile


264 posts in 1628 days

#11 posted 07-22-2016 11:22 AM

I’ve given you the only fool proof method of a 10% solution of sodium nitrite in water to detect white from red oak. I worked in an antique lumber yard and the method is 100% perfect.

-- Working smarter with less tools is a true crafts person...

View bondogaposis's profile


5086 posts in 2549 days

#12 posted 07-22-2016 02:07 PM

Look at the end grain, the presence of tyloses indicates white oak, their absence indicates red oak.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View splintergroup's profile


2422 posts in 1420 days

#13 posted 07-22-2016 02:12 PM

+1 for Ricks sodium nitrite method. I’ve used it on suspect Oak and it indeed works as advertised. I’m not sure where you can easily attain some though.

I’ve had plenty of White Oak that looked like Red Oak (pinkish tint and/or open pores) and plenty of Red Oak that looked like White (bronze color and/or closed pores). The only two non-chemical methods that I’ve found to help are to take a thin end-grain slice and inspect the pores. Consistent open pores (not just a few of them) points strongly in favor of Red. The second method is looking at the grain, White has continuous grain ‘flecks’, Red’s are broken.

Hard to explain, see here

View Andre's profile (online now)


2201 posts in 2004 days

#14 posted 07-22-2016 06:16 PM

Not ignoring you Rick, will look for some Sodium Nitrite, as long as I don’t get put on some sort of watch list! Going to my wood guy today to pick up some White Oak so will take a the desk drawer to show him, he’ll laugh at me and tell exactly what it is! Rough guess is Desk is about 40 to 50 years old and never refinished before?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View rick1955's profile


264 posts in 1628 days

#15 posted 07-22-2016 07:24 PM

Sodium nitrite is a salt and an anti-oxidant that is used to cure meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs. Sodium nitrite serves a vital public health function: it blocks the growth of botulism-causing bacteria and prevents spoilage. Sodium nitrite also gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor.

-- Working smarter with less tools is a true crafts person...

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