Is the official name for Red Oak Black Oak?

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Forum topic by JesseTutt posted 02-09-2013 04:46 AM 1326 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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854 posts in 2226 days

02-09-2013 04:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: oak red oak name of woods

I was at the woodworking show today and one of the two hardwood dealers that had booths was calling oak either White Oak or Black Oak. I asked him what Black Oak was and was told that was the government’s name for Red Oak.

Is this true?

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

6 replies so far

View shampeon's profile


1785 posts in 2299 days

#1 posted 02-09-2013 04:59 AM

Not really. Black Oak here in California means Quercus kelloggii, a beautiful tree with dark bark found in the middle elevation mixed conifer forests. There’s also Quercus velutina, which is Eastern Black Oak, but I don’t know much about it.

Both eastern and western black oaks are in the red oak group, which are oaks whose acorns mature over 2 seasons. The white oak group’s acorns mature in a single year. But for lumber purposes, red oak lumber is more porous than white oaks, and isn’t quite as flashy when quarter-sawn.

So the simple answer is that black oak lumber is “red oak” but not all red oak lumber is black oak. I have no idea what the guy at the booth was talking about.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View bondogaposis's profile


4925 posts in 2467 days

#2 posted 02-09-2013 02:17 PM

The government doesn’t regulate tree names. The scientific community uses latin names, where each species gets only one name, to cut through the endless maze of common names. Red oak is, Quercus rubra, western black oak is Quercus kelloggii and eastern black oak is Quercus velutina. All three are distinct and separate species. That is for trees, however boards are a different story. For lumber purposes the oaks are sold as either red oak or white oak. The red oaks can be from any of these tree species:
Northern red oak
Southern red oak
Scarlet oak
Cherrybark oak
Water oak
Pin oak
Black oak

The white oaks come from these trees:
White oak
Swamp white oak
Overcup oak
Bur oak
Chestnut oak
Post oak
Live oak

The white oaks have a unique cellular structure known as tyloses that give the wood it’s characteristic properties and is why the 2 groups are sold as separate entities.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View WDHLT15's profile


1766 posts in 2592 days

#3 posted 02-10-2013 03:20 AM

The hardwood dealer was not very informed. The responses that you have received are dead on. There is the Red Oak Group that is comprised of many species as Bondo notes, that there is the White Oak Group. The deal is that the wood of the various species within a group is not distinguishable as to species once sawn. So, wood is sold as either Red Oak or White Oak.

Black oak is in the Red Oak Group.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View runswithscissors's profile


2818 posts in 2141 days

#4 posted 02-10-2013 06:28 AM

In Wash. state, we have very little oak, except for quite a bit around Ft. Lewis (between Olympia and Tacoma). In Oregon, there is Oregon white oak. Whether these 2 are the same species, I don’t know. I do know that Oregon w.o. is supposed to be a desirable for boat building as the true white oaks (response to steam bending, toughness, decay resistance, etc.). So does anybody know anything about the Pac. N.W. oaks?

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2471 days

#5 posted 02-10-2013 08:01 AM

That rep is misinformed, they are different trees, black oak is rarely used for anything.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View WDHLT15's profile


1766 posts in 2592 days

#6 posted 02-11-2013 02:33 AM

Black oak in the South in the coves of the Piedmont can make a very fine red oak for sawing into lumber.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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