Is red oak going to damage my tools?

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Forum topic by Pendragon1998 posted 02-20-2014 11:20 PM 1223 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Pendragon1998's profile


72 posts in 1000 days

02-20-2014 11:20 PM

I just completed one of my first ‘projects,’ a bench top holder for chisels and other tools so they’re not rolling around everywhere. Compared to what many of you make, I’m sure it looks rough, but I guess it is functional, anyway. I made the upper and lower pieces out of red oak (sides in poplar), and finished it with danish oil.

I’ve read several places that red oak can cause corrosion of steel tools. Is this likely to be a problem for my chisels?

This is my first time really doing anything with red oak. I’m sure I did a hack job on the mortised and drilled holes for the tools to sit in, but wow, it was really splintery. My tools were pretty sharp, so maybe I took off bigger bites than I should have? Anyway, I split the top and had to glue it back. I was originally going to put in some wells in the bottom board to keep the tools for shifting so much, but after seeing how splintery the wood got, I didn’t feel that I could do a clean job of it. I’m not completely happy with the top, so I haven’t glued it up. I may just redo the top piece, especially if the oak is going to be a problem.

It seems like I have so far to go before I’m making pretty workpieces, but I doubt I could have done this two months ago when I started out. I’ve been working through the ‘dovetail a day challenge,’ but I’m unable to get out there every day, so this piece represents 12, 13, 14, and 15 :-)

10 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


3589 posts in 1145 days

#1 posted 02-20-2014 11:25 PM

Any wood that contains moisture and holds it against your tools can cause corrosion issues. Red oak is no more prone to this than any other wood, just as long as it’s dry.

View HerbC's profile


1570 posts in 2283 days

#2 posted 02-20-2014 11:58 PM

Red oak contains high levels of tannins. Tannins will interact chemically with steel, causing a black discoloration on the wood and the steel. If you have finished the tool holder with a good film forming finish, such as oil based varnish or polyurethane, it should minimize the chance of this happening.

BTW, nice work on your project. Keep it up.

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 1784 days

#3 posted 02-21-2014 01:15 AM

Totally agree with yeti…just depends on how moist your shop is.

give em an occasional rub down with some WD-40 or rust inhibitor of your choice and you should be fine.

I keep a small jar with WD-40 and a rag in it under my bench and give my tools a quick wipe down after I finish with them for the day. Takes a few seconds and you don’t even think about it once you get in the habit.

-- Steve

View bondogaposis's profile


3972 posts in 1775 days

#4 posted 02-21-2014 01:58 AM

You might get some discoloration from the tannin but it isn’t going to “harm” them.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View mahdee's profile


3468 posts in 1192 days

#5 posted 02-21-2014 02:02 AM

Yes, in the old days when I was young, all aspects of oak including the leaves were used for tanning hide. The brain of the animal made the best tanning agent; but why waste that delicious brain when you have oak!


View Grandpa's profile


3256 posts in 2099 days

#6 posted 02-21-2014 02:11 AM

I know they caution people about putting oak leaves on their gardens because it causes the oil to be acidic. This is probably what we are dealing with here. If you have a good coat of poly on the oak it should help prevent any discoloration.

View Pendragon1998's profile


72 posts in 1000 days

#7 posted 02-21-2014 02:18 AM

So, to be on the safe side, I should put something like a polyurethane over the danish oil? This is going to live in my unheated garage in Mississippi. I’m probably going to leave the chisels in there until I can come up with better storage option away from the dust.

View Gilgaron's profile


19 posts in 1009 days

#8 posted 02-24-2014 06:09 PM

Paste wax ought to be good enough over the oil if you’re worried

View shipwright's profile


7096 posts in 2222 days

#9 posted 02-24-2014 06:57 PM

A thin layer of cork or dense foam might be in order and would end the worries while saving the finish.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View NinjaAssassin's profile


629 posts in 1148 days

#10 posted 02-24-2014 07:26 PM

Well, you’re getting the answers from people that know so I’m just here to say…

You did a really nice job on that. I just finished a basic chisel rack from red oak and by the end of it, I had the same impression…it’s really splintery. It’s probably my technique and inexperience but it really didn’t cooperate at all.

-- - Billy

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