American White Oak (Quercus alba)
American White Oak. Let me tell you there has been a debate from the word go concerning oak and which species is best.
The opinion will vary depending on what that particular joiner or retailer stocks. So, what do you believe? All I can say is I use both American White Oak and true English Oak for our handmade products, so I can tell you honestly in my experience what I have found.
White Oak found in the Northern Appalachian region is one of the finest Oaks on the planet. It is harder, denser and has a beautiful flawless grain than any other Oak. Believe me, we go through more cutters when using this particular oak and that is no lie – It truly is one hard timber!
For products such as our garden tree swings, personalised benches and Welly holders English Oak is the perfect timber, especially if they are to be used outside. We use English Oak for practically all of our wooden gifts and life style products like our personalised wine racks and engraved key organisers. It is a great timber, beautiful in colour and its very dense, but when it comes to world of constructing chopping boards, American White oak will give you a much better high-end quality product.
American White Oak varies enormously across North America depending on the local climate. White Oak trees are not great lovers of hot, humid climes, nor indeed frozen tundra. The ideal conditions are found in the Northern Appalachian Mountain Region of New England. Here, four distinct and relatively extreme seasons, certainly compared to the UK, provide the Oak with everything it needs to flourish at its very best. The warm wet spring provides a strong start to the growing season, the long hot summer solidifies that growth. A gentle autumn presents the most stunning ‘fall foliage’ which coincides with a hugely important aspect for the growing Oak; acorn production. Finally, a hard, cold winter shrinks back the summer growth and slows maturity, which gives the Oak its incredible strength yet beautifully delicate tight grain structure.
Our Oak comes from the very heart of this region. Our timber suppliers are members of the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI), so our Oak is certified as sustainable. In fact, this is not really the full story. The AHMI members are responsible for adding six billion board feet annually (one board foot is measured as 12 inches long, 12 inches wide and 1 inch thick). This is a net addition after annually harvesting 2 billion board feet. A new growth rate of 3:1 – This can not be classed as just sustainable, it’s even better than that!
The next vital aspect of the acquisition process is grading. We only use ‘FAS’ grade lumber. This is the top grade – FAS stands for first and seconds and is colloquially known as furniture grade – which is naturally the most expensive. This is the only way we can produce such amazing kitchen boards. After FAS come three more grades, one, two and three common. FAS is usually less than fifteen percent of an Oak tree, with two common providing the most at around forty percent. Most oak chopping boards will be made from a single piece of timber – which is very unstable! Mass produced kitchen boards made from American white oak will have a mixture either two or three common as there are so many defects in the bottom two grades. You will notice in such boards that the colours between staves will vary dramatically, size too, simply because not a lot of care and attention goes into mass production.
“Sell ’em cheep – stack ’em high!” Well not here! Hand selection and hand finishing will give you nothing but the finest quality and finish. Our boards are made to last well beyond our years!