OAK, (Quercus). Of this valuable timber there are two kinds common to England, and several others to the Continent and America. Oak of good quality is more durable than any other wood that attains the same size; its colour is a well-known brown. Oak is a most valuable wood for ship-building, carpentry, frames, and works requiring great strength or exposure to the weather; also for the staves of casks, spokes of wheels generally, and the naves of waggon-wheels, for tree-nails, and numerous small works. The red varieties are inferior, and are only employed for ornamental furniture.
The English oak is one of the hardest of the species; it is considerably harder than the American, called white and rod Canada oak, or than the wainscot oak from Memel, Dantzic, and Riga; the latter, which are the more interspersed with the ornamental markings or flower, from the septa or medullary rays in the wood, are the least suitable as timber.
The wainscot oak of Norway is remarkably straight, and splits easily; so much to, that it is the practice of the country to bore a small hole in the top of the tree at the beginning of the winter, and to fill it with water, the expansion of which in freezing rends the tree from top to bottom.
Considerable quantities of oak are imported from Italy, Istria, and Styria, and they are considered to be of good growth and perhaps equal to the English in quality; they are used in our Government dock-yards.
The Live Oak is a fine tree, that is met with in the Southern States of North America; it is very different in appearance from the others, as the veins are small, and more evenly distributed throughout the wood: it is used in America, along with the North American red cedar, for their finest ships; it is considered to be durable when dry, but not when exposed to wet.
"The sea air seems essential to its existence, for it is rarely found in the forests upon the mainland, and never more than 15 or 20 miles from the shore." "The live oak is commonly 40 or 50 feet in height, and from 1 to 2 feet in diameter, but it is sometimes much larger." - Stephenson's Civil Engineering of North America, p. 181.
There is also a fine evergreen oak in the Cordilleras of the Andes.
An Asiatic Oak, Quercus Atnherstiana, (No. 341, Dr. Wallich's collection,) from Martaban, appears to be a fine dense wood, and as dark as our black walnut.
The African Oak is well adapted to the construction of merchant-vessels, but it is apt to splinter when struck by shot, it is therefore less used for ships of war. They are all softened by steaming, and are then much more easily cut or bent; the African bends less than the others, and is the darkest in colour, but it has not the silver grain nor the variegated appearance of the others, it is sometimes called Teak (which see).
Of the British Oak there are two distinct species according to modern botanists. The Querent Robur, sometimes called pedunculata, has acorns which are supported on long footstalks or peduncles; this timber is considered by some superior to that of the other species, Q. sessiliflora, but this probably depends on situation, as the strength and toughness of this kind, as well as its durability, have been proved to be great. Dr. Lindley says its wood may be known by its medullary rays or silver grain being so far apart that it cannot be rent, and this gives it quite a peculiar aspect.
Quercus Hex, the evergreen or holm Oak, is common to the South of Europe; the wood is hard, heavy, and tough. Q. Suber is the cork tree. Q. Cerris, called the Turkey Oak, is common in the south-east of Europe; its timber is ornamental, being beautifully mottled, in consequence of the abundance of its silvery grain, and is supposed to be often as good as any other; the Sardinian oak is apparently produced by it. The Wainscot Oak is supposed by some to be produced by Q. Cerris. Dr. Lindley considers it to be a variety of Q. sestiliflora, grown fast in rich oak land. O. hispanica, the Spanish oak, and Q. auttriaea, the Austrian oak, are found in the countries from which they are named; and Q. aegilops is the Valonia oak, abounding in Greece and Asia Minor, from which countries such large quantities of its acorns are imported into England. Q. Crinita is common in Asia Minor, yields excellent timber, and is employed by the Turks in naval architecture.
The American Oaks are numerous, but the timber of Quercus alba, or the white oak, comes nearest to the English Oak, and is largely exported to England as well as to the West Indies. Q. virens, the live oak, is confined to the southern of the United States, and is also found in Texas; it is said to yield the best oak in America, the timber being heavy, compact, and fine grained.
Q. tinctoria, dyers' or black oak, is best known from its inner bark being used as a yellow dye, under the name of Quercitron; its wood is strong but coarse. The other American oaks are inferior in the quality of their timber. Besides these there are Indian and Himalayan oaks: the timber of some of the latter is excellent in quality.
The African Oak, or Teak as it is also called, is not a species of Quercus, V. Teak.