Oak: how do you like yours?

Oak: how do you like yours?

Here in the UK, oak has had good times and bad times. A once proud and highly sort after timber has been put through the mill recently by companies who have sought to use oak to mass produce the cheapest, nastiest, most poorly built literally ever furniture. (OK, not literally, but nearly literally). I need not mention their name here.

But all makers know that oak is a beautiful timber. It is strong, good to work with, and can take a high lustre finish. If that weren’t enough, oak often comes with Medullary rays. Those spectacular light catching lines, cell growths, that run perpendicular to the trees own growth. It even has a high high tannin content. Just ridiculous!

And over time we makers have sort to exploit (in a nice way) all its amazing and often unique characteristics.

Fuming couldn’t be simpler, or smellier. You simply place the wood in a sealed space, like a fume cupboard, with a saucer of ammonia and watch its colour rapidly warm up and darken to a rich brown.

Ebonizing oak is a bit trickier, but starts with another stinky concoction of white vinegar and wire wool, turning the wood increasingly darker greys until you get close to black. Finished off with a black oil or stain and you have a very dramatic piece.

Finally, we have been scorching it, though we can thank an ex-Rowden student, Steve Coonick, for a few hints and tips. With a simple propane burner, let the surface flame up and go carbon black, wire brush the carbon off to give a light textured and finish with a black lacquer or oil. In the light the grain shines and the rays dazzle.

Amazing Oak.

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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