There is no hard wood better suited for the use of the amateur joiner, in the construction of such articles of furniture as are depicted in the plans of this manual, than good, straight-grained, and richly figured oak, called quercus. There are several varieties of this valuable wood, some of which are more desirable than others. The oaks are widely distributed over the temperate parts of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America.
Quercns robur is both the most beautiful and durable of all the varieties suitable for joinery, but unless it is thoroughly air-dried and thoroughly seasoned by long exposure it is very liable to warp. We have known boards sawn from beams, taken out of houses more than a hundred years old, to immediately warp to a considerable extent. Thin boards are always liable to warp or twist before or after being dressed.
The colour of English oak is of a pale tawny or brownish-yellow colour; and when cleanly dressed it presents a hard, satin-like surface. When the wood has been properly cut across the medullary rays, a very beautiful display of silver grain is produced under the action of the plane. When very lightly stained and waxed or polished it presents a very rich appearance.
Vast forests of oak covered the greater part of England in the earlier historic period, and the timber they supplied was lavishly used in house and shipbuilding up to the Tudor period, when the forests had become so seriously reduced that an Act was passed during the reign of Henry VIII to enforce their preservation. The finest quality of this oak is now by no means common; and is much prized by carvers, especially for articles of church furniture: it works well under the carving tools.
The variety of oak known by this trade name is largely imported from Holland. It is of a pale buff colour, and is generally so cut ("quartered") as to display a rich silver grain. It is softer and more easily worked than English oak; and on this account, as well as on account of its fine figure, it is to be specially commended to the attention of the amateur joiner. For panels and any large flat surfaces exposed to view, such as table tops, it leaves nothing to be desired. Plainer wood is preferable for mouldings and surfaces that are much cut up.
(Qtwrcus alba). This wood, commonly known as "white oak", is largely grown in North America; abounding all over the eastern parts of the continent from Lake Winnipeg and the districts of the St. Lawrence to the shores of the Mexican Gulf. The wood varies considerably in quality, and this should be kept in mind by the amateur when selecting and purchasing it. Large quantities of this oak are imported from Canada; and it is easily procured in the market at a moderate cost. It is usually straight-grained, and even the best samples are comparatively poor in figure. It is well suited for plain work which is not much in view, such as shelves, backing, and linings. It is quite satisfactory for articles of furniture that are to be stained very dark or of any decided tint.
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