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November 16, 2007
OK, Christmas is not that far off, and we all know what that means as woodworkers: We better get off our rears in gear and start making some gifts!
This time of year it's not uncommon to get requests from family members or close friends (or not so close friends) on what they would enjoy us making them for Christmas. I take this as a big compliment when folks do this. However, when they start asking for a particular kind of wood for it to be made out of, I cringe. I hold my breathe and wait to see what they say. Does this happen to you?
What's that one species of wood that you just don't enjoy working with? I'll be honest with you, the one species that I don't enjoy is OAK, particular red oak. I know, I know, it's one the most popular woods available to us as woodworkers here in the US. But I still don't use it unless I have to.
Here's some of my reasons for not using red oak very often: Red oak is hard as nails which is why it's equally hard on saw blades. The grain pattern is difficult to match when gluing up panels. I don't even like the way it smells when it's cut. And probably the biggest reason of all, it's used frequently in styles of furniture that I don't enjoy building. I'm not sure how you would even classify the "oak factory outlet" style of furniture. I do like mission style furniture, but red oak is usually not the species of choice. Besides, I like mission style with a twist, using different species of wood such as cherry or walnut.
So, let me have it if you disagree with me. And for those that agree with me, but have always been too ashamed to admit it, it's time to speak up! Let me know what you think!