Like the American White Oak, the European Oak is one of 600 different species of tree that belongs to the 'Quercus' family. There are actually 14 different types of oak that are indigenous to Europe, with 11 of them only being found in the more southerly regions of the continent; in countries such as Turkey, Greece, Italy, Hungary and Portugal. There are two types of Oak that can prominently be found in the UK, and those are Quercus robur – also known as 'English oak' or 'French oak' – and Quercus petraea – which is also called the 'Cornish oak', 'Welsh oak' or 'Sessile oak'.
Six out of the fourteen European oaks, including both of those found in the UK, belong to a sub-category called 'Section Quercus' and are known as White Oaks. Trees belonging to Section Quercus are characterised by their acorns, which will reach maturity in around 6 months, and also by their shells, which will have no hair-like follicles on the inside. The majority of the others belong to 'Section Cerris', and the acorns from these trees will reach maturity after approximately 18 months and the inside of their shell may be slightly hairy.
European Oak timber tends be light tan to golden brown in colour, with clear bands that denote its stages of growth. The grain of this type of planed all-round timber is generally straight, but irregularities such as small knots or cross grains do occur frequently enough for them to be expected. European Oak timber is a relatively hard and heavy wood, with an impressive bending strength and low stiffness.
Ideal when it comes to gluing, painting, sanding, turning, staining and varnishing, European Oak timber is the perfect material for DIY practitioners and woodworking professionals alike. It should be noted however that the wood from the European Oak contains tannins that react poorly when they come into prolonged contact with iron, steel and other ferrous metals. For this reason we would suggest you avoid using iron-based screws and fixings if there is a chance that they will come into contact with the wood.
So long as you take care of the wood and look after it in any way that you can, you will find European Oak timber to be a very hardy and durable wood. Its properties have made it a very popular material in the construction of cupboards, drawers, flooring, decorative veneers and – perhaps a little morbidly – coffins.