Red Oak Boxes

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Project by Carl W Richardson posted 11-14-2012 07:47 PM 3195 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Just finished these 3 boxes made from a couple of rough sawed red oak planks I acquired cheap and trimmed them with some scrap pieces of black walnut.. I’ve never used red oak before and I DON’T LIKE IT!! The grain and pores require a lot of grain filler to get a smooth surface and then you can ‘read’ the filler thru the finish—I used water based filler that wasn’t supposed to show. On one, I added filler before any finish, on another I added filler after a ‘wash coat’ of poly and on the third, I used a dark oak stain after the filler and put poly over it and that one shows off the filler more than the other two.

Any of you Lumber Jocks have any experience with red oak such that you can give me advice for the future (other than “avoid red oak”)???

-- Carl W Richardson, Tennessee Woodworker

11 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118296 posts in 4859 days

#1 posted 11-14-2012 09:12 PM

They all look good tome Carl. I think you found out what red oak is all about already ,it just might be the grain filler your using or stain if you want different results than you already have. But they look good from here.


View chadgr's profile


89 posts in 3494 days

#2 posted 11-14-2012 09:32 PM

They look great, good job man

-- Chad Griffiths Vist my Etsy Shop

View bigike's profile


4059 posts in 4571 days

#3 posted 11-14-2012 10:30 PM

They look good, I hear ya in the oak bit for me it burns so easy no matter what I do new blade , slow feed rate , fast feed rate , M/S the wood then trim a sliver off.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View DocSavage45's profile


9070 posts in 4125 days

#4 posted 11-15-2012 12:20 AM


Won’t use red oak when I get to box building. :-)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26997 posts in 4388 days

#5 posted 11-15-2012 03:31 AM

Very nice boxes!!!
On red oak, I leave the grain open!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Gunney's profile


14 posts in 3313 days

#6 posted 11-15-2012 06:24 AM

Very nice looking boxes.

I use quite a lot of red oak, but I never fill the grain. I guess it is just personal preference, but I like the texture. When I want a glass smooth surface, I use maple, pecan, or another tight grained wood.

-- Patrick, Mobile, AL

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

669 posts in 3484 days

#7 posted 11-15-2012 07:02 AM

Again, like Gunney, I have use a lot of red oak. I prep by sanding down to finer grades of sand paper. When I want a smooth satin finish, I apply two or three coats of Poly, then begin sanding between coats. The grain can be buried with enough coats. I never use filler. I also like to leave many projects showing texture. It’s wood, it’s beautiful.

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View Ratso's profile


1 post in 3301 days

#8 posted 11-15-2012 02:00 PM

Red Oak is a rare item on my build list. It’s a very porous wood, and as DeLayne related the best method to hide “most” of the grain is by NOT using wood filler. I tend to gravitate to Maple, Walnut, and the Exotic Woods; Coco-Bolo, Ebony, Zebrawood, etc.

Great looking boxes, Carl. I hope to finish up my garage so I can get back to the manufacture of quality sawdust!
As always, all the best,

View fhahnel's profile


1 post in 3301 days

#9 posted 11-15-2012 02:17 PM


Looks great!

I’ve used red oak a lot and I personally like the open grain.

Usually use a “Pre-stain Conditioner” from Minwax before staining and sealing with a topcoat.

View Boxguy's profile


2904 posts in 3550 days

#10 posted 11-16-2012 05:28 AM

Carl, first let me say that I really like your boxes. The variety and designs are great. Looks like you chose Venetian blinds for dividers. I especially like the rounded sides with the walnut feet. Congrads on a well-earned, and deserved “Top Three.”

This is what you don’t want to hear. Don’t use the filler. It is oak…let it speak and look like oak. Boxes that are so slick that they look like plastic don’t have much appeal to me.

I sand down to 800, apply a first coat of Minwax Tung Oil, lightly rub with steel wool, and then add two coats of Wipe-On Poly very lightly sanding each coat with 800 and going over rounded surfaces with 0000 steel wool. Last coat…Johnson’s paste wax applied with a steel wool pad and buffed with a soft cloth. I have pretty good luck with this method. Take a look. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View Carl W Richardson's profile

Carl W Richardson

79 posts in 3777 days

#11 posted 11-16-2012 12:53 PM

Thanks for all of the great comments about my red oak boxes. I guess I was feeling frustrated because of the heavy grain and open pores. Special note to “Big Al”, I will be using your suggested finishing method on my next red oak project. I really like the look you achieve with your projects.

There is a nearby Lumber Yard that sells rough sawn 2×8x8 red oak planks for $3 each.. I guess I’ll go get a few more and play with your ideas and suggestions. Hmmmmm, SWMBO wants a blanket chest. I wonder what it would look like in red oak..

-- Carl W Richardson, Tennessee Woodworker

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