white oak for outdoor furniture.

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Forum topic by michael crawford posted 04-27-2010 03:19 PM 20210 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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michael crawford

19 posts in 3491 days

04-27-2010 03:19 PM

a lady i work with wants me to recreate some antique porch swings for her. ive been thinking about her requestes of strong, durable, and mostly maintenance free. i was thinking white oak would fit the strong and durable, but not the mainenance. then cypress, but thats not strong. nor is cedar. so that lead me back to white oak.

anyway, can white oak live outdoors in NC with minimal maintenance?


15 replies so far

View skeeter's profile


233 posts in 3795 days

#1 posted 04-27-2010 03:27 PM

I would go with mahagony. There has to be a dealer in charlotte with it. Its probally on par in price as WO

-- My philosophy: Somewhere between Norm and Roy

View CharlesNeil's profile


2496 posts in 4325 days

#2 posted 04-27-2010 03:42 PM

White oak is an excellent exterior wood, it ranks right up there with cypress , the only thing I know of that is stronger and does well in outdoor environments is IPE , white oak left natural will grey , a seasonal washing with some clorox in a 50/50 mix with water will restore it ,but I would use a good exterior oil like general finishes exterior oil , or a pure tung oil, ( tung oil will dry slow), a film finish will still allow the greying, you can also check to see what your local suppliers are using for cedar siding and roofs.. and that will work as well.
here in the mountains of Virginia , we have what are called “pig fences” , they are basically a low split rail fence that were built a hundred or more years ago, they are white oak, they are grey , covered in moss , if there is some sap wood it may have decayed some what, but you scrape away the ugly and they are still sound and solid…

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3523 days

#3 posted 04-27-2010 03:45 PM

Can you get IPE in your area? I used it when I rebuilt these garden benches a few months ago and it looks great. I left it unfinished, and I’m told that it should stand up to weather for many years.



-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3529 days

#4 posted 04-27-2010 04:37 PM

I built an ipe deck 12 years ago and I have made all of our outdoor furniture out of ipe. It is a great outdoor wood (if you can get it).

Regarding white oak – - Many years ago a lot of farm equipment was made with white oak because it held up for the long term in the weather. I have an antique horse drawn plow that we use as a decorative accent in the yard. It’s at least 80 years old and the handles (made of white oak) are still pretty solid. If I had a couple of horses I could still plow with it today.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1610 posts in 4013 days

#5 posted 04-27-2010 04:51 PM

I’ll jump on the Ipe bandwagon (also called Brazilian Walnut). It’s great for outdoor furniture, and has a dark, rich color and may not even need to be finished. It’s readily available at hardwood flooring suppliers. If I ever build us patio furniture, it’ll be Ipe. One caution, the sawdust is pretty hazardous, so use dust collection and a mask. The bistro table in my projects is made of Ipe.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4242 days

#6 posted 04-27-2010 06:20 PM

I have used White Oak for several outdoor projects over the past 7 years and they are all still in great condition. There is very little maintenance required. We get the heat and humidity in Maryland that you get in NC just not as long so I think it is safe to say that you would do ok with the species. White Oak’s pores are filled with tyloses which acts as a water repellant. Most wine barrels are made with White Oak for this reason. I think this is the best domestic outdoor wood. There is no question that the tropical species are even more rot and water resistant, but you can’t beat white oak as a North American option. Think of it this way, most our this country (and England) was built on White Oak.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View tbone's profile


286 posts in 4139 days

#7 posted 04-27-2010 06:56 PM

The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides)—white oak
Old pickup truck beds—white oak.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

View mpmitche's profile


428 posts in 3431 days

#8 posted 04-28-2010 04:59 AM

One word. Teak

-- Mike, Western New York

View Brian's profile


79 posts in 4166 days

#9 posted 04-28-2010 11:38 AM

“One word. Teak”

Translation = lots and lots of money.


View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4348 days

#10 posted 04-28-2010 12:31 PM


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4460 days

#11 posted 04-28-2010 12:31 PM

The only drawback to white oak is its weight. Think about Spanish Cedar which i like to call the poor man’s mahogany :)

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View CharlesNeil's profile


2496 posts in 4325 days

#12 posted 04-28-2010 02:18 PM

Spanish cedar is an excellent exterior wood , but personally think it too soft for a swing or anything else that has to bear weight, its like you said its very similar to mahogany in density , a bit light for chairs and swings… I have repaire more mahogany chairs than other species… just too soft.. for structural components , basicall like white pine… just my opinion

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 3527 days

#13 posted 04-28-2010 02:22 PM

I have access to copius ammounts of white oak AND cyprus!

Got to admit it: White oak is an awesome exterior wood that weathers great! It is extremely heavy, though. And it can be somewhat unforgiving to work with.

Cyprus is very light weight and easy to work. However, it is not nearly as hard as white oak, but it does ding up if roughly treated. It takes paint much better than most, if not all, other natural woods.

View stefang's profile


16711 posts in 3789 days

#14 posted 04-28-2010 10:52 PM

I find White Oak a pleasurable wood to work with. It machines very well and is very smooth right off the planer. I haven’t worked with Ipe’ but I understand it is about the best outdoor wood around. Since they are both good choices I would choose on the basis of color and what kind of grain you think appropriate for the job. A good marine varnish is the best finish for both. Good luck with your project.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View joseph000's profile


346 posts in 2481 days

#15 posted 11-16-2012 11:50 AM

hi dear,
Oak is commonly used in furniture making. Both red and white varieties are strong, with hardness grade of 4 on the same scale, although they are still easy to work with. Also, it has a ray flake pattern when cut, making it a beautiful material for furniture. White oak is preferred by woodworkers for outdoor furniture because of its resistance to moisture and its attractive figure.

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