Is 'golden oak' red, or white, oak?

dab07May 8, 2009

My brother has what I think is a Victorian era living room cabinet with a damaged top he'd like me to replace. It might be a reproduction, I haven't seen it. In any case, he's not concerned with maintaining its value, he just wants the color of the new top to match the rest of the cabinet. I need to know whether to use red oak or white oak.

He says it's "golden oak." Would that most likely be red or white oak?


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Unstained oak with a golden or beige/light brown tone using an oil based finish means white oak. An orange/amber tone means red oak. Again, this is for unstained wood.

White oak generally has softer texture/tighter grain (annual rings closer together) than red oak. Also, white oak lumber is generally more uniform in color (light brown-beige heartwood), whereas red oak has more variation between boards with pink, amber, straw, and light brown tones.

If you can look at the end grain of unfinished wood with a magnifying glass, white oak (Quercus alba) was little plugs in the cells called tyloses, whereas red oak does not. This makes white oak water tight for barrels. This does not apply to the white oaks species from Europe.

For new USA sold furniture, throw all of this information out the window. Rules allow the use of a "golden oak" finish description on any wood you want. Let the Buyer beware!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 1:11PM
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"Golden Oak" could be either - it's commonly used to refer to a color of wood, not a species. It can be hard to tell the difference between the two woods, but if you post a picture, close up and in focus, of the wood I could tell you which it is.

Paul Downs

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 3:42PM
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