Two colors of oak?

carolyn53562October 27, 2005

I'm not a woodworker, but am building a house that will have a lot of wood work in it. We are building a prairie style house and will have quartersawn red oak cabinet in the kitchen and then regular red oak woodwork, staircase and doors everywhere else. My husband would like to use two different colors of red oak in the stair case and as an accent strip in the trim above doors and windows. Our kitchen cabinets, doors and primary woodwork will be stained a butternut color which is a medium brown color. My husband would like to use natural red oak as the accent color--as the spindles in the stair case and as an accent strip in the trim above doors and windows--that trim will be three stacked pieces. I've seen two colors of wood used together before, but it has always been cherry and natural maple or walnut and natural maple--I've never seen natural oak used as the contrasting wood with stained oak. Have any of you woodworkers ever made anything with two tones of red oak? Would there be enough contrast between butternut stained red oak and natural red oak to look good (i.e., so that color difference looks intentional and not like a poor staining job)? Thanks for your help!

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Using ontrasting wood of the same species can be a visually appealing technique. I've seen heartwood and sapwood of cherry or walnut used together and it looked very nice, in certain applications. My opinion is that the grain patterns of red oak are so distinct that staining different colors won't really offer much contrast, unless you go very dark vs natural. Of course that's just my $.02 and it's worth about half that in today's market ;)

Try finishing some samples of the woodwork and put them together in the environment they will be installed to see what they look like. Appearance is highly subjective and only you can determine if you like the looks or not. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 11:59AM
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Bill, thanks for the reply. Do you think we'd have better luck with white oak with a very light stain on it (to get rid of the green) than natural red oak? I really don't know much about white oak other than that the natural white oak flooring sample that I saw was lighter than the natural red oak flooring sample. We are using natural red oak for the floors, although I now wish that we had gone white oak with a light stain (but that cost more than natural red oak). We are stuck with stained red oak for the bulk of the trim (railing, baseboards, etc.) because our cabinets are already ordered and our doors are ordered and they are red oak. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 12:09PM
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White oak has enough of a difference in color and grain pattern that it may work for you. It takes stain a little differently than red oak as well, so you could give it a try. I agree that in retrospect, it may have worked out better to stain the white oak the darker color and leave the red oak natural or very lightly stained, but it still may look better than both pieces being red oak. Again, it's all in the eye of the beholder. What I think will look good may look terrible to you in reality, so try to work with samples before you make your final decision. HTH, good luck.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 1:56PM
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You can go with a red oak rotary stained and use a red oak qtr sawn for the inlay. That will provide more contrast. White oak is actually more brown naturally, while red oak is, red.. duh :) .. Also the size of the contrasting strip will make a difference, the wider it is the more contrast will show. FYI White oak is harder than red oak. You could also use Ash for the inlay, has similar grain to red oak but is whiter (more contrast) than red oak. Good luck ! And I agree with Bill, make a mock up first, actual size, place it in the area to be used. What looks great outside, in dim lighting will not look as good.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 9:34PM
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If you are leaning toward the brown color, hickory has it.
the grain is very similar to oak.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 6:33PM
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Although I'm not a woodworker, I still believe your husband may be right. For example, you could mix the "Red Oak, Natural" with the "6" Character Oak" shown in here:

And I guess they'll look great. Is that what you're asking, carolyn53562?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 6:59AM
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Might be kind of late for your project now, but if you want to stain a piece sapwood will take it better than heartwood in most species. If you still have the option of another wood I would try white ash stained. It has a bold strong grain similar to oak (especially when flatsawn), logs have a very large sapwood component so it is easy to find all sapwood pieces which will stain well, and it is usually cheaper than even red oak.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 11:58PM
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