When you consider furniture or home interiors, woodwork is what adds the finishing touch. You can always add class to your home by using wood furnishings. Teak is in high demand, especially for outdoor furniture, and is therefore expensive wood. If you want to use teak for your woodwork, procuring it can be a confusing task as it grows in many parts of the world and goes by many different names.
Genuine Teak wood, also commonly called Burmese Teak, has the universal botanical name Tectona grandis. Although teak wood comes from the same tree, it varies according to the region where the trees grow. The tone of teak wood can range from golden or medium brown, the grain is generally straight and the wood is naturally rot-resistant.
But first, let’s look at the different grades of wood that you can get despite where it was cultivated and the different types of teak according to region.
Types of Teak Wood (Based on Grade)
As a woodworker, you may be concerned whether you are getting genuine teak or not. We discuss the hazards of imitation teak in another interesting post of ours. Even once you get genuine teak, you need to be aware of the different grades, to get a suitable grade for your woodworking projects. Here are the three grades of teak:
Grade A Teak
It is the highest quality of teak that you can get. The timber of Grade A teak comes from the center of the tree, known as the heartwood. It is completely mature and has the highest oil content of all three grades.
You can identify Grade A teak by its golden-brown color. It has the highest resistance against the elements due to the high oil content. This grade of teak is extremely durable and stable, which means that it will not warp or crack easily. Grade A teak is the most expensive grade of teak. It occupies only a fifth to a quarter of the entire log.
Grade B Teak
This grade of teak comes from the sapwood, which is the outer and often green part of the tree trunk. It comprises a fourth to a third of the log from which it is cut. This grade of wood is lighter in color and has less oil content. Due to this reason, Grade B teak is less durable than Grade A teak. The wood has an uneven grain pattern and may warp and crack more readily.
Grade C Teak
Grade C teak is at the bottom of the ladder of the teak grading system. This timber comes from the outer sections of the tree around the region of the sapwood. The color is inconsistent and the wood is susceptible to damage due to its inherent softness. It is the least expensive grade of teak.
This grade of teak doesn’t contain natural oil, so it lacks durability and the good looks of Grade A and Grade B teak. Grade C teak will deteriorate rapidly even with protective coatings. It is only suitable for rough use, perhaps for construction purposes, or packaging material.
Types of Teak Wood
The different grades of teak that we have discussed above can come from different regions of the world. The quality of teak depends on where it comes from. So, without much further ado, let’s discuss the different types of teak that come from different parts of the world:
It is the costliest and most durable form of teak in the world. Burma teak grows in the forests of Burma and Myanmar. The trees are more than 50 years old and the wood is the highest quality that you can get. Burma teak has a golden-brown color, with a smooth texture and evenly distributed wood grain pattern.
Here again, is another old-growth variety of teak from the forests of India. It is on par with Burma teak in terms of its properties. This variety of teak costs more or less the same as Burma teak. Due to the over-exploitation of this form of teak, it is not available in the international market.
This is a variation of Indian teak and you get it from India. It costs slightly less than Indian Teak or Burma Teak. Although Banuywangi teak is quite strong and possesses the regular properties of teak, it does not have the characteristic golden-brown color of teak.
Dahat teak (Tectona hamiltoniana) is native to Myanmar. Although the number of existing Dahat teak tree specimens is unknown, this variety of teak is on the endangered species list. Dahat teak trees grow as high as 26 feet and with a trunk girth of up to 27 inches.
We also call Indonesian teak Asian teak wood. It bears many similarities to Burma teak. The timber is harvested after 30 years. This type of teak is of extremely high quality due to the suitable soil and weather conditions.
However, the quality of Indonesian teak is slightly less than that of Burma teak. Indonesian teak has a wider grain, high level of natural oil content and sound knots. It is light brown with a subtle grayish hue.
Also a native of Indonesia, Bojonegoro teak is one of the best qualities of teak produced in the market. Bojonegoro is a regency in East Java, Indonesia. The wood is golden-brown with a straight grain structure, although waviness may also occur.
This teak has a history of widespread timber smuggling. There was even violence between law enforcement agents and timber smugglers in the region. Today the situation is better and more controlled but illegal logging of Bojonegoro teak still continues.
Philippine teak again is an endangered wood species similar to Dahat Teak. It grows in the islands of the Philippines. Even though it is on the endangered wood species list, you can still find furniture make of Philippine teak, due to illegal logging activities. You should be wary of any such teak or furniture if you do not want to promote illegal activities. Dealing in illegal Philippine teak can result in criminal prosecution.
Thailand teak is regarded as superior even to Burmese teak. The forests where it grows in Thailand offer the best growing conditions for teak trees. Thailand teak possesses the best teak-like qualities like strength, fine wood grain and color. But you cannot easily find this teak in the market.
African Plantation Teak
This wood comes from plantations where the trees are harvested after 15 to 25 years. The wood hasn’t had enough time to produce sufficient natural oil. African plantation teak wood does not possess the durability of Burma teak or Indonesian teak. The color is light with a widely arranged wood grain pattern. The wood also contains several knots.
South American Plantation Teak
South American plantation teak resembles African teak wood in color, natural oil content and general quality. As the name suggests, it grows in South American plantations under controlled conditions. You will find it difficult to differentiate between South American and African plantation teak.
African teak wood is not teak but it is called iroko. It is a very stable and water-resistant wood but does not resemble teak in appearance. The grain pattern is straight and the wood free from knots. This wood also shows a fair degree of resistance to rot and insect attack. It serves as a suitable substitute for teak.
South American Teak Wood
Here again, is a variety of wood that we call teak but it is not – it is garapa. However, this wood is extremely stable and durable. It has a golden-brown color not unlike teak but with a wavy wood grain pattern. South American teak wood also makes a good teak substitute.
This variety of teak is also not teak but has the name of Robinia wood, better known as black locust. In appearance, Chinese teak resembles natural teak wood, and you will find it difficult to distinguish between the two. The advantage is that although Chinese teak shares many similarities with real teak, you can get it more readily and at a fraction of the price.
You probably never imagined that there could be so many different types of teak wood! Although we have mentioned all possible variations of teak, you may never get to see or use many of them due to their endangered status.
If you ever do get what a seller claims to be teak, use extreme caution and due diligence while buying it. You want to ensure that you have original teak. More importantly, the teak should come from a legal source. That said, teak although scarce, is available, and it will make some great-looking projects for sure!