In the world of woodworking, oak and acacia are two types of wood that command a lot of respect. They are both highly durable and versatile woods. It is worthwhile to know a bit about both these types of wood, how to identify them and use them.
Acacia and oak are two robust types of hardwood that make good furniture and serve several other purposes. Acacia is lighter than oak and often makes an effective substitute for teak. We use it mostly for furniture and in the construction industry. Oak has some unique uses in the tannery and brewery industries.
Oak vs Acacia
Here is a hardwood that comes from a deciduous tree, which means that in autumn, oak sheds its leaves. It belongs to a group of over 600 species. The seeds of the oak tree are acorns, mostly inedible to humans, but safe for consumption by animals like squirrels.
This wood is synonymous with strength and solidity, which gives rise to the analogy “As solid as oak.” Oak plays a particularly prominent role in making furniture, wall panels, and flooring.
Acacia is so old that scientists have found some acacia species in fossil form that date back to 20 million years. We also call acacia “wattle” which means “to weave.” The word comes from the period in 700 CE when people used acacia to make baskets.
Acacia is a good-looking wood, and its durability makes it suitable for making furniture, flooring, and other various wooden items. It is an extremely tough and strong wood, estimated as being 23% harder than oak wood.
Oak has a long growing time, thereby restricting the supply of harvestable oak trees. Although not prohibitive, oak is a wood that is more expensive than many other types of wood. The lumber is strong, dense, and extremely solid, making it a preferred choice for flooring and heavy furniture.
You will find red oak growing in the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada, and white oak in the eastern region of the United States. Red oak trees grow up to 115 feet with tree trunks up to 6 feet in diameter.
If you want to get the best out of oak, you should use a clear lacquer or semi-transparent stain. It enhances the fine grain patterns of the wood. You will seldom find painted oak wood.
The beautiful grain patterns and dark texture is the distinguishing feature of oak wood. It is a highly durable type of wood that resists moisture to a reasonable extent.
Acacia belongs to a genus of almost 1,000 species and it has defied standardization of its classification over the years. It remains a broad term that traders allude to many types of wood.
Acacia trees grow in Africa, Asia, Australia, some Pacific islands, and the United States. As mentioned above it is a large and diverse genus with hundreds of species.
Some acacia species weigh less than black cherry such as mangium (Acacia mangium). Others like waddywood (Acacia peuce) are among the hardest and heaviest woods that you can find.
Oak vs Acacia: Appearance
Oak comes in a variety of colors. But rather than the color, it is the grain pattern that sells this wood. You will not find two planks of oak wood with an identical grain pattern. It ushers in some interesting possibilities while finishing the wood. The beauty of the wood is further enhanced by its natural golden color.
Acacia has a medium to dark brown heartwood with a clearly demarcated heartwood. You will also see figured patterns in the wood grain. The Australians call this pattern “ringed.”
Oak vs Acacia: Durability
Since oak trees take hundreds of years to grow, it results in a highly durable form of lumber. If you apply a suitable finish and wood sealer to oak wood, you can further enhance its durability.
Acacia is among the toughest, most durable, and strongest woods in the world. In the olden days, people used acacia for building boats and ships. The hard, dense wood has a fairly high resistance to moisture, which makes it suitable for outdoor use, for making decks and patios.
Oak vs Acacia: Maintenance
Oak is a wood that is straightforward to maintain. You just need to wash it with soapy water and rinse it well later on. A regular practice for maintaining oak is to strip off the finish and replace it every few years.
Although acacia is an outdoors wood, you will have to do a bit of maintenance to it every so often for the best results. The steps for maintaining acacia furniture are simple and you can use commonly available household cleaning gear. You can apply some boiled linseed oil (BLO) or tung oil after cleaning and drying the wood to enhance durability.
Oak vs Acacia: Workability and Uses
Oak is a dimensionally-stable wood and will warp or crack easily. It responds well to machine and hand tools. A particular drawback about oak is that iron reacts with the wood, especially when wet. The resultant rust can permanently scar the wood. So, you need to keep oak wood with nails and screws in it away from moisture.
Oak responds well to steam bending. It accepts glue well and oak finishes and stains are some of the best you can find in the field of woodworking. Needless to say, it makes good furniture, wall panels, and flooring.
A specialty property of oak is that it is sought-after for making whiskey barrels. The wood imparts a unique flavor to the whiskey. The tannin content of oak makes it useful in the tannery industry. White oak has medicinal uses, and Japanese oak makes professional drums.
When freshly cut, acacia is an extremely flexible wood. It makes it a suitable candidate for making elaborate furniture parts. Because most species of acacia are not overly hard, you can cut the wood easily using hand and machine tools.
The wood is dimensionally stable which means that it will not easily warp or crack and the shrinkage percentage is minimum. However, keep acacia wood away from water and moisture when you can.
Oak vs Acacia: Price
Oak takes a long time to grow which reduces the availability of this prized wood. The high density and weight of the wood make it a challenge to transport. These factors contribute to making oak expensive. Some imported species can be quite expensive.
Acacia grows almost everywhere in the world and across the United States. Some countries like Australia consider it an invasive species. The wide availability of acacia makes it a cost-effective and durable wood for both indoor and outdoor applications.
Oak vs Acacia: Sustainability
You need to be a bit cautious while procuring oak, especially with the lumber imported from Europe. It should be FSC-certified. If not, you may end up buying oak that has been poached.
Acacia grows abundantly and is not on any of the lists of endangered woods.
Oak vs Acacia: Any other characteristics
Oak has the distinction of making excellent whiskey barrels. The wood imparts a unique flavor to the whiskey. It is also popularly used in the tanning industry for processing leather.
Acacia does not have any unique properties like oak.
Oak vs Acacia: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||Quercus rubra||No standard classification|
|Color||Light to medium brown with a reddish tint||Medium to dark brown|
|Durability||Highly durable||Highly Durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,220 lbf.||1,430 lbf. to 4,630 lbf.|
|Strength||Extremely strong||Strong to extremely strong|
|Maintenance||Less maintenance than many other types of wood||Low maintenance|
|Price||Expensive to highly expensive||Inexpensive|
|Suitability for outdoors||No||Yes|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Availability||Abundantly available||Abundantly available|
|Special features if any||Used in the tannery and brewery industries||No special features|
Oak and acacia are two hardy varieties of wood that you can use in your woodworking projects. If you want a high-end and classic look, oak is a good choice. But make sure that you procure FSC-certified wood.
On the other hand, you could consider acacia as a cheaper alternative to oak. Although you may achieve a fairly decent finish on acacia as well, it may not match the classic elegance of oak.
So, ultimately, you have to balance looks and affordability. With the information we have provided here, you can make a suitable choice where to use either of these types of wood for your next woodworking project.