Continuing our series of different wood comparisons, the topic that we discuss today is teak vs acacia. The quality of your woodworking projects largely depends on the type of wood you use. However, sometimes the type of wood depends on the nature of your project. The wood you require may be cheap or expensive. You can also plan how much you are ready to spend on wood and budget accordingly.
In this post, we compare these two widely popular varieties of wood for two primary reasons. The first reason is that genuine teak has become rare and costly. If you cannot procure teak, there are several substitutes, and acacia is one of them. The second reason is that many unscrupulous traders sell acacia in the guise of teak. If you know the differences between the two types of wood, you will not fall into the same trap. So, let’s jump right in!
Teak vs Acacia
There are some fundamental differences between teak wood and acacia. If you can distinguish between both types of wood, you can be sure of getting your money’s worth.
Geography of Acacia and Teak
Acacia is a bushy tree that grows in the Indian subcontinent, and in certain African countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt. You can find acacia growing in almost all parts of India except in the northernmost and northeast regions.
Teak originates from Burma (today Myanmar). Primarily Burma was the only country from where you could get reliable teak. But due to over-exploiting, the availability dwindled until it became extremely scarce and an endangered species. Today teak cultivation and harvesting continues but in a more controlled manner.
Teak grows in many southeast Asian and African countries today, but the respective governments heavily control it. The Government of Indonesia even set up a corporation to ensure that teak is produced and harvested sustainably.
General Properties of Acacia and Teak
Acacia is a hardwood that is dense and heavy and has a smart outward appearance. The grain pattern may be wavy or straight. While the sapwood is pale, the heartwood in stark contrast is reddish-brown. Acacia has a more striking wood grain pattern than teak. Teak has a more subtle and lighter shade and grain pattern. Teak wood is much more durable than acacia, but furniture made from acacia is also quite long-lasting.
You can impart a smooth and subtle finish to both types of wood. The difference is that with acacia, you HAVE to apply a finish to allow for protecting the wood from weather and also from insect attack. Teak, on the other hand, produces rich natural oils that will protect the wood even if you do not apply a finish.
Strength and Durability of Acacia and Teak
Both teak and acacia are highly durable. Both types are heavy and dense woods and can have similar hardness values. The difference is that while the hardness of teak is around 2,330 (Janka scale), the Janka hardness value of acacia can be between 1,1100 and 4,270. So, you can get acacia that is softer, harder or equally hard as teak.
Now, it becomes obvious how easy it is to pass off acacia as teak. If you are very particular, there are a few ways that you can distinguish between the two varieties of wood:
How to Distinguish between teak and acacia
If you are looking for acacia and you get acacia, then all is well. But the problem arises when you ask for teak, and the seller gives you acacia, but you pay for teak!
Knowing how to make out the difference from each of these types of wood is useful. Because teak and acacia have so many similar properties, you can easily be cheated.
You have to discern the subtle differences between the two. As you deal more with these two wood species, you will be able to make out the difference easily. Take a look at the table below:
|Appearance||Straight grain||Straight to wavy grain|
|Smell||Distinct pungent smell||Smell on cutting only|
|Density (Janka hardness)||2,330||1,100 to 4,070|
|Price||Expensive||Much cheaper than teak|
|Suitability for outdoors||Suitable for outdoor use||Suitable for indoor use|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||A hardwood to work on||Easier to work on than teak|
|Botanical details||Tall tree||bush-like tree|
The Smell of Teak
Teak emits a distinct, pungent, resinous, smell rather like leather. It’s difficult to describe, but if you walk into a room full of teak wood, it is a smell that you will be able to relate to after some time.
You will see a straight grain pattern with teak, with very few knots. The pattern will be straight lines of light and dark brown. Although waviness does occur if the wood is cut differently, you need to be wary if the wood pattern is excessively wavy.
The heartwood of the teak tree is golden or dark brown. The sapwood is lighter in color. It would help if you asked as to which part of the tree the wood has been harvested. If the answer you get does not tally with the above information, then you have a right to be suspicious.
Traders often apply a stain to wood to disguise the original color. Ask whether they have stained the wood. There is no requirement to stain raw teak that you buy as timber.
Teak is Heavy
If you pick up a piece of teak wood, it should feel heavy. In time, you will learn to feel the weight of teak by picking it up and know what to expect. If the wood feels lighter than it should be, then you are probably holding some other species of wood.
Teak has a high percentage of natural oils that make it water-resistant. You can test the wood by putting a drop of water on its surface. The wood will not absorb the water quickly, thereby exhibiting water resistance. If you place a drop of water on the surface of any other type of wood, it will absorb the water much more quickly.
Testing Against Other Characteristics
If you look at the table above, you will see a few other parameters. You would have to check some of these variables against a sample piece of wood, like hardness, dried weight, density, percentage of shrinkage or dry weight, and other general characteristics of teak.
There are a few other parameters that you can consider. For example, acacia trees are much smaller than teak trees – they are mostly like overgrown bushes. But teak trees grow to great heights of up to 150 feet tall. So, if you see massive planks of wood cut from huge teak logs, then you can be sure that it is the real thing.
You can use teak or acacia for your woodworking projects and get equal satisfaction from either type of wood. However, if you want to be sure that you are getting what you pay for, you need to distinguish between the two species. By using the information that we have provided here, you can be sure of exactly what kind of wood you are using for your woodworking projects.