As a woodworker, you are probably familiar with two types of wood – teak, and birch. Both types of wood are unique in their own way and find many applications in the world of woodworking. Here we take a closer look at teak vs birch wood.
Teak vs birch wood is an interesting comparison to make. If you look at either type of wood, you will see it being used extensively in construction, furniture, flooring, and a host of other applications. Because birch makes such good plywood, you may see it being used in combination with teak in many places.
Teak vs Birch Wood
Teak needs no introduction as we consider it the “king of wood.” Woodworkers the world over covet it for its durability, color, exotic grain patterns, and excellent workability. Although available in the United States, teak originates from tropical regions like Asia and Africa.
Birch on the other hand is a wood that is more restricted to Europe and the United States. It does not share the durability of teak but is easy to work with and maintain. It is moderately hard and makes good plywood.
Teak or Tectona grandis is native to Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Myanmar. The trees grow to heights of 130 feet and the tree trunk diameters reach up to 5 feet.
It has been used since the 7th century in the homes of wealthy people. Teak has also played a prominent role in building boats and ships since ancient times.
Humankind has exploited teak over the years rendering it an endangered species. Matters have come to such a head that many countries have banned the harvesting, production, and trading of teak. Some other countries have stepped in to control teak production and monitor the harvesting in a controlled manner.
Teak has a pungent leathery smell and an oily sheen. It is golden-brown or yellow. Many other types of wood resemble it. It is essential to know a bit about this fine wood if you want to ensure that you are getting genuine teak when you buy it.
Birch Wood: Background
Unlike teak, you can find several species of birch, from silver birch to yellow and white birch. As you may have noticed, many of the birch species are named after their colors.
The common species of birch that grow in the United States are white birch and yellow birch. Birch trees grow up to 100 feet with tree trunk diameters of up to 3 feet.
The color of birch is pale, whether it is white birch or yellow birch. The heartwood is typically dark brown. In its natural state, birch also resembles maple. It exhibits attractive grain patterns making it useful for building all types of indoor furniture.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Appearance
Teak has a straight wood grain pattern but you will occasionally see some waviness. It is golden brown or yellow but becomes dark with age. Teak has a smooth, oily texture. The color of the wood varies from the part of the tree it comes from.
Birch has a reddish-brown heartwood and a pale, nearly white sapwood. It doesn’t have a very attractive grain pattern but you will sometimes observe figuring and curling reminiscent of cherry wood. It is rather dull in appearance with an even, natural texture. Birch shows only a slight difference between its annual growth rings.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Durability
Teak is well-known for its durability and is considered among the hardest and strongest hardwoods. Its hardness, strength, and durability make it suitable for making outdoor furniture.
The high natural oil content of teak gives it resistance to pests and adverse weather conditions. For the same reasons it resists rot and mold adequately and can last a long time even without adding a wood finish to it. With regular maintenance, teak can last a lifetime.
We consider birch to be a perishable type of wood. It rots and decays easily if left outdoors. It is also susceptible to insect attack. So, we usually use birch for indoor purposes.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Maintenance
If you want to get the best out of teak wood, you need to maintain it regularly. When you apply an appropriate finish to teak, you still need to clean it regularly. It is also recommended that teak be refinished every few years.
You can easily maintain birch by using a stabilizer to stabilize the wood to get satisfactory results. Mild detergent is usually enough to clean birch. But avoid using stiff-bristled brushes as you may end up damaging the surface of the wood.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Workability and Uses
You can easily work with teak. However, there is an issue with the silica content in teak. The high silica content can be detrimental to cutting blades. While working with teak, you are likely to need to sharpen your blades more frequently.
Teak accepts finishes and glues satisfactorily. But the oily nature of the wood may call for using a solvent to wipe the surface before applying a stain, polish, or glue.
We use teak wood to make indoor and outdoor furniture, boat decks, cutting boards, veneer, countertops, flooring, and indoor furniture. It also makes doors, windows, door frames, window frames, columns, and beams.
Birch has a similar hardness to teak but is easier to work with by machine or hand tools. If the sections contain straight grains, you will find them easy to cut. However, you need to take care of the interlocking sections while machining the wood to avoid tearout.
Birch is best-known for the plywood it makes. We also use it to make boxes, crates, turned objects, interior trim, and specialty wooden objects.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Price
Today, despite efforts to cultivate teak in plantations under controlled conditions, it remains an expensive and scarce wood species. You can get more expensive and exotic wood species, but they do not come in the large sizes of teak.
Birch on the other hand is more budget-friendly, although figured birch can come at quite a high price. Regular birch is comparable to oak or maple but some of the higher grades of birch plywood can turn out to be quite costly.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Sustainability
Teak is a highly exploited wood species and its population has dwindled considerably over the last few hundred years. Today it is an endangered species in many countries due to its high demand and scarce supply.
However, an interesting fact is that teak does not appear on the IUCN Red List or the CITES Appendices. Nevertheless, teak is a highly-monitored type of wood. Whenever you procure teak, ensure that the wood you buy has been legally sourced.
Sugar pine and yellow birch are two common species in the United States. Both these species are sustainable and do not feature on the endangered wood species lists.
Teak vs Birch Wood: Comparison Table
|Botanical name||Tectona grandis||Betula alleghaniensis|
|Color||Golden to medium brown||Pale yellow|
|Durability||Highly durable||Not durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,070 lbf. to 2,330 lbf.||1,260 lbf.|
|Strength||Extremely strong||Moderately strong|
|Maintenance||Easy to maintain||Easy to maintain|
|Suitability for outdoors||Yes||Not suitable for outdoors|
|Suitability for wood carving||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Easy to work with|
|Smell||Leathery smell||No characteristic odor|
|Availability||Limited availability||Easily available|
|Special features if any||No special features||Makes excellent plywood|
Two diverse but useful types of wood are teak and birch. If you live in the United States, you are likely to find it difficult to procure teak. Although you can do almost practically anything with teak wood, there is no reason to be stuck on trying to procure only this particular type of wood.
Birch is less durable but similarly hard and dense. You can make reasonably-good furniture from birch. So, if you don’t have access to genuine teak, you can still do a lot with birch. Use either of these types of wood for your next woodworking project.