Teak wood needs no introduction. It is one of the most sought-after types of wood in the world. It has properties that make it superior to most other types of wood. Due to its huge popularity in the woodworking world, teak is also one of the most expensive woods and also difficult to procure.
Due to the scarcity and high cost of Teak, the natural tendency is to look for substitutes. Many kinds of wood come close but cannot match the superiority of natural teak wood. One wood that has similar properties in terms of durability and color is Eucalyptus. In this post, we compare the properties of Teak and Eucalyptus.
Salient Features of Teak
The teak tree (Tectona grandis) grows in the forests of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It enjoys great popularity due to its good looks and high durability, playing a prominent role in outdoor furniture. Due to its high demand, this wood is not easily available. Another plus point of teak is the natural oil that teak produces.
The natural oil of teak makes it fairly water-resistant and also resistant to insects, rot, and decay. Teak takes on polish easily, and the beautiful, natural grain of the wood gets enhanced by applying a suitable finish to it.
Teak is a fairly hard wood with a Janka hardness of 2,330. This makes it an extremely strong wood, and in combination with its weather resistance, it becomes suitable for beach and poolside furniture. On the contrary, most of the teak that you get today is likely to be new, and from plantations where it is carefully cultivated.
It is a misconceived notion that old teak is the only good-quality teak around. Due to over-exploitation, teak found its way onto the list of endangered wood species. Fortunately, governments stepped in to monitor its cultivation, logging and trading. As a result, it is available again today but beware of illegally smuggled teak.
Summary of Points
- Appearance: Golden or dark brown
- Durability: Highly durable
- Hardness (Janka): 2,330
- Density: 0.65 to 0.98 Kg/M3
- Workability: Fairly easy to work with
- Cost: Extremely expensive
Salient Features of Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is primarily from Australia but you can also find it in various other places across the globe. It grows fairly quickly and is relatively cheaper than most other hardwoods. However, eucalyptus needs a fair degree of maintenance to protect it from damage through moisture, and pests.
Also, you need to take care to cut eucalyptus timber in a particular way to prevent warping and cracking. After processing, you have to treat the timber appropriately. If you use a suitable sealant for eucalyptus, it can have a life almost as long as teak for a fraction of the cost.
Eucalyptus is a fairly easy wood to work with. The wood has a reddish-brown to creamy color that is pleasing to the eye. And, when you apply a suitable finish to it, it can look quite classy. It is quite an easy wood to paint as well.
Planks traditionally sawn from eucalyptus logs, that is longitudinal across the log, will warp and crack easily. It is due to the inconsistent stresses caused by the internal fibers of the wood. This difficulty can be overcome somewhat by sawing the logs radially.
Radial sawing creates more wastage and to saw the logs using this method, they need to be at least one meter in girth. For the trees to grow to a suitable size, it takes about 25 years, less than teak but still quite a long time to wait for the timber. These are the constraints of using eucalyptus for making furniture.
Although there are quite a few limitations on using eucalyptus for furniture, there are places in South America where woodworkers are producing a lot of fine furniture using eucalyptus wood.
Summary of Points
- Appearance: Reddish-brown to cream
- Durability: Fairly durable
- Hardness (Janka): 4,000 to 5,000
- Density: 600 Kg/M3
- Workability: Quite easy to work with
- Cost: Cheaper than many other hardwoods
Teak vs. Eucalyptus
Now that we have had a close look at each of these woods, let us compare the two to bring out the pros and cons of each type of wood. Both are versatile woods. As a woodworker, this comparison should help you to decide if you have to decide which one to use for a particular project.
Both teak and eucalyptus are strong and long-lasting woods and can make good furniture. But when it comes to comparing both, woodworkers prefer teak over eucalyptus. Teak has the advantage of a high mineral content which prevents the wood from cracking. The natural oil present in teak prevents rotting and keeps insects at bay even in areas of high moisture.
The above properties give teak the kind of agelessness that enables it to be passed down for generations. Eucalyptus also contains natural oils that help to prevent insect attack and damage through moisture. However, it is still less durable than teak and you may have to replace eucalyptus furniture after 25 years or so.
Maintenance and Care
Other than occasional cleaning for the removal of surface dirt, teak needs almost no maintenance. You can give teak wood a scrub with soap and water followed by a rinse with clean water, and the wood gets restored.
You need to give eucalyptus a light sanding once a year to clear the surface of contaminants. Over-sanding might remove the natural silver weathered look of the wood as a result of being exposed to the elements.
Use oil meant for teak and eucalyptus for prolonging the life of furniture made of these woods. Apply a thin coating of oil with a soft cloth once a year for best results.
Teak is a highly coveted wood because of its high durability, long lifespan and good looks. These factors have contributed to its over-exploitation and subsequent shortage. The result is that legal teak is a highly expensive wood that grows in plantations where thee strict control exists on its cultivation, logging and sale.
Eucalyptus on the other hand is more readily available. Although eucalyptus leaves are the staple diet of koala bears in Australia, there are enough trees to go around to satisfy our furry friends as well as ourselves. Eucalyptus also grows far more rapidly than teak. All these factors make eucalyptus a much cheaper wood than teak.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the authority that sets the standards for ensuring that forests are protected from over-exploitation. Particularly with teak, a lot of illegal trading goes on. Teak and eucalyptus grow on plantations that are controlled by the FSC, to meet the growing demand but preventing deforestation.
The FSC ensures that the timber that you buy in the market comes from plantations that meet the requirements specified by them. The main feature of such plantations is that they replant trees so that they replenish adequately those that they harvest. Always check for the FSC seal while buying lumber.
Finally, we come to the question – which is better, teak or eucalyptus. Teak is highly popular due to its durability and long life. Eucalyptus is also durable and if maintained properly can last quite long, if not as long as teak.
Ultimately, if you have to choose between teak vs. eucalyptus, the first preference would be teak. But you would have to consider two main factors here – availability and cost. If you cannot procure teak easily, you can go with eucalyptus, and similarly if you need a cheaper option or other teak wood alternatives.
Today we also get artificially produced teak such as FlexiTeek, which is also a great alternative to natural teak, which we discuss at length in another interesting post. If you are looking for durable wood for your woodworking projects, teak, eucalyptus, or any of the teak wood alternatives will serve you well. With the information in this post, we are sure that you can now get suitable wood for your next woodworking project.