Not all Red Oak is equal
21 APRIL, 2013 BY JIM HILL
Red Oak is one of the most popular woods for cabinets. It's reliable, It's durable, and It's beautiful when used for cabinet doors.
But, not all of the Red Oaks are equally beautiful. There are many varieties within the Red Oak families and this discussion is limited to those more commonly used in the manufacture of Cabinets and Cabinet Doors.
I've also limited this discussion to those Red Oaks found in the United States and Canada. Red Oak is divided into three main growing regions, Southern, Appalachian, and Northern. Each of these regions can be further sub-divided based on the color and quality of the Red Oak that grows within the sub-regions. As a broad overview, Oak from the southern regions has a faster growth rate and tends to have the widest color range of the regions. Oak from the Appalachian region grows slower than the Southern Oaks with a color range somewhat more consistent than the Southern Oaks. The Northern Oaks are generally considered to be the highest quality. The Northern Oaks have a shorter growing season and therefore have a slower growth rate. The color is much more consistent, but the mill prices are higher than the Appalachian or Southern Oaks. The best of the best is a sub-group of the Northern Oaks which grows in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Red Oaks from this region are commonly referred to as Glacial Northern Red Oak. The growth rings tend to be very tight indicating the very slow growth rate, and the color consistency is exceptional. The color is a Light Wheat Color. This Glacial Red Oak has exceptional color and is what we use for new home Kitchen Cabinet Doors and for Replacement Cabinet Doors.
I've visited many mills in each region and most mills can supply limited quantities of Wheat Colored Red Oak by performing a color sort, but the wide color spectrum of Red Oak from the Appalachian and Southern regions makes color sorting labor intensive. Red Oak sorts from the Glacial sub-region is easy as the majority of the Oak is naturally Wheat Color, so the pricing tends to reflect the Grading Rules more than the color sort labor constraints.
Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts used in higher end housing tend to be made by local Custom Cabinet Shops while cabinets used in more affordable housing is more likely to be Modular Cabinets. The Modular Cabinet industry, for the last decade, has been hard pressed to match the costs of Chinese manufacturers and many have either move their operations to China, or just gone out of business,
Those Custom Cabinet Shops that supply custom home builders tend to supply a product that is noticeably superior to the Modular Cabinets. The most notable aspects of Custom Cabinetry superiority include more uniform and consistent color in the woods used in the Cabinet Doors. That is why CabinetDoors.Com uses Glacial Northern Red Oak in every one of the Red Oak doors we make.
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