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Understanding Oak

Welcome back to the mini blog series of ash, oak and walnut.

Last week we delved into interesting facts about walnut, and this week it's time to explore all things oak!

At Minerva Design, oak is one of three kinds of wood we can use to craft our handmade kitchens, and it's a favourable choice for many of our clients.

First, what is oak wood? And where does it originate?

Oak is a type of hardwood that comes from the oak trees native to the northern hemisphere, and there are around 600 species of them, both deciduous and evergreen. (Yes, you read that correctly, 600!)

North America is where the majority of oak is found, with around 90 species. However, the English oak, also known as Common or Pedunculate oak, is Britain's most iconic tree. English oak is a deciduous tree that grows up to 20-40m tall, is commonly found in deciduous woods in southern and central Britain and is known for its broad crown, sturdy branches and distinctive round-lobed leaves.

One fact that surprised me is that oak trees shorten with age to increase their life span, and it takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use in construction. That's a rather long time, isn't it?

Oak is one of the hardest and most durable woods that has been used as hardwood timber for thousands of years. Due to its strength and beautiful aesthetic, oak is popular with all woodworkers. It is commonly used for flooring, decking, furniture and joinery, which explains why we use it in crafting our handmade kitchens.

However, there are many other fascinating uses of oak trees which I've listed below:

  • Tanin, found in the bark of an oak tree, has been used for tanning leather since Roman times.

  • Acorns from oak trees have been used to make flour for bread making.

  • The leaves, bark and acorns from oak trees were believed to heal medical conditions such as diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.

With oak being a hardwood, the same as walnut in last week's blog, we don't use it throughout the whole kitchen design. This is because the properties of hardwoods mean they are more prone to warp and crack. Like walnut, we would use oak for the drawer boxes, frameworks and other smaller elements where it won't warp. However, the carcasses have a larger surface area meaning they will slowly distort over time, which is why we choose to veneer our carcasses. Veneering is a thin sheet of hardwood stuck to engineered material to create the aesthetic of hardwood. However, this isn't the only way how we can incorporate oak into a kitchen design.

Thanks to its hard-wearing properties, we also use it for kitchen accessories such as shelving and the ever-so-popular push-to-open chopping boards! Not only can we add oak accents to your kitchen design, but you have the option to choose oak for your worktop.

You may wonder how we can use hardwood for a worktop when we avoid using it on larger surface areas. We use a cupping technique where we alternate different hardwood sections over each other in a different direction rather than one large piece to avoid distortion over time. Clever right?

One fact I love about oak is that the shade of colour can vary slightly depending on the tree and branch, meaning it can create a more unique and interesting design. The attractive golden colour and beautiful grain of oak make it a firm favourite with many of our clients, and what is also really fascinating is that it is resilient to mould and fungal attacks!

Keep an eye out for next week's blog, understanding ash!

Thanks for reading,



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