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Author Topic: red versus black oak identification  (Read 28211 times)

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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2003, 05:00:19 AM »
I always specify the different oaks, and so do other consultants.  There is a marked difference in the quality of lumber coming from black oak vs red oak.  The same goes with chestnut oak vs white oak.  

In some areas, veneer will be bought from black oak, and others not.  They will not buy chestnut oak as veneer.  

Pin oak is a red oak, but I'd never pay too much for it.  The lumber is knotty, prone to shake, and it stinks.
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Offline woodmills1

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2003, 05:38:02 AM »
The original 60 acre portion of my land that I bought first is predominantly an oak forest.  From what I have gathered there was a fire that moved uphill from the northwest some 100 or so years ago, burning most of my acerage, but seemingly stopping near my southern property edge.  when looking at aerial photos this scenerio makes sense, as there is a definate difference to the south of my property line.  that is there are pines along my southern boarder but very few on my lot.  my land has not had any cutting done since the fire except for my own work and seems to be an even aged stand with many different diameters.  most of the trees I have cut show around 100 rings regardless of diameter.  in fact i have counted over 50 rings on standing dead trees that were only 6-8 inch in diameter.  the property directly to the north was heavily harvested some 8 years ago with large quantities of oak taken out.

to get to the point.

now that I live near this woodlot I have been out there to harvest many times  I see real northern red oaks with very straight boles and clear wood growing mostly on north facing slopes.  as I travel up hill and get near the crest the forest changes toward more gnarly and twisted shorter black and pin oak with just a few true northen reds.  passing over the crests I notice more cross species then more true reds untill i get to the bottem then again true reds on the uphill north facing slopes. I have only noticed this due to the many trips I have taken along the main woods road over the past year.

however the quality of the wood doesn't seem to be strictly related to the black/red idea, although I will say that most of the pin oaks are of poorer quality.  the following may sound stupid but it is true.  regardless of wether a single tree is black, red, or cross if it is good quality it is good quality almost all the way through, and if it is bad it is bad all the way through.  I think the quality, at least here in my forest has to do with competition.  much of my forest is very dense, with little or no undergrowth, and it is usually in those sections that the quality trees are found.  the only other generality I have found is that the ridge top trees tend to be poor and many blow downs are found there.

sorry for foaming at the mouth at length here, but I am amazed at how my understanding has changed since I have become much more familiar with the woods. I will add one more thing before I quit.  there isn't really a lot of elevation change, something around 100 feet max.  I own the highest point in my town at 515' and am all up on the hill, with the lowest point being the merrimack river at I think 350'
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Offline Jeff

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2003, 07:06:22 AM »
This thread and especially woodsies last post reminded me of the passage from Horace Kepharts book camping and woodcraft. I have posted it before but though I would again. Its a great passage.

All dense woods look much alike.  Trees of most species grow very tall in a forest that has never been cut over, their trunks being commonly straight and slender, with no branches within, say, forty feet of the ground.  

This is because they cannot live without sunlight for their leaves, and they can only reach sunlight by growing tall like their neighbors that crowd around them.  As the young tree shoots upward, its lower limbs atrophy and drop off.  

To some extent the characteristic markings of the trunk that distinguish the different species when they grow in the open, and to a greater extent their characteristic habits of branching, are neutralized when they grow in dense forest.

Consequently a man who can readily tell one species from another, in open country, by their bark and branching habits, may be puzzled to distinguish them in aboriginal forest.

Moreover, the lichens and mosses that cover the boles of trees, in the deep shade of a primitive wood, give them a sameness of aspect, so that there is some excuse for the novice who says that "all trees look alike" to him.

   The knowledge of trees that can be gained, first from books and secondly from studies of trees themselves in city parks or in country wood lots, must be supplemented by considerable experience in the real wilderness before one can say with confidence, by merely glancing at the bark, "that is a soft maple, and the other is a sugar-tree."  And yet, I do not know any study that, in the long run, would be more serviceable to the amateur woodsman than to get a good manual of American trees and then go about identifying the species in his neighborhood.

Having gained some facility in this, then let him turn to studying peculiarities of individual growth.  Such self-training, which can be carried out almost anywhere, will make him observant of a thousand and one little marks and characteristics that are sign-boards and street-numbers in the wilds.
After a novice has had some preliminary training of the kind I have indicated, so that all things in the woods no longer look alike to him, he will meet another difficulty.  His memory will be swamped!

It is utterly impossible for any man, whether he be red, white, black, or yellow, to store up his mind all the woodland marks and signs that one can see in a mile's tramp, to say nothing of the infinite diversity that he encounters in a long journey.

Now, here is just where a skilled woodcraftsman has an enormous advantage over any and all amateurs.  He knows what is common, and pays no attention to it; he knows what is uncommon, it catches his eye at once, and it interests him, so that he need make no effort to remember the thing.

This disregard for the common eliminates at once three fourths, yes, nine-tenths, of the trees, plants, rocks, etc., from his consideration; it relieves his memory of just that much burden.  He will pass a hundred birch trees without a second glance, until his eye is riveted by a curly birch.  Why riveted? Because curly birch is valuable.  In the bottom lands he will scarcely see a sour gun, or a hundred of them; but let him come across one such tree on top of the ridge, and he will wonder how it chanced to stray so far from home.  

And so on, through all categories of woodland features.  A woodsman notices such things as infallibly, and with as little conscious effort, as a woman notices the crumbs and lint on her neighbor's carpet.
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2003, 08:18:39 AM »
The oaks have lead to a good discussion as I thought that I was the only one that had to do a "double take" sometimes when identifying a specific oak tree in the woods. They can really vary in character in accordance to the ecosystem they are growing on especially when there are the two groups of oak, "white and red" and" black" oak is in the red oak group.

One could also get into discussion of identifying southern red oak from northern red oak, but I'd leave that to someone else, like the poor forester working in their transition range.  

The USDA-Forest Service has and still is doing studies on oak, especially on regenrerating northern red oak in Michigan, the higher valued lumber species here. They still have an Administrative Study which originated in 1983 going on here on the Manistee National Forest in concert with the North Central Forest Experiment Station.


Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2003, 03:00:59 PM »

What you are experiencing is a change in site.  Red oak generally tend to grow on better sites.  Those sites are often at the base of a ridge or can be in NW or NE facing coves.  The soil is deeper and better drained.

Better quality timber is found in north and east facing slopes, since the south and west slopes tend to be drier.

I doubt you have pin oak at the top of the ridge.  Pin oak grows in very wet areas.  I've seen them near creeks or rivers and bottomland areas.  

I'm thinking you have scarlet oak.  They don't prune very well, either.  
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Offline Don P

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2003, 05:15:28 PM »
Oaks have loose morals :-X :

Den, that chestnut oak has no tyloses...or very few, that leaves the cells open like a red. I'm guessing thats why the drying was not normal, tight cooperage buyers don't want it, temperance wine casks :D Moisture left through the staws instead of having to diffuse through the walls.

Our local park has a gnarly butted scarlet in a stand I've posted chestnut blight pics from. They say the flared gnarly butt is from the blight too.

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