Oak and pine woods both are used to make furniture, but for different reasons due to each wood's inherent characteristics. Oak is a hardwood and pine a softwood. Hardwoods are heavier and more resistant to wear. Pine is moderately heavy for a softwood and possesses a stiffness that enables it to better resist or absorb shock. The oaks are darker with a hint of red. Pine varies from a slightly yellowish tint to a clean, white hue.
Color and Finish
Both oak and pine finish well. Traditional furniture uses stained oak, covered with a protective coating of varnish, to enhance the darkness and grain of the wood. Contemporary furniture made of pine is lighter in color and in relative weight. Furniture manufacturers tend to clear coat pine to protect the surface and showcase the whiter wood. Pine has an inherent stiffness that gives it a strength that belies its lighter weight. Pine machines well and accepts paint easily.
Pine is a very stable wood with a straight grain. Hand-hewn pine timbers are often used to provide a traditional look to wood homes and log houses. Adze (a wood-shaping tool) or chisel marks are easy to create in soft, pine beams. Pine is not recommended for long spans and smaller beams that require greater load-bearing capacity. As a hardwood, oak is not as stable as pine and tends to twist and check -- developing tiny splits and cracks on its surface as it dries.
Wood loses moisture and therefore, its weight, as it dries. Air-seasoned oak is heavier than pine, according to density and weight information on the Engineering ToolBox website. Green, freshly cut white oak has a density of 63 pounds per cubic foot. White northern pine in the same state measures only 36 pounds per cubic foot. After air seasoning, in preparation for use in furniture or flooring, the density measurement of white oak is reduced to 47 pounds per cubic foot. The air-dried white northern pine measures only 25 pounds per cubic foot.
Your choice of either pine or oak depends upon where the wood will be used and the design style of its application. If lightness of weight and color is preferred, pine is the natural choice. Where warm, dark tones and longevity is an issue, a heavier oak wood is preferable. Oak takes longer to grow than pine and is therefore more expensive for the consumer. For a rich, antique look, choose oak. For a light and airy country kitchen, painted or clear coated pine works well.
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