Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Oak products from Rajala

You may be wondering why we go to so much trouble to grow high quality Northern Red Oak trees in our forests.  We are on the very northwestern fringe of the range for this species, which requires that we invest significant and intentional effort to grow trees that produce high quality products.  But the results are worth it.

Our relatively short growing season results in smaller growth rings than the Oak produced by our neighbors to the south and east.  This means that it takes more years for us to grow a large tree.  (It's a good thing we're patient.)  Believe me, we are working hard to maximize the growth of individual trees that have been selected as crop trees.  But even our fastest growing trees are considered to be relatively slow growing.

Fortunately the slow/tight growth rings offer some distinct and important advantages over the Oak from faster growing regions.   First and most important - appearance.  There is no substitute for the classic look of a finished product made from tight growth ring Northern Red Oak.

A short growing season also means that northern Oak has a high ratio of late wood to early wood (or summer wood).  The late wood portion of the annual growth is produced at the end of the growing cycle, which is characterized by slower growth.  The dark small line that is visible to the eye in the annual growth ring is the late wood.  The slow growing, dark late wood is denser than the lighter colored early wood.  It contains a  higher percentage of cellulose than the early wood.  This resulting high density makes it stronger- which is especially important for users of industrial products which come from the center of the trees.  (Wooden trailer decking, for instance.)  It also means that it stores more carbon per cubic inch, which is becoming increasingly important in a world where we look for ways to remove and store excess carbon from the atmosphere.

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