Oak History

Oak is one of the most common types of wood that is used to make furniture in many countries of the world where it grows, or where the timber has been imported. The term is used to refer to trees from the quercus genus. Oak is a type of hardwood that is preferred by a lot of people who appreciate its durability and strength.

If you study the history of oak furniture, you will find that it was favoured also due to its high resistance to parasites and fungi.  The bark of the oak tree has an unpleasant taste that is disagreeable not only to humans but also to many animals and insects.

Oak furniture history dates back to mediaeval times in Britain and Europe. This was after the emergence of a status middle class during the 16th and 17th centuries in England as more wealthy families were created. At that time, having a home was a symbol of status hence merchants started spending a lot of time on creating long-lasting furniture and furnishings. Oak furniture in the home was  prestigious, because quality timber was quite difficult to source at that time, and it was prized highly.

During the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, pine furniture became popular with those of lower social status as it was considerably less expensive than oak. Pine is a softer wood and is not as durable as oak.

The rise of the numbers of craftsmen was evidence enough that there was an enormous demand for oak furniture; people wanted to furnish every room in their houses with oak from the smallest stool to large wardrobes in the bedrooms, as well as for the dining room, with a large table, numerous chairs and a sideboard or dresser.

Oak was in plentiful supply across England, growing naturally in forests. It was an available resource for craftsmen to experiment on new designs of furniture. Since the Middle Ages, oak furniture has remained one of the most desirable timbers, although it has become more expensive partly due to scarcity (the trees take many years to mature). Another contributing factor is the substantial amount of time, and the significant degree of craftsmanship employed in the production of designs that bring colour and life into homes.

Pine furniture is financially more accessible to the people on a budget as it grows to maturity much more quickly and forest replanting is ongoing. Whereas today oak furniture is made using nuts, bolts and screws, traditionally, it was made using age-old techniques with features like ‘dovetail’ joints which gave the item of furniture lasting, natural strength.

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