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White oak bucks current sales trends

As domestic wood species go, white oak has remained among the strongest and steadiest sellers. And for retail sellers, in a continuing depressed wood market, a consistent seller is just fine.

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"White oak is a hot commodity," says Dave Harris of Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn. "I've always liked it and it is really popular. We've gotten hooked up with marine plywood and along with that comes the white oak, so we're selling quite a bit of it. I'm not sure if I understand totally why, but we are extremely busy with white oak. We're also using it quite a bit in manufacturing."

White oak has a course texture, is usually straight-grained, heavy, strong and durable, and has a specific gravity of .60. Generally, the wood is easy to work with. It dries fairly slowly and may occasionally check or crack.

"The walk-in guys are probably a combination of 50/50 furniture makers and cabinetmakers and then we do quite a bit with small contractors; we do trim and that type of thing," Harris says. "I think we probably do as much white oak as we do with red oak. I think in general, over the years, red oak sales have gone down. But white oak didn't used to be a big seller at all and now we are probably doing as much white oak as we are with the red oak, which is still one of your top sellers."

Retail prices for kiln-dried, 4/4 FAS flatsawn white oak, surfaced on two sides, ranged from $3.65 to $4.40/bf in the Northeast; $3.25 to $4/bf in the Southeast; $3.65 to $4.05/bf in the Midwest, and $3.90 to $4.30/bf in the West.

Wholesale prices for kiln-dried 4/4 FAS white oak ranged from $3,200to $3,750/mbf in the Northeast; $3,150 to $3,500/mbf in the Southeast; $3,300 to $3,650/mbf in the Midwest and $3,650 to $3,900/mbf in the West.

— Brian Caldwell

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