All You Need To Know About Teak (Updated 2021)
In the past weeks, we have highlighted many wood slabs that would be a great choice for a solid wood dining table. This includes wood types such as the eye-catching Purple Heart, the majestic African Sapele and many more. However, this deep dive into wood slabs would not be complete if we did not shine the spotlight on the most famous wood slab of them all - Teak.
Teak, bearing the enviable accolade of “the King of Hardwoods” is one of the most sought-after wood types in the world. With its impeccable beauty and durability, it has captured the hearts of furniture makers and homeowners for generations. In fact, many of us would have heard our elders sing praises about this hardy timber.
However, in recent times, there has been a worrying trend of retailers using Teak that had not fully mature for furniture making. This has resulted in low quality and unsustainable products. As such, we are here to equip you with the basic knowledge that you need to know about this famous timber!
Origins: Where does Teak come from?
Teak is a tropical hardwood species that is native to South and Southeast Asia. It is commonly found in countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, India, and Indonesia. Burmese Teak from Myanmar is well-loved by furniture makers as they are a fully matured species that produces strong and durable wood slabs. However, Myanmar banned the export of raw wild Teak in 2013 in a bid to boost their local manufacturing sector. The Burmese Teak slabs carried by Grey and Sanders were exported before the ban and have been air-dried for almost a decade, adding to its stability.
However, in recent times, the rise in demand for Teak furniture has led to many Teak plantations being set up in Indonesia. How do these plantation Teak trees fare against Burmese Teak trees?
Burmese Teak vs Indonesian Plantation Teak
Here’s a quick breakdown of the two Teak species:
|Burmese||Logged from trees that are over 80 years old.||Extremely stable and durable. High silica content in Burmese soil enhances oil content in trees. Much of the Teak is grown naturally in the wild. The slow and organic growth results in denser wood.|
|Indonesian||Logged from plantation trees||Teak is not native to Indonesia, but rather, was introduced by the Dutch as plantation wood during the colonial era. In general, Indonesian Teak is lighter in colour and contains lower oil content than Burmese Teak. This results in a much less durable product.|
Burmese Teak is typically harvested from forests in Myanmar where the tree has matured and the lumber is stable and durable. However, Plantation Teak in Indonesia is grown in areas where the soil chemistry is different and inferior. This often results in less lustrous and lighter colour wood slabs. Furthermore, Plantation Teak is rapidly grown and harvested which results in grains that are further apart and less defined. The fast growth and harvest rate may not allow the Teak trees to fully mature, resulting in wood slabs that are more prone to cracks and warps.
Identifying High Quality Teak
As a homeowner, it's important to look out for these two factors in your search for high-quality Teak wood slabs.
Sapwood - Ensure that the sapwood (the outer portion of the slab) is only 2cm or less. This would mean that the wood slab was from an older Teak tree that has fully matured. Wood slabs from younger Teak trees tend to have a relatively thicker proportion of sapwood.
Evidence of Oil - In general, high oil content causes the wood to be darker in color. Coagulation of oil in certain logs with exceptionally high oil content can also manifest in black streaks (note: This can be difficult to spot for the untrained eye).
Looking out for these factors would allow you to better gauge the age of the slab as well as make an informed decision when buying a Teak wood slab.
Durability of Teak
Good quality Teak such as the Burmese Teak is durable, stable, and has a high oil content. Only older trees produce good quality Teak. Such wood displays minimal expansion, shrinkage, and warpage when exposed to different environments. What gives Teak its strength and stability is its densely packed wood fibers, which are only found in older trees that were allowed to fully mature.
Teak’s hardness and sturdiness make it very resistant to insect infestations as well as splinters. In fact, Teak is so durable, it was the preferred wood choice for British Navy warships in the 1800s. Built from Teak in 1816, HMS Trincomalee is the world’s oldest warship that is still afloat. This exceptional durability and stability ensure that a Teak dining table will stand the test of time. What’s more, you’ll have a piece of furniture that is packed with so much history and character that it's sure to be a conversation starter among guests!
Color & Appearance of Teak
Teak wood slabs tend to have a golden to reddish-brown colour tone. This is great for homeowners looking for a table to match the earthy tones of their homes. In fact, Teak’s colour palette is a versatile one that can easily match most interior styles. Teak also tends to have straight or slightly wavy grains creating a minimal and fuss-free look to the slab itself.
Maintenance of Teak
Like all of our wood slabs, our Burmese Teak slabs are coated with a Rubio Monocoat finish. The Rubio Monocoat oil is engineered in such a way that it protects both the surface and core of the wood, giving it good protection against water and making it highly scratch-resistant. Simply clean the surface with a slightly damp lint-free cloth regularly for dusting. As wood is a natural material, it can be sensitive to temperature. As such, using coasters and placemats when serving food or drinks is strongly encouraged. For detailed care instructions with the Rubio Monocoat, click here.
Teak at Grey and Sanders
At Grey and Sanders, we use high-quality teak for our wood slabs. We only use logs that are at least 80 years old from the slower-growing Burmese Teak trees. If you’re interested in checking out our Teak slabs, we have several of them available for viewing in our showrooms. Do drop by and have a chat with us. We’d love to share our knowledge on wood slabs with you.