By Abhijit Phadke
Teak wood furniture is quite costly and hence before making a purchase its better to gain some basic knowledge of the wood.
This article lists ways to identify teak wood by looking its various features.
The sapwood of teak is yellowish-white in colour, while the heartwood colour can be golden-brown or darker shades of brown. Black streaks (lines) can sometimes be clearly seen on the heartwood.
Note: Heartwood is the central dry portion of the tree, while sapwood are the outer layers which have higher moisture content. As a general rule, heartwood is stronger, harder and better than sapwood.
The colour varies according to species e.g. the prized and costliest Burma teak is golden-brown in colour, while other varieties have brownish heartwood.
An important point to note about teak wood colour is the staining done by furniture makers. Often lighter coloured teak sapwood is stained using wood colour to make it look browner and darker. The grain patterns in such cases are still visible but the colour is changed.
So we as customers should know that just because a teak wood furniture looks brownish it may not necessarily mean that its good quality heartwood. Perhaps the best way to go identifying high quality teak in such cases is to ask the furniture makers whether staining has been done, or whether that's the natural colour of the wood.
Next to colour, the most important and easily identifiable feature of teak wood is it's grain pattern. Wood grains look like lines or streaks of darker colour on the surface of the wood, and are formed by the way the tree grows in different seasons.
Grains show up on the wood surface after they are sawn in the mills. The method employed in sawing the log (plain, quarter-sawn, crown-cut) determines how the grain pattern will look like. The most common method is plain sawing and it brings forth the 'long grain' in wood.
The grain pattern of teak wood is usually straight (Burma teak is a fine example of this). But it can also have wavy grain lines in some cases.
The average air-dry specific gravity of teak wood is around 0.65, which means that it is moderately heavy. So a simple test to carry out on the furniture to know whether its teak wood, is to check how heavy it is. Compared to solid teak wood, particle boards and teak veneered MDF are lighter in weight.
Teak wood has a natural oil content which helps it to resist termites, pests, and prevents it from decaying. It is this oil in its wood that makes teak so durable. This oil has a faint but distinct aroma, and smells like leather. So this is one of the ways used to determine whether the wood used in the furniture is teak wood.
Judging the wood by its price:
The price of the furniture that we are buying is usually a good indicator of the quality of wood. Solid teak wood furniture costs much more compared to other solid woods or compared to furniture made from plywood, particle boards or MDF.
However having some knowledge of teak wood helps, because even lesser quality furniture made from woods other than teak, can sometimes be largely overpriced.
Gaining information by asking questions:
Perhaps the best way to identify teak wood furniture is simply to directly ask the furniture dealers about the type of wood that has been used in the furniture. If they say its made from teak wood, you can probe further by asking which type of teak wood (Burma teak etc.)
To summarize, the points listed above are some of the ways to identify teak wood, but all this is easier said than done, because it requires a lot of experience with different types of wood.
It's simpler to buy teak wood furniture from a trusted source, either local furniture makers whom you trust, or from any of the bigger furniture brands that have a good reputation.