Although I have long been an advocate of using British grown timber, there are times when it is necessary to look further afield in order to satisfy particular requirements. While our native oak offers an array of choices and specifications, availability can be restricted, and selecting for consistent colour and grade is not always easy. Much of the oak used in the UK originates in N America, France, Germany or Eastern Europe. American white oak (Quercus alba) is a different specie to that grown in Europe (Quercus robur) and consequently has different properties.
These differences are not so important when used internally, but care should be taken when using oak outside exposed to the elements. American white oak tends to be more brittle and is not as durable when compared to European oak. There is very little difference between French and German oak, both of which are durable and tend to be well grown, and consequently straight grained. English oak is also durable but tends to be courser and more knotty than either the European or American oak.
Be sure to select the most appropriate type of oak depending on the end use.
All types of oak are widely available on the market but it’s always best to get as close as possible to the source to keep the price down. Here are some useful contacts:
Vastern Timber for English oak.
Barnesfield Timber for French and German oak
International Timber for American oak