Maybe Red Oak Ain’t So Bad

RO_TedPeters_1In our 360 with 360 podcast #36 (listen to it here), Chuck, our podcast guest Ron Herman and I all agreed that red oak was our least favorite wood. We each gave reasons for our dislike of this wood. But during a recent trip to Tampa for the final Woodworking Show of the year, I found reason to rethink my distaste for red oak. It’s not that I like this material any more than before for woodworking. It has, however, move up in position. Yes, it’s still way, way down there – it’s a long slow crawl out of the basement.

While in Tampa, I force Chuck to drive over to St. Petersburg so I could relive a few fond memories; my family often visited relatives who lived in the area long ago. One of those memories was eating at Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish on Pasadena Avenue – actually he was happy to do so after I assured him that he would not have to eat the fish.

RO_TedPeters_3While waiting for the smoked mullet and damn-good German potato salad to arrive, I read the four-star-caliber paper place mat only to discover that the fish I so fondly remembered from my adolescent days was smoked using red oak. Imagine my surprise.

If I can discover a few more uses for red oak outside of furniture, flooring or cabinets, it may just dig itself out of the basement. But I’m not holding my breath.

Below, for your reading enjoyment and wood educational development, is a close-up of the text found on the place mat. If you have a great use of red oak not mentioned above, please leave a comment. I’m pulling for the species, but don’t think I have to worry.

Build Something Great!



Posted on

11 thoughts on “Maybe Red Oak Ain’t So Bad

  1. I’m no expert but ( don’t you love it when people start a comment like that – then make statements like the are?)
    I would never have thought of Red Oak and Hickory as anything alike. Could they be using regional names? We do have a oak down here that would compare favorably with my understanding of hickory, Live oak (or know locally “ChainSaw Slayer “)
    Thanks Don

    1. Hey Don,
      You’re down that way. I’m leaving it to you to check into and report back 🙂 We await your findings.

      1. I know I was sent on a Snipe hunt but at some point my Curiosity got me. I have learned more than may be polite to relate. Not without mercy, I report only the relative facts. One I already knew. West cost (gulf side) Mullet is the best. Mr Herman is not prone to exaggeration. There are an bewildering number of “red” oaks. Chuck is correct – best practices call for burning Red Oaks, though charts of BTU per cord differ (wildly). Hickory burns significantly hotter. In the end it appears the two woods have little in common, but in the interest of thoroughness when next in the area I plan on visiting Ted Peters for a full helping of research.

        1. Thank you, Don. I must add that the mullet was tasty.

  2. If it weren’t for those woods at the bottom of the list we would be paying a lot more for the woods at the top of the list. That being said, I couldn’t find any Red Oak in my shop except for some wooden pallets that were being given away. Actually, I think they were white oak.


    1. That’s a great point, Charles. I hope those “not in the know” continue to buy red oak! I’ll let them keep lumber at the top affordable.

  3. Hey! That’s my neck of the woods and I used to gig and smoke my own mullet. Then we’d have a fish fry with mullet dredged in corn meal and done with hush puppies and coleslaw. All done over live oak smoke or fire. Real soul food Glen, you done good!

    1. Thanks, Jeff. I’m reading your message at 7:00 AM and I’m craving that damn fish again. And I want hushpuppies, too. Not sure I’ll be able to wait until the Tampa Woodworking Show next year to get it.

      1. How ’bout some smoked mullet with tarter sauce on sour dough as you throw another log of red oak on the fire with a puppy or two to pet and a pull on that mug of ale? Burn on!

  4. I like to use red oak to heat my shop in the winter while making furniture out of Quartersawn White Oak. It is not as good as hickory but almost!

    1. Dale,
      That’s one of the better uses of red oak if you have a stove in the shop. Does hickory give off as much heat? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *