Teak - Characteristics and Uses of Teak Wood
The worldwide market for timbers has few select wood types that are praised
above others, and while few types are praised for their exquisite
properties, the famous Teak remains constant in a world of
changing tastes. Often considered to be one of the most important timbers
in the world, Teak has managed to remain in popularity because of its rare
combination of mechanical and physical properties. Looking at worldwide
trends, there is not a hint of any possible chance that Teak will soon
become eclipsed by any other type of tree.
The high oil presence in its structure has made teak one of the favorite
lumber types for the production of not only outdoor and indoor flooring and
paneling, but also furniture and boats. With over 2000 years of presence in
boat building can be attributed to the teaks high strength, flexibility
during woodworking, high resistance to rot and weather elements, and it's
low shrinkage ratio which is incredibly important in boats which have to
remain watertight during yearly changes in moisture.
Originally found in tropic regions of South and Southeastern Asia, today
teak has managed to spread all across the world where it is used not only
for commercial exploitation but also as the ornamental use in parks and botanical gardens. The largest
natural reserve of teak is located in Myanmar, where half of the entire
population of this tree currently resides. This tree is known for its
physical beauty because of the appealing mix of the elevated open crown
that is filled with lots of smaller branches that get filled with small
fragrant flowers and large papery leaves that often features hairs on their
As the cost of teak continues to rise due to increased government regulations of its export,
alternatives in the form of purpleheart, iroko, and angelique have started
to gain ground in the worldwide market.
What is Teak Wood
Teak is an amazingly versatile hardwood tree that has managed to become the
central component of eastern Asia boat and bridge building industry over the period of last 2000
Quickly after the establishment of trade lines between Asia and the west,
teak became known worldwide for its ability to withstand the natural
elements, which makes it one of the preferred lumber for the creation of
outdoor flooring, paneling, construction elements, indoor furniture,
and of course boats
. Since it is strong and durable, it is extensively used for outdoor
construction and creation of external wooden objects that are built to
last. With its strong natural oils, this wood has a natural protection
against insects and rot.
The versatility of the teak enabled it to become one of the most preferred
lumbers in the modern woodworking industry. Teak is easily cut, has almost
unmatched rot and termite resistance, and is very durable. Despite the
presence of high amount of natural oil, teak can be easily glued and
polished, especially after the surface is treated with a mild solvent.
Even though it was in heavy use in woodworking for several millennia,
original classification in scientific books can be traced to distant 1782.
By then, Tectona grandis has become one of the most important
tropical hardwood tree species from the flowering plant family Lamiaceae. Growing into the large and deciduous tree in the
forests of south and southeast Asia (where it as often called as “ Burmese teak”), this tree managed quickly to
become known worldwide and kickstart a large commercial exploitation phase
that has led to the disappearance of many old forests filled with most
spectacular examples of this tree.
Today, Tectona grandis can be found across the countries of India, Sri
Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, with the
largest forests and commercial exploitation happening in Indonesia where
this tree is grown on large plantations controlled by the
state-owned foresting enterprise Perum Perhutani. The second largest
production site of teak lumber is located in Nilambur, in Kerala, India.
Thailand had an expensive teak forest, but much of it was cut down over
many decades of aggressive commercial exploitation. In addition to the
natural forests and plantations in Asia, industrial plantations of teak are
also located in many locations across the world, most notably Africa,
Caribbean, Latin America (Costa Rica) and South America.
Teak trees can usually grow to a very impressive size, and they can grow
uninterrupted in some cases for over 1000 years. The oldest and largest teak tree is located in Thailand, where
it managed to live for 1500 years and reach the size of 47 meters high.
The largest teak in Myanmar has a trunk width of impressive 8.4 meters
(27.5 feet), and it reaches up to 34 meters (110 feet) in height.
Here is characteristics breakdown of teak:
Tree Size - 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall
Trunk diameter - 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m)
Janka Hardness - 1,070 lbf (4,740 N)
Average Dried Weight - 41 lbs/ft3 (655 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC) - .55, .66
Crushing Strength - 7,940 lbf/in2 (54.8 MPa)
Modulus of Rupture - 14,080 lbf/in2 (97.1 MPa)
Elastic Modulus - 1,781,000 lbf/in2 (12.28 GPa)
Shrinkage: Radial - 2.6%, Tangential: 5.3%, Volumetric: 7.2%, T/R Ratio:
Odor - Mild, leathery odor during cutting
Workability - Easy
Texture - Coase and uneven texture with low to moderate natural luster
Grain - Straight grain, with occasional occurrence of interlocked or waved
Sustainability - Not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Required growth density - No particular requirements.
Drying - Easy.
Durability - Excellent. Almost unmatched in the ability to endure age,
outdoor elements, insects, and rot. Very little flex after changes in
Required growth density - No particular requirements.
Maintenance - Low
Price - Raising due to more government regulations.
Since teak is a part of a very large family Lamiaceae, it has several close
relatives that can also be viable for commercial exploitation of
high-quality lumber. Here are the most common types of Tectona genus of the
tropical hardwood trees:
- Common teak, originally growing in South and Southeast Asia.
- Known as Philippine teak. Currently marked as endangered due to
excessive commercial harvesting.
- Known as Dahat teak. Grows in Burma, and is also marked as
Teak is an incredibly versatile type of wood, which makes it possible to
see it everywhere around us from large construction elements to small
household items. Here is where you can most commonly find it:
Ships and boatbuilding
Exterior and interior flooring
Exterior and interior paneling
Various small wooden objects
Durable outdoor furniture
Door and window frames
Indoor structural beams and columns
In addition to great characteristics for woodworking, teak
is also known for its other beneficial properties both inside its structure
and by attracting wildlife that can be harvested for the creation of home
remedies. Teak leaves are also used as food for many types of larvae of
Teak leaves and bark can also be used as food. Leaves are commonly used for
the creation of jackfruit dumpling called “Pellakai gatti” in the Tulunadu
region in South India. Leaves are also used as a seasoning in Central Java,
As many other lumber types, teak also causes astrong reaction if you come in contact with its sawdust. Most common reactions are
inflammations of the skin, irritation of the eye and respiratory system
. Sawdust can easily cause
pink eye, rashes, asthma-like symptoms, nausea and vision effects
. Extensive processing of teak is best done not only with personal
protection (eyewear and masks) but also industrial equipment that will
remove most of the dust.