Straight sawn oak beams tend to look rather rough and ready, usually featuring ugly saw marks, rough edges and splinters. We feel this can detract from the overall aesthetics of an oak frame structure or decorative installation. In fact it seems a shame to spend money on such an attractive, premium material without taking any care over the end finish!
Quality is of paramount importance to us at Oakmasters so, unless otherwise requested, all of our oak products are given a 'hand-wrought' or 'adzed' surface finish to remove any imperfections. Our craftsmen meticulously use a simple but highly effective tool on all the exposed surfaces to give the timber a gently undulating surface similar to that of a pond on a breezy day. This process can be as pronounced as required, - available in a light, medium or heavy finish. To get an idea of the differences in appearance take a look at and compare our range of finishes.
The fuming process is peculiar to the use of green oak and does not add colour but rather changes the colour. It is a specialist technique which reacts with the natural tannins in the wood to create a richer, darker hue in the finished product, close to the pleasant colour of walnut shell. In the case of a single oak beam this process can be completed before delivery. However with an entire oak frame we would fume the building post-erection so as to ensure an even finish.
We use air dried oak in various applications like external cladding or glazing capping. Air dried oak is ideal for use in situations where the wood needs to be seasoned in order to fit its environment. Air dried oak is left in naturally ventilated drying sheds for long periods of time to allow the moisture content to reduce down to a stable level. This process is usually only used for plank shaped sections of oak as it takes many years for thicker pieces to dry. Some less scrupulous players in the market pass off thicker pieces of oak for air dried after only a few months of drying, but this should not be trusted. We usually work to a rule of 1 year per inch thickness plus a year to dry down to a stable 20% moisture content.
We only use kiln dried oak in our more precise joinery products such as specialist beam casings or oak beam covers. As green oak dries out over a number of years in a natural environment cracks and splits can sometimes occur in the surface. This is fine for an oak frame building however movement like this is not preferable in joinery products which require high levels of precision. The use of a kiln speeds up the drying period in a controlled environment, which is useful for products like beam casings as it prevents natural warping or splitting which would pull the tightly crafted joints apart. The production of kiln dried oak is of course more energy and time intensive and therefore it increases the end cost of the product.