The Latin name for oak, Quercus, means "a fine tree," and it has lived up to its name as a wood of considerable historical importance to America. Oak wood, both red and white, is valued for its beautiful "ray flake" pattern, but the two types of oak wood have different applications.
White oak is the preferred wood for furniture. It has a more attractive figure, or pattern, than red oak, and can be used for outdoor furniture due to its moisture resistance. White oak is readily available, although not as abundant as red oak.
Oak is used in furniture, flooring, architectural millwork and mouldings, doors, kitchen cabinets, panelling and caskets. White oak, in addition, is used in barrel staves due to its "tight cooperage," or ability to hold liquids.
According to the American Hardwood Center Species Guide, oak wood has been key to the industrial transformation of America due to its use in sleepers, wheels, ploughs, looms and barrels, as well as furniture and floors. White oak has also been used extensively in ship timbers. Ships built in Maine in the 19th century used white oak for keels, beams, frames and ribs.