How can one tell the difference between Red Oak and White Oak?

Pay Attention to the “Rays”.  When looking at the face of the part, especially in the flat-sawn areas, you may notice little dark brown streaks running with the grain, sometimes referred to as rays. Red oak will almost always have very short rays, usually between 1/8″ to 1/2″ long, rarely ever more than 3/4″ to 1″ in length. (Pictured below on the right.)

White oak, on the other hand, will have much longer rays, frequently exceeding 3/4″ on most boards. (Pictured below on the left.)

Red Oak vs White Oak
Key differences between Red Oak and White Oak.

This method is probably the most reliable under normal circumstances, and is useful in situations where the wood is in a finished product where the end grain is not exposed.

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