Most red oak comes from the Eastern States. The principal species are northern red (Quercus rubra), scarlet (Q. coccinea), Shumard (Q. shumardii), pin (Q. palustris), Nuttall (Q. nuttallii), black (Q. velutina), southern red (Q. falcata), cherrybark (Q. falcata var. pagodaefolia), water (Q. nigra), laurel (Q. laurifolia), and willow (Q. phellos) oak. The sapwood is nearly white and roughly 2 to 5 cm (1 to 2 in.) wide. The heartwood is brown with a tinge of red. Sawn lumber of the red oak group cannot be separated by species on the basis of wood characteristics alone.
Red oak lumber can be separated from white oak by the size and arrangement of pores in latewood and because it generally lacks tyloses in the pores. The open pores of red oak make this species group unsuitable for tight cooperage, unless the barrels are lined with sealer or plastic. Quartersawn lumber of the oaks is distinguished by the broad and conspicuous rays. Wood of the red oaks is heavy. Rapidly grown second-growth wood is generally harder and tougher than finer textured old-growth wood. The red oaks have fairly high shrinkage in drying.
The red oaks are primarily cut into lumber, railroad crossties, mine timbers, fence posts, veneer, pulpwood, and fuelwood. Ties, mine timbers, and fence posts require preservative treatment for satisfactory service. Red oak lumber is remanufactured into flooring, furniture, general millwork, boxes, pallets and crates, agricultural implements, caskets, wooden ware, and handles. It is also used in railroad cars and boats.
*Much of the base wood information presented here is made available by the USDA FPL FS. If you are interested in a much more technical description of wood properties, I encourage you to visit the source.