A hardwood variety like no other, teak wood has been used for centuries. A tightly grained wood, teak grows wild primarily in India and Indonesia. The worldwide demand for teak has created a growing business in the cultivation of teak trees. Large plantations have sprung up where teak is grown entirely for harvesting. Teak trees grew to heights in excess of one hundred feet. Slow growing and needing a good bit of spacing between trees, the worldwide demand for teak has driven prices higher each year.
Teak has physical properties that make it among the most popular of all the hardwoods. The hardness of teak makes it an easy wood to machine and finish. In addition to its tight grain pattern, the composition of the wood has other important advantages. The naturally occurring oils present in the wood gives teak the ability to withstand exposure to moisture. These properties make teak wood an excellent choice for outdoor and patio furniture.
The core of the tree, or the bole, yields a wood that is virtually free of knots. Wood that has few or no knots is referred to as clear. Contrary to what many folks have heard, teak trees do not grow in rain forest conditions.
Teak has been used for hundreds of years in shipbuilding. As late as the mid twentieth century, the decks of some of the worlds great ships were made of teak. The famous battleship, the USS Arizona, among many others, had teak wood decks. Sailors were assigned on an almost daily basis, to scrub and maintain the deck. Part of the work included the process of stoning the deck.
Holystoning, as it was referred in the old rocks and shoals British Navy, would require a piece of sandstone, rubbed briskly along the deck parallel with the grain. In the days of sail, a deck hand might do the work on his hands and knees. Other stone types might be used in conjunction with sand. The process of stoning would prevent the grain of the wood from raising or fraying. Though the use of teal oil is recommended by some, most shipboard teak decking was left to dry after being rinsed off.
Today teak is still used as a deck surface for boats and ships, though not necessarily for the same purpose. The days of the great wooden sailing ships, teak was the first and only choice for use in decks. Steel decks would not start appearing until the days of steam ships. Teak was often placed over a steel deck as a way to reduce the absorption of heat from the sun. Early steel hulled ships did not have air conditioning below the weather decks and a layer of teak wood would act to reflect the heat of the sun.
On small boats and pleasure craft, teak is still used for decorative trim and in applications where metal is not very practical. It is common to treat teak with teak oil or other coating. This is done mostly for aesthetic reasons. The application of teak oil and other finishes help to reduce the amount of maintenance while imparting a beauty glow to the wood. Left unfinished, teak wood will turn to the color of grey ash, not unlike unfinished cedar.
There is a limited amount of naturally grown teak in the world. Burma, Laos, Thailand, and India account for virtually all of the natural teak. The demand for teak has caused prices to rise. Because of the growing demand for teak worldwide, there are attempts to grow teak trees elsewhere, especially South America. There is some disagreement over whether plantation grown teak wood has the same qualities as trees growing and harvested in the wild. With many species of plantation grown plants, attempts sometimes made to speed up the maturation process. Fooling with Mother Nature is not always advisable.
Teak wood is an excellent choice for any type of furniture application. Outdoor and patio furniture makers often opt for teak over other wood species such as cedar. The natural beauties of teak wood combined with its other unique properties make it a perfect material for outdoor furniture. Whether the wood is left to age naturally of is finished with oils or stains, teak furniture is renewable. With proper care, teak furniture can last a lifetime.
Furniture items are not the only outdoor accents made from teak. From planters to wind chimes, teak wood can be found alone or used in combination with other, durable hardwoods. Since teak wood is so long lasting and impervious to moisture, it is the ideal material for outdoor planters and other patio accents.
Teak garden and patio furniture is not cheap. A quality table and chair set can cost well over a thousand dollars. Though it is pricey, teak will last for years, far longer than outdoor furniture made from cedar or pressure treated pine.