If you have vintage furniture in mind, or even want to simulate the look of an older piece, you’re probably envisioning something made from teak. Few kinds of wood have had the staying power of this golden-brown, straight-grained wood. Even after being used to make furniture for centuries, it has never gone out of style – why is that?
Teak wood furniture is still popular because many pieces of teak furniture survived its true heyday. Teak is a dense hardwood, which means it’s a strong material that doesn’t need a lot of upkeep. This made it desirable for a Europe that was desperate for stylish desks, chairs, and all manner of finely-made furniture.
Teak comes from Tectona grandis, a tree native to Southeast Asia. The wood’s reputation came to Europe through the Dutch, who had colonized Indonesia in the 16th Century. They used teak for shipbuilding because it has natural water-resistant oils and rubber locked into the tight grain of the wood, which made dry rot less of a problem. Because of this and its ability to withstand temperature extremes, it’s still a popular choice for outdoor furniture!
Over the centuries, teak’s reputation spread throughout Europe, and teak furniture made in Denmark became a hot commodity. Scandinavian furniture makers made great use of the larger pieces of wood, and hand sculpting gave their pieces decorative curves that fit right in with the modern mid-century design. Even as it fades, the colours of the wood stay attractive! But there’s a wrinkle in all this: teak is a slow grower. The best, densest teak wood comes from mature trees that have been growing for at least 80 years, but because it was so popular, most older growth was cut down to meet demand.
It’s not just the durability that comes from age; older trees (think 150 to 500 years old!) have a very attractive grain. The teak furniture that is popular now is either antique, made with reclaimed wood, or comes from undergrown trees that plantations harvest too quickly. You can still find “new” teak from Southeast Asia, but without the age, the wood doesn’t have the tight, attractive grains or natural oils that characterize antique teak.
Makes Resistant, Non-Teak Furniture
If you have a slab of reclaimed teak, give us a call – we can turn it into something new and unique to you! However, you won’t find tables or chairs made with new slabs of teak coming out of our workshop. This wood’s history has led to overharvesting and rapid deforestation, and ethically sourcing wood that’s the right age can be a challenge. On top of that, the need for tropical conditions means you won’t find it growing in the Forest City.
While we’d love to have a tree that has the finish right in the wood, we’ll make do with safe, food-grade oils and treatments that are just as great! A Wood On Steel live edge piece made from London wood will withstand the elements just as well as teak, and you can pass it on to future generations, too!