Fishtail Oak can be quite a puzzle to the novice woodworker, as it is not a true Oak, and has nothing to do with fish. It is, however, so strong and durable that it is a wood of choice for shipping crates, especially those which will contain heavy equipment or metal ingots. This wood can easily be recycled from crate to craft, and because of the distinctive appearance, it is ideal for woodworking projects that will not be stained or painted.
Although this is an imported wood, which falls into the category of an exotic wood, it’s not all that rare because it is a renewable, sustainable harvest wood that grows in many parts of the world including Asia and Australia.
Its use as packing crates makes it an ideal wood for recycling, and it is often repurposed into flooring because in addition to strength and durability, it provides a lustrous finish that is both unique and memorable.
Fishtail Oak gets its name from the mottled, almost iridescent pattern that contains black marbling, resembling the scales on a fish. Each piece of wood will vary in color, but in general will be a golden tan to coppery color with occasional rose, burgundy, or silver overtones. Fishtail Oak is not in the same botanical family as the Oak most commonly found in American wood shops, and is not a native wood to North America. Unlike a true Oak, which stains quite easily due to the open pore structure of the wood, this wood has a much tighter pore structure which is not recommended for staining. Clear polyurethanes are the ideal finishes, as opposed to lacquer, Shellac, or Varnish which rely on penetrating the pores of the wood to achieve their luster.
The same wood structure that gives Fishtail Oak its extreme durability and strength poses a problem when used for woodworking projects. The toughness of this wood will rapidly dull cutting tools, so this is not a good wood choice for use with a scroll saw or for any project that requires cutting of an intricate pattern. Fishtail Oak is almost impossible to carve, as well, because the wood will catch and tear. Turning is possible if only small amounts of wood are removed with each pass, and the tools are frequently sharpened.
Small pieces of Fishtail Oak can be used in conjunction with Curly Maple for decorative items that will see a great deal of use – spindles, bowls, and hair combs are just of few of the projects which make fine use of Fishtail Oak. Although the wood is resistant to stain, it does accept adhesives well, and can be used in projects that require gluing of pieces.
The strength and durability of Fishtail Oak comes with a price, however, in that this is a very heavy wood, which makes it impractical for some projects. Kitchen implements such as sauté tools, for example, while lovely to look at are too heavy for a pleasant experience in the kitchen.
For a furniture project, such as a highboy or bookcase, Fishtail Oak can take a project from ordinary and everyday to heirloom quality. This wood reflects light in a most esthetically pleasing manner, and is therefore excellent for any object intended to exhibit beauty as well as functionality.