Buyers Guide for Teak Outdoor Garden Furniture

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Buyers guide - A wise read for Teak outdoor furniture customers everywhere

Teak (tectona grandis) is one of the most valuable timbers in the World for a good reason. The mature tree gives harvest to timber that is strong, beautiful and has superior properties of great durability and resistance to fungal and insect attack. Like all trees, the timber harvested is in two forms, sapwood and heartwood. There is a huge difference between sapwood and heartwood Teak.

The Teak tree is not native to Indonesia and is only really grown in plantations. It is a 'farmed
product' introduced by the Dutch 150 years ago.

Generally speaking there are 3 common grades of Teak and this is roughly how they are classified:

Grade A - Mature heartwood Teak with straight grain lines and consistent colouring. This grade A Teak is the best and is found in up to 25% of a good mature Teak log.

Grade B - Mature heartwood Teak with some visual imperfections. Typically more wavy grain lines, some small knots and a little more colour variation. This grade B Teak is very good and is found in up to 50% of a good mature Teak log.

Grade C - Sapwood from the outside of the log, with large colour variations, imperfections and knots - It is much weaker and not durable. It is found in up to 30% of a good mature Teak log and 100% of immature Teak logs.

What to look for with inferior Teak furniture:

- Avoid Teak furniture with a bland look about it. A dull finish only really occurs on inferior Teak because of the lower oil levels which are still mixed with the watery fluids in the timber.

-Quality Teak is so expensive it is nearly always finished to a soft sheen. If it does not have a soft sheen it is unlikely to be quality Teak.

-Only perfectly seasoned, kiln dried Teak is capable of being sanded so finely that it shines. If it doesn't have a soft sheen it might not even be made with dry timber - this means that up to 30% of it will split and crack well beyond normal minor splits and cracks in the endgrain.

-Avoid furniture where there is a marked difference of light and dark on the same cut of wood. This is a sure sign of cheap sapwood being used.

Below is a picture of inferior sapwood TeaK.

-Avoid furniture which has in descript white patches. This is a sign of a weak immature tree.

- Avoid Teak which has already been oiled. This is a common way to attempt to disguise inferior wood, and is unnecessary on Grade A Teak due to its sheen and high oil content.

We see some sellers making a 'song and dance' about a BRIK certificate.  What is a 'BRIK certificate'? It is a letter, not a certificate from Forestry Industry Revitalisation Agency (BRIK - Badan Revitalisasi Industri Kehutanan), giving the named applicant authority to apply for an export licence for timber products. You can have BRIK letter and supply Plywood, never mind Teak.

Look for a letter from BRIK, and an export permit from ETPIK.  It is standard stuff and we won't bore you with it any more.

Below is a picture of immature, cheap, inferior Teak logs purchased from local village plantations with little or no management in sustainable forestry. The trees are harvested too young and its is easy to see the startling difference in quality of timber from the picture above.

And this is what they are made into:
Cheap, mass produced designs of none durable furniture.

 

Table tops left out in the sun to try to bleach their awful appearance. If this doesn't work some are
are even chemically treated in an attempt to disguise the white sapwood.

Sapwood is the living part of tree closest to the bark. It is pale/white in colour, much weaker, has a low oil content which is still mixed with the fluids of the tree and therefore often appears a milky looking in descript type timber. It is the cheapest Teak money can buy and has never been used to make quality furniture. It is however becoming more popular in making furniture because of the demand for lower prices have encouraged manufacturers to use this inferior Teak. The best way that furniture can be described when made from sapwood is 'Solid Teak' or 'Plantation Teak'- Both of these statements can be applied and still represent inferior Teak. The furniture appears bland with quite wild sections of brown and white on the same cuts of timber. There is no apparent sheen to the timber because of the low oil content. There is an overall matt finish look to this inferior furniture

Heartwood from mature trees is the highest quality and most expensive Teak timber available. It is deep golden to brown in colour and often streaky with dark lines separating the annual rings. It is the only Teak that Teakita Ltd. use. We purchase the mature logs from Perum Perhutani - the Indonesian government agency responsible for sustainable forestry.

The demand for quality logs from mature trees with long lengths and wider girths means they are up to 10 times more expensive. These are the logs that most high quality Teak manufacturers buy. The Teak logs from immature trees with high sapwood content, low oil content, and generally weak unattractive timber are bought by manufacturers who sell cheap Teak furniture. This timber is normally used in general construction around Asia but has recently started being used to make cheap Teak furniture because of the huge cost savings. Inferior furniture made from this cheap Teak has NO price comparisons in the UK to normal high quality Teak in better garden centres and department stores because it is so different in its properties. Inferior furniture constructed from this cheap Teak, even when finished reasonably well, is still inferior furniture.

Many Teak furniture auctions are selling inferior cheap Teak constructed from sapwood and immature trees and visibly display the characteristics of sapwood in the photographs. Sapwood has white/ pale streaks, is of bland appearance and not capable of achieving the semi glossy finish due to its lack of oil. Sapwood Teak lacks the very properties that draw people to invest in Teak garden furniture in the first place, it is neither very strong nor durable!

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