Know your TEAK

Teak is a tropical hardwood species placed in the family Lamiaceae. Teak is also called as Tectona Grandis, it is a large, deciduous tree that occurs in mixed hardwood forests.It is a large, deciduous tree up to 40 m (131 ft) tall with gray to grayish brown branches. Leaves are ovate-elliptic to ovate, 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long by 8–23 cm (3.1–9.1 in) wide, and are held on robust petioles that are 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) long, It has small, fragrant white flowers and papery leaves that are often hairy on the lower surface. Teak wood has a leather-like smell when it is freshly milled. It is particularly valued for its durability and water resistance, it is used for boat building, exterior construction, veneer, furniture, carving, turnings, and other small wood projects.

Teakwood  is native to south and southeast Asia,mainly India, SriLanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand,Myanmar and Bangladesh but is naturalized and cultivated in many countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Molecular studies show that there are two centers of genetic origin of teak one in India and the other in Myanmar and Laos. CP Teak (“Central Province” Teak) is a description of teak from central states of India.”Nagpur Teak” is another regional Indian teak.It produces small, white flowers arranged in dense clusters (panicles) at the end of the branches. Flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers).

Teak Cultivation

Teak’s natural oils make it useful in exposed locations, and make the timber termite and pest resistant. Teak is durable even when not treated with oil or varnish. Timber cut from old teak trees was once believed to be more durable and harder than plantation grown teak. Studies have shown that plantation teak performs on par with old-growth teak in erosion rate, dimensional stability, warping, and surface checking, but is more susceptible to color change from UV exposure.

The vast majority of commercially harvested teak is grown on teak plantations found in Indonesia and controlled by PerumPerhutani (a state owned forest enterprise) that manages the country’s forests. The primary use of teak harvested in Indonesia is in the production of outdoor teak furniture for export. Nilambur in Kerala, India is also a major producer of Teak of fine quality, holds the world’s oldest Teak plantation.

Teak consumption raises a number of environmental concerns, such as the disappearance of rare old-growth teak. However, its popularity has led to growth in sustainable plantation teak production throughout the seasonally dry tropics in forestry plantations. TheForest Stewardship Council offers certification of sustainably grown and harvested teak products. Propagation of teak via tissue culture for plantation purposes is commercially viable.

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Teak Uses

Teak’s high oil content, high tensile strength and tight grain make it particularly suitable where weather resistance is desired. It is used in the manufacturing of outdoor furniture and boat decks. It is also used for cutting boards, indoor flooring, countertops and as a veneer for indoor furnishings.

Teak is used extensively in India to make doors and window frames, furniture, and columns and beams in old type houses. It is resistant to termite attacks and damage caused by other insects. It is grown extensively by forest departments of different states in forest areas.

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Teak is mainly used in the manufacture of outdoor (garden) furniture, boat decks and other articles where weather resistance is desired. It is recognized for its durability and stability under severe climatic conditions. Throughout history, before the introduction of steel ship construction, teak was the most popular wood used for making ships because of its unique properties. For the past 150 years teak has been the timber of choice in marine applications and ship building. London has parks with teak benches that are over 80 years old. No other wood can claim to possess the qualities of teak.

Teak wood products are usually categorized into outdoor (garden) and indoor uses. Both garden and indoor teak furniture are finished in various ways e.g. totally natural, oiled, sealed and varnished. As indoor furniture is less abused than garden furniture, maintenance is less demanding. Teak is also used for indoor flooring and as veneer for indoor furnishings. It is used to make doors and teak doors are very strong, not easily broken into. Teak is probably the most sought after type of vintage furniture.

Teak is easy to work with and it has natural oil content that make it suitable for use in exposed locations, where it is durable even when not treated with oil or varnish. The natural oils found in teak also protect the wood from decay, insects, and bacteria. At the same time, the combination of the unique teak tree content and thick fibers make it easier to cut and then later sculpt into pleasing forms. Nevertheless kiln drying allows for sustainable, plantation-grown teak to perform nearly at par with old grown teak.

Apart from just making furniture or being used in marine applications and construction work, teak is also used in making gift items and souvenirs. Due to its unique properties, teak wood is easy to curve and work with. A creative mind can come up with an unlimited number of designs which can be comfortably applied to teak. Thus is can be used to make unique and beautiful mementos and knick- knacks. The items thus made not only last long but with time they acquire antique properties. Hence they do not lose value and if anything their value increases with time!

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Wood very durable, resistant to fungi. Used for poles, beams, trusses, columns, roofs, doors, window frames, flooring, planking, paneling and staircases, and other constructional work. One of the best timbers for furniture and cabinet-making, wagon and railway carriages. Due to its better shape-retention ability, teak is popular in marine constructions and is a class by itself for boat- and ship building, particularly for decking. On account of its resistance to chemicals, teak articles are used in chemical laboratories; suitable for casks and vats for shipping corrosive liquids and for storing vegetable oils, fruit syrups, chutneys etc.

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  • Teak is employed for sound – boards of musical instruments, keys etc. and for different grades of plywood.
  • Wood waste in the form of wood- shavings and sawdust is used for chip-boards, fibreboards, and plastic boards.
  • Leaves contain about 6% tannin and a dye; also used for thatching. Oily product obtained by distillation of wood chips applied to eczema. A plaster made from the powdered wood is a good remedy for splitting headaches.
  • Kernels yield fatty oil which is used in scabies and to promote the growth of hair. Flowers used in biliousness, bronchitis, and urinary discharges. Both flowers and seeds considered diuretic. In Ayurvedic system, the wood is considered as a laxative, sedative for the uterus, good for piles, dysentery and leucoderma. Roots were used for urinary tract problems. Bark has been used to treat diabetes.
  • Bark astringent, used in bronchitis. Root bark used for colouring matting. Dyes are produced from the root bark and young leaves and employed for use in paper products and cloth manufacture. Dyes may be yellow-brown or red-brown. Dye from leaves is used for dying cloth especially wool and cotton. In Java, Indonesia, the sawdust is burnt as incense.