Teak tree belongs to the family Verbenaceae and sub-classified as Tectona .
It is a type of tropical hardwood that is native to Asia, especially the south and southeastern parts of the continent. It is mainly found as part of monsoon rain forest vegetation. A typical teak tree grows to a height of 30-40meters and sheds leaves in the dry season. The leaves are reddish-green in colour and have a rough skin. The bluish to white flowers are arranged in terminal panicles or clusters while the fruit is a drupe. The heartwood of a typical teak tree is brown to dark gold in colour.
Teak trees can be as old as 100 years. Substitutes for teak, which have been under extensive cultivation because of the increasing demand for teak, are loosely termed teaks. An example of this is the African teak, or African oak, which is a hardwood tree of the spurge family. The African teak, or African oak, is classified as Oldfieldia africana.
There are 3 species of teak tree;
- Tectona grandis (common teak); it is the most important and is mainly found in India and indo- China.
- Tectona hamiltoniana (Dahat teak); this is classified as an endangered tree and is confined to Myanmar.
- Tectona philippineasis (Philippine teak); it is also classified as endangered and is mainly found in Philippines.
Uses of teak
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. Teak cut from old trees grown slowly in natural forests is more durable and harder. Teak from young trees grown in plantations is more prone to splitting and water damage. 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!