12 August 2014
What does Grade-A Teak Mean?
What does “Grade-A” mean when it comes to teak wood quality?
Grade-A Teak is the finest quality teak wood available from a given piece of timber. It represents the best looking, densest quality wood of the tectona grandis tree and has the best attributes of all teak wood when it comes to outdoor furniture. When a tree matures to 40+ years old, it can be harvested with some portion of that timber being Grade-A Teak.
Grade-A refers to the portion of the timber that is within the heartwood of the tree. It does not contain the same inclusions and variances and undesirable elements of the lesser quality wood in the tree. Grade-A (often also called A-Grade) teak is the only teak that Design Warehouse uses in new teak outdoor furniture because it has so much more to offer than other parts of the log.
A-Grade teak is blonde, with honey and wheat color variances and is incredibly dense, with natural oils and rubber compounds and silica within the wood itself. These compounds improve the outdoor capabilities of the teak wood; Grade-A representing the highest version of this.
Teak as a premium material for outdoor furniture has a long and impressive history. It has always been the premium natural material for anything exposed to moisture, UV rays, or otherwise harsh environments (like salt water and areas with aggressive pest populations). It will easily outlast other natural materials like other hardwoods and softwoods, and continues to look good while performing. While Grade-A teak begins it’s life as a beautiful natural blonde color, it can, over time, mature into a very distinguished silver color with hints of grey. This regal patina is a preferred color among many teak lovers and allows a lower schedule of maintenance than any other wood product. The wood’s integrity remains underneath this gorgeous patina for decades.
Is there a Grade-B and Grade-C teak?
Certainly there are relative grades of teak. The different parts of the teak wood trunk represents the different grades quite specifically.
Grade-A teak is the 30-40% of wood that is contained just outside the very center core of the tree, and after a layer of lesser quality wood. This is the premium portion of the timber; not susceptible to frequent knots, sap, inclusion of variances or loss of density. It is where you get the oldest and most prime pieces of teak wood. More than being just the most mature piece of the wood, Grade-A teak is representative of the best qualities of this wood, known for such outstanding weathering characteristics.
You get hard, dense, evenly grained wood, with extremely consistent pattern, color and surface finish. Because knots are the remnants of limbs and branches, this heartwood is never at risk of inclusion for these types of round knots. By the time a tree is properly harvested (some 40 years or so after original sapling stages), these types of inclusions turn into tiny knots/branches further out in the trunk nearer to the bark as they manifezst as branches on the outer surface of the trunk. Such wood has not had the opportunity to compact and gain density; is susceptible to sap and knot inclusions and also has a much more wildly developed grain pattern. Often times these outer areas of the log will also include vastly different colors. Such lesser quality wood is also much less capable as an outdoor furniture material and is classified as Grade-B and Grade-C or lower quality.
Grade-B wood is harder to spot as an obvious quality concern than say, Grade-C, but has tell-tale signs like larger grain patterns, knot inclusions and color variances that usually manifest themselves as grey, black or white cloudy residue. The surface oil (the natural sheen that is present on teak wood-specifically Grade-A) can appear to be uneven or lacking. You might see darker hints of color, with more deep oranges or browns, and even some reddish tones. Similarly, you might see almost chalky or pasty whitish colored grain as well, denoting that the density and maturity of the wood is lacking. Grade-B teak wood is not nearly as consistent or beautiful as Grade-A; and does not perform as well in real conditions. It often will not patina evenly and may look quite patchy even if maintaining it to achieve a specific patina result.
Grade_C teak wood is a wild variation of colors, patterns, knots, and textures. Ranging from softer to harder densities patchy residue concerns and having a much darker complexion that that of Grade-A teak. It will appear almost to be a mahogany color throughout much of the grain and it is much more heavily figured wood, because knots and inclusions are readily apparent. It is not an ugly wood per say, but it certainly is not uniform and consistent-an attribute of the finest Grade-A teak. Often, teak in this grade (B) or less will be used in small format items, and often is not suitable for legitimate outdoor furniture usage. If you can find teak outdoor furniture in Grade-C, it is often very colorful and full of grain variations and soft. It will often have obvious variations and typically is finished in a stain or protectant, to give an appearance of evenness and color consistency.
Generally speaking teak should remain unfinished until it is delivered to the end user, because it will prove the pedigree of the wood through its natural appearance. You can feel the slightly oily outer surface of Grade-A teak, see the grain compactness and density and feel the solidness of the timbers. Grade-A teak is always sold unfinished and “naked” because these are the prized attributes of the wood.
Recycled or Reclaimed teak simply is not Grade-A. This does not mean it is not handled properly or that it was not at one point Grade-A teak timbers. Simply, because it is not newly sawn, it is impossible to grade by the same standards. Perhaps the recycled teak you are considering was once Grade-A. We use the finest reclamation techniques and best practices with our sourcing of reclaimed teak. You’ll easily be able to tell if you are getting quality reclaimed teak by how it is presented and how the piece of outdoor furniture is constructed. Be sure to avoid too much fillers or color enhancers, and opt instead for higher quality wood.
Does "machine-made" mean a piece of outdoor furniture is not handcrafted?
No. In fact machine made teak vastly is more consistent and higher quality than “handmade” teak furniture.
That is not to say that handmade cannot be high quality. Typically though, truly custom outdoor furniture made from premium teak wood will take months to manufacture and will cost many thousands of dollars.
More often than not: “handmade” does not mean custom; it means it was made by hand by small operations that cannot reproduce the same result more than once. Often, corners in production and sourcing have been cut and the product is less desirable and lacks the true qualities of teak wood. Because resources are often scant for these very small operations, they lack the capability to bid on premium lots of timber and this can affect the material they use to make items, negatively. So often, these “handmade” outdoor furniture pieces are made from inferior teak wood, usually Grade-C or lower and are not suitable for long-term outdoor usage.
Machine made teak furniture also doesn’t mean there isn’t legitimate crafting occurring with the furniture. For example: Design Warehouse uses state of the art machines in harmony with master craftspeople, to produce the finest teak outdoor furniture that money can buy. Before we had it off to our craftsmen to assemble, build, finish and perform quality control checks, we use high tech machines controlled by computers to accurately control moisture (kilns and storage facilities); dimensions (computer numerically controlled mills and shaping machines), finish and quality (planning equipment and testing equipment).
We use these kiln ovens, milling and production machines and testing equipment to ensure we can produce the most accurate cuts, corners, finishes and moisture density.
There are clear advantages to machine made furniture. Especially considering we always use a master craftsman to supervise the process, and finish each piece of furniture we build. Fully handmade furniture often leave one desiring the consistent dimensions and finishes of machined wood, finished by hand.
Grade-A Teak Sourcing
Teak should be sourced from reputable and sustainable sources. There are myriad reasons for this. Improper or irresponsible sourcing can lead to lower total quality of available stock, poor ecological conditions in the local source areas and market instability. These all affect negatively, the end product you receive, the price you pay for it and the long-term viability of the teak market and timber sources.
We source only from the finest Javanese plantations. We do this because we can guarantee the consistent quality, can verify the reforestation effort and age of the wood, and because we are proponents of responsible harvesting practices. Furthermore, the quality of mature trees (40+ years old) is exponentially better than the younger trees harvested in newer, less stable and less credible plantations. Perum Perhutani is the government organization that controls the forestry in the region we source from. It has shown exceptional governance of the forests and timber production in this region and ensures you get a better quality product through limited harvesting and very specific restrictions on the sale/purchase of raw teak product.
Other countries under the purview of other organizations cannot reliably compete with Javanese teak plantations, either on quality or sustainability. It will be some time until this is even within reason (competition with Javanese teak plantations), because most other plantations have only been growing teak for 20-25 years; some 15 years short of optimal harvest ranges.
Newer players outside of this region simply have not met the standards for sourcing teak wood for Design Warehouse.
Is there another type of wood that can do what teak wood can do?
Teak wood is unique in its properties and beauty. If you want a natural material for your outdoor furniture, there is no other product that can offer the weather resistance, long-term beauty and the longevity of teak outdoor furniture. Additionally teak is the single natural wood product with a maintenance requirement as low and it enjoys. Teak truly is in a league of its own.
Certainly, one can find synthetic materials that offer impressive weather resistance; in fact we offer many variations of synthetic outdoor wicker, stainless steel, powder-coated aluminium and concrete furniture. These materials offer quality and beauty, but are not natural wood products. Only teak can do all these things and look good while doing it.
Only Grade-A teak can do so at the highest levels and is also a rare and beautiful option for the discerning consumer.
We invite you to further explore Grade-A Teak products for sale and information about Grade-A Teak by Design Warehouse at the following links:
SHOP FOR PREMIUM GRADE-A TEAK FURNITURE
GENERAL FAQ'S FOR OUR PREMIUM OUTDOOR FURNITURE
SHOP ALL OUR OUTDOOR FURNITURE IN NZ