The oak is the most widespread tree in France, it represents 40% of species, hardwoods and conifers combined. Due to slow growth, in a forest it takes 100 to 150 years to reach adult size, but this slowness allows the oak to produce dense, hard wood that is valued for many uses. If left to live, the oak easily exceeds 500 years, and up to more than 1000 years, exceptionally. The oak grows only in the northern hemisphere of the planet. Although it prefers an open space in full sun, it can grow in all areas. It is found in arid zones (North Africa, California) as well as humid tropical zones (Colombia, Central America), or temperate zones (Europe, North America, Central Asia).
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The oak symbolizes in several European cultures the durability. Oak weddings are celebrated after 80 years of marriage in the French tradition. A sacred tree among the Romans, Celts, Germans and Eastern Slavs, the oak symbolizes virility, strength, endurance and longevity. In France, the oak leaf also adorns the kepi of general officers and certain decorations such as the Legion of Honor and the medal of the National Order of Merit.
The wood has a medium grain, straight grain. The color can range from light brown to yellow brown depending on the variety. It is a species that is easily machined, giving a perfectly smooth and silky surface to the touch. Due to its slow growth, it is a very solid and very hard material. Its resistance to insects and fungi is very important thanks to its high tannin content.
In Europe, oak is widely used and cultivated for its wood, cork, bark and acorns (flour). Large planks of oak have been popular since the Middle Ages and were used to make carved interior woodwork in prestigious buildings such as castles, churches, as well as ornate joinery. Oak wood was used in Europe for shipbuilding until the 19th century and was the wood of choice in the construction of the frames of buildings in Europe (including Notre Dame de Paris). Today oak wood is still commonly used in joinery, flooring, and veneer production. The barrels in which red wines, sherry and other spirits such as cognac, scotch or bourbon are aged, are oak barrels. The oak barrels contribute to the vanilla flavor of these spirits. Oak wood chips are used for smoking fish, meat, cheese and other food products. It is of course an exceptional wood for sculpture, with incomparable solidity and a very beautiful finish.
Cork oak sculpture. The pattern of the wood is very marked due to its eventful life and its many attacks during regular bark pruning.
Carved and textured oak sculpture.