Norfolk Oak designs and manufactures the most beautiful solid Oak kitchen worktops. Constructed using the finest furniture grade North American White Oak, with a tight grain and low colour variation.
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American White Oak is the finest Oak on the planet. Harder, denser and with a more delicate, beautiful grain structure than any other Oak, it is no surprise that it is also the most sought after by fine furniture makers the world over.
But the story doesn't even end there; American White Oak varies enormously across North America depending on the local climate. White Oak trees are not great lovers of hot, humid climes, nor indeed frozen tundra. The ideal conditions are found in the Northern Appalachian Mountain Region of New England. Here, four distinct and relatively extreme seasons, certainly compared to the UK, provide the Oak with everything it needs to flourish at its very best. The warm wet spring provides a strong start to the growing season, the long hot summer solidifies that growth. A gentle autumn presents the most stunning 'fall foliage' which coincides with a hugely important aspect for the growing Oak; acorn production. Finally, a hard, cold winter shrinks back the summer growth and slows maturity, which gives the Oak its incredible strength yet beautifully delicate tight grain structure.
Once we have our ‘green’ (unseasoned) Oak, we then have to stack it on ‘sticks’ to allow the air to circulate around each plank. It is then put in ‘T’ sheds – a shed shaped like a giant T - which keeps the rain and sun off yet allows for the wind to blow right through and gently air dry the Oak. It takes around 6 months for the moisture content to drop to 31 %, at which point it goes in to the kilns for about four months. Oak is notoriously difficult to dry well as you simply have to take your time. As soon as you rush the process you risk warping, splitting and twisting the boards so badly they become impossible to machine or to get a good finish. This still doesn’t stop even the largest merchants from pushing it as hard and fast as they can get away with, always allowing for a little splitting (shake) and some warping. Yield and time are their only considerations, which is precisely why we decided we had to control even this initial part of the process to really get what we want – perfect Oak.
So, having the finest Oak in the world is a good start. The next vital aspect of the acquisition process is grading. We only buy ‘FAS’ grade lumber. This is the top grade – FAS stands for first and seconds and is colloquially known as furniture grade – which is naturally the most expensive. This is the only way we can produce such amazing worktops. After FAS come three more grades, one, two and three common. FAS is usually less than fifteen percent of an Oak tree, with two common providing the most at around forty percent. Most worktops with 40 mm wide staves are made from either two or three common as there are so many defects in the bottom two grades there is almost nothing else that can be made with them.
Our Oak comes from the very heart of this region. Our timber suppliers are members of the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI), so our Oak is certified as sustainable. In fact, this is not really the full story. The AHMI members are responsible for adding six billion board feet annually (one board foot is measured as 12 inches long, 12 inches wide and 1 inch thick). This is a net addition after annually harvesting 2 billion board feet. A new growth rate of 3:1 - hardly just sustainable!