White Oak Test
Instructional Video



A White Oak test kit is the only fool proof way to identify White Oak,

as determined by The Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

In their 2007 publication entitled Is it Red Oak or White Oak research history and protocol is laid out nicely, just in case you are a wood geek, but your floor guy is not.

Earlier this century, 10000 logs at 3o different sawmills were

tested at different temperatures and at different moisture levels

using a 10% solution of sodium nitrite.

Sodium nitrite, (NaNO2,) is used to preserve meats and fish.

Sodium nitrite has also been used medically to dilate heart valves and bronchial tubes,

and as first aid for anyone ingesting cyanide.

In this case, The Forest Products Lab sprayed sodium nitrite as a reagent to the heartwood of log cross-sections.

Without exception, the color reactions were the same as in our little video.



If you couldn't view the video...

here are the main points I made:

That physical characteristics differ from White Oak to Red Oak. Color being one, the presence or absence of pin holes in the end grain being another, and the length of rays in a plain sawn board face.

- a 5% solution of sodium nitrite works well. 5% by weight. (About 2 ounces to a quart of water.) Sodium nitrite should be available at the drug store.

- place small, clean (no wax, oil, stain, finish) shavings of wood in a shallow dish and soak with the solution.

- if White Oak is present, the shavings will turn dark green to black in color.

- do not apply solution to the surface of a board. Shavings, only.


Why not use sodium nitrate?

Well, sodium nitrate, (NaNo3,) is a salt used as an ingredient in fertilizers and food preservatives,

but also in fireworks and smoke bombs and as a solid rocket propellant.

Get the picture? Let's stick with sodium nitrite, shall we? We just want to make a White Oak Test Kit, right, class?

About 2 ounces to a quart of water, tap or distilled.


Don't want to mess with chemicals?


Support the ongoing development of The Conservancy's lab testing by purchasing the kit you saw in the video.


Return to Hardwood Floor Protection from White Oak Test

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This rough footage of Head's Up & How To's is intended for future Floorwright apprenticeship training materials and you are most welcome to have a preview.

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