Is Red Oak good for woodturning?

Wood-turning is one of the essential skills to get your hands on, as it is a highly versatile craft that cuts across many woodworking projects. However, you must know the best wood types for wood-turning projects to create beautiful, durable, and functional turned objects. Red oak has gained popularity in many woodworking projects because it is durable and robust. Nevertheless, woodturners have continued asking whether Red Oak is suitable for wood-turning.

Red oak can be turned. However, to fully say if it is a good wood for wood-turning, we need to evaluate the turner’s skill and identify the turn project’s use. With that consideration in mind, red oak is suitable for wood-turning projects requiring strength and stability, such as table legs, spindles, or bowls.

However, you can still use red oak in turning items that require less strength, but there are some limitations to that kind of project. Therefore having that in mind, let’s check on some of the limitations of working with red oak in your wood-turning projects.

Limitation of Wood-turning with Red Oak

  1. Oak is generally very heavy and dense. This might make it challenging to turn, especially for beginners woodturners. Therefore for beginners choosing lighter-weight wood would be easier to turn and less harsh on your wood lathe.
  2. Red oak has some big open holes, making it hard to finish.
  3. Smoothing out takes more time. Red oak can become thinner when sanded, so if you plan to use scrap wood, be ready to have the larger scraps for red oak.
  4. It requires more effort and skill to shape your project into your desired shape. This can be inconvenient for beginners with little skills.
  5. In some circumstances, it can also be prone to cracking, which can be troublesome when turning thin or delicate pieces. If the wood is mishandled during the turning process or is dried out, this may result in cracking or breaking.

However, using red oak for wood-turning also has many benefits. Various turned items, such as bowls, vases, and candlesticks, can be made from red oak since it is a stunning and functional hardwood. Additionally, because of its strength and durability, the items you turn out of red oak will last a very long time, even when you use them frequently.

Turning Red Oak tricks

A bowl from red oak.

Because of its hardness and dense nature, your turning tools should be very sharp. If you use dull tools on red oak, you are likelier to tear out the wood or even harm yourself.

When turning, start at one end but go only some way to the other. Because the grain may be uneven and splinter away, remove the wood in each section briefly.

Make light sanding when turning. To achieve a smooth finish, start with a coarse sandpaper grit and gradually work to a finer grit. Avoid using an excessive amount of force when sanding to avoid heating up and warping the wood.


Overall, a woodturner’s skill and experience level, as well as the particular project, will determine whether or not red oak is an excellent material. Red oak can be a stunning and long-lasting material for wood-turning projects when used with the proper equipment and methods. However, novices or those with little wood-turning experience should begin with a softer, more straightforward wood before progressing to more challenging species like red oak.