Teak (Tectona grandis) is a native species in the rain forests of Burma, India, Laos, and Thailand, and now grows in about 40 countries throughout the tropics.
Domestic uses have tamed a species of wild popularity in the nautical world. In the early 1800s, sailors and traders discovered that girdling selected trees, found deep in a Southeast Asian rainforest, allowed the timber to die and dry on the stump over a period of several years. This made logging teak much easier, as the wood was much lighter and more moveable. Still, harvesters used elephants to drag these massive logs for miles to a river. When the monsoon arrived, rain swelled the riverbanks. Teak floated downstream from the interior and landed a prominent role in the decks and trims of European and American boats.
Wood hobbyists are seduced by the species’ coloring, which can run from yellow-brown hues to dark golden brown at the heartwood. Although this species of hardwood has moderate to high color variance, the heartwood turns a rich brown color when it is exposed to sunlight – a color-textured kaleidoscope of possibilities. Teak sapwood is a lighter cream color. Depending on its growing conditions, teak may have a greenish tint, small stripes of yellow and even some darker colors.
Teak wood is known for its natural resistance to the elements. It has an uneven texture, straight grain, and a distinctly oily feel. With these qualities, teak is a prime pick for outdoor structures or garden furniture and for indoor cabinetry applications.