A simple question which has confused many over an extended period. A question with somewhat simple answers, but like many things, the deeper you dig the more complicated things can become. This month’s Matilda Blog answers this long asked question with a view to describing the differences from a veneer perspective.
Let’s start with the simple – Victorian Ash and Tasmanian Oak are trade names.
- Victorian Ash refers to the hardwood produced by two species – Eucalyptus regnans and Eucalyptus delegatensis when sourced from Victoria.
- Tasmanian Oak refers to the hardwood produced by three species – Eucalyptus regnans, Eucalyptus obliqua and Eucalyptus delegatensis, when sourced from Tasmania. Despite the name ‘oak’ none of these species are in the genus Quercus.1
Note: In Victoria, Eucalyptus obliqua is referred to as Stringybark or Messmate.
You don’t need to be Einstein to realise that the above could lead to some confusion or to simply walk away with the view that Victorian Ash and Tasmanian Oak are, for the most part, the same thing, just sourced from different states of Australia.
In the world of veneer, Ash and Oak are more different than it would appear from the above explanations. Veneers are closely scrutinised for their fine features such as grain, figure and colour – and this is no more true when it comes to deciphering the difference between these two ‘species’. Veneer manufacturers and distributors are less concerned with which state the timber was sourced from or, for that matter, the actual species used to produced the veneer as evidenced by the fact that Eucalyptus nitens and Eucalyptus viminalis and others are commonly used to produce what is referred to as Ash and Oak. They are focused on the appearance of the veneer – specifically the colour.
In general terms, Victorian Ash and Tasmanian Oak are light-coloured, ranging from straw to a light pinkish brown. However, when we talk veneer, Ash will always refer to the lightest coloured veneers and Oak will refer to the darker veneers. Most of the veneer sourced from these species tends to be slightly darker in appearance and therefore categorised as Tasmanian Oak.
The economics of this fact creates two significantly different markets. Demand for Tasmanian Oak is quite high, but this is matched with good availability. This keeps the price for these veneers relatively inexpensive. Victorian Ash on the other hand has similarly high demand, however, the prevalence of the lighter colours veneer are only a small proportion of that produced from these Eucalypts meaning supply is generally unable to keep up with demand, thus increasing the veneer price. So, if you want the lighter colour, you can expect to pay more.
The price difference in Ash and Oak is further exacerbated by the increasing prevalence of imported Eucalyptus veneer from Spain, known commonly as Plantation Oak. Due to production volumes in Europe being much larger than here in Australia the cost of the veneers produced is also lower. This Plantation Oak veneer, which looks to the untrained eye, quite similar to the veneerist’s Tasmanian Oak puts downward pressure on the Oak price. Ash is somewhat immune to this pressure as there tends to be little Ash coloured veneer in the imported Eucalyptus.
Now that you hopefully have your heads around the differences between Victorian Ash and Tasmanian Oak from a veneer perspective, let us add one more thing. When the veneers tend darker than the accepted range for Tasmanian Oak you can expect them to be referred to as Stringybark.
While all this could on one hand seem a bit over the top, it is designed to assist architects, designers and users of these amazing hardwoods in understanding the aesthetic. The subtle differences in all veneers is one of the greatest advantages of working with this amazing natural product. Veneers not only add warmth and beauty to all projects in which they feature – they make them unique. The differentiation of Victorian Ash and Tasmanian Oak (and Stringybark for that matter) help increase the confidence that the designed aesthetic will be matched, or surpassed, by the finished result.
Matilda Veneer manufactures all the ‘species’ outlined above in crown- and quarter-cut, both with figure and without. These veneers are available in a number of grades from clear, consistent and defect- free to a range of feature grades where natural defects including gum, borers and discolouration are embraced. If you need help with your specification or deciphering the subtle but critical differences, feel free to contact us at your convenience.
1 Australian Sustainable Hardwoods https://vicash.com.au/tasmanian-oak-hardwood/