Teak, from the Tamil word “tekku” is a tropical hardwood birch that grows in low-elevation (below 200 feet) regions near the equator. There are four catalogued species of teak: Tectona grandis canescens, pilosula, punctata and tomentella. All four species can grow to a height of about 40 metres and live to well over a century. The tree produces white flowers and brownish fruits for pollination several times a year. Many cultures use the flowers and fruits, along with the heart-shaped leaves and barks, as ingredients for traditional medicine.The leaves are also part of the local cuisine in some areas.
Teak has an open, generally straight grain with slightly irregular texture which feels unctuous to the touch. Teakwood has a yellow, honey-ish colour which grows progressively darker closer to the heartwood. Direct exposure to the climate will gradually turn the colour to greyish silver.
Teakwood has a relatively high density, measuring at about 720/kg, and low shock resistance. However, teak trees are known to be flexible and mould themselves to wind patterns.
It has high iron and silica content, and tends to blunt cutting instruments quicker compared to other types of woods, and the machine dusts can cause some irritation if they enter the eye. However, the iron and silica content makes teak very easy to shape, particularly sharp edges. It is also favoured by sculptors for the same reason.
Due to the heavy oil and rubber content, teak bonding using adhesives is not recommended as surface adhesion will inevitably be degraded. Nevertheless, it is the oil and rubber content which makes teakwood prized above others. The rubber and oil provides natural protection against the weather, bacteria and decay, wood-boring insects, and fungi. There have been many untreated teak artefacts discovered during archaeological digs which dates from over 2,000 years ago – a testimony of their resistance to the elements.
In recent years, a slew of genetically-modified teak trees, with faster maturity rate, have been planted to quickly increase production.