Using 6000 year old ‘Bog Oak’ for timber flooring

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Tony Fillingham, MD of timber flooring specialist British Hardwoods, was recently approached by Mr and Mrs Fell who own a farm in Keasden, North Yorkshire, with an interesting proposal: “What can you do with our Bog Oak?”

Bog Oak, technically known as ‘Quercus Robur Abonos’, is an oak tree “..that has been buried in peat bogs and preserved from decay by the acidic and anaerobic bog conditions, sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of years. The wood is usually stained brown by tannins dissolved in the acidic water. Bog-wood represents the early stages in the fossilisation of wood, with further stages ultimately forming lignite and coal over a period of many millions of years.” (1)

The bog oak at Keasden farm was hauled out by a tractor 20 years ago and had been left lying on the surface ever since.

Owners, Mr and Mrs Fell, had friends stay with them late last year, one of them being Dr. Donald A. McFarlane, Professor of Biology, from Scripps College in California, who noticed a piece of the Bog Oak used in the mantelpiece above the fireplace. Dr McFarlane offered to take some specimens back to the USA for radiocarbon dating to establish the age of the Bog Oak.

The results from the radiocarbon process date the specimens as 4000–3950 BC, that’s almost 6,000 years old!

Now that Tony was aware of what he was dealing with, he took a few pieces back to the British Hardwoods factory to moisture test and understand its working properties, and soon realised that it would be challenging to work with. The wood easily fell apart and when attempting to machine it, sparks flew from the cutters and blunted them rapidly, due to the fact that the oak is carbonised (from the bog process), making it like working with coal.


Bog-wood oak engineered flooring close-up

Determined to save the quality of the oak for potential further processing, Tony decided to use British Hardwoods’ engineered flooring technology to create a unique floor.

The main Bog oak log supplied was 9m long and approximately 600mm in diameter, with a few extra smaller pieces. This would allow the main log to be made into random width flooring making maximum usage of the timber. The flooring was cut to 5mm thickness and 2.4m length, and bonded to 15mm thick birch plywood. The dark filling for the open knots and splits was specially created to perfectly blend with the natural colour of the oak.

The outcome was a structurally sound and stable Bog Oak flooring, with its aesthetic ‘imperfect’ appearance and rich black colours with touches of golden brown.


Profile detail of Engineered Bog Oak Flooring

As the Bog oak is not influenced by standard weather conditions or pests that usually undermine the quality and appearance of wood, the flooring can be admired in its preserved condition.

British Hardwoods believes that this is the first use of bog oak for engineered flooring in the UK, and are extremely proud to have been given the opportunity to work with such rare material.

The Bog oak flooring was a unique, one-off project, and British Hardwoods does not hold any of this product in stock but if you have enquiries for other unusual bespoke projects, please contact the company.

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