Everything you need to know about teak
Teak is a very special wood. Here’s why – and why there’s so much of it that can be reclaimed and recycled into beautiful furniture…
At Raft, teak is very much our thing. We’re a world-leading manufacturer and retailer of 100% recycled teak with our own factory in Java, Indonesia, where we employ over 300 skilled craftsmen to hand-make beautiful teak furniture, from coffee tables and bookcases to beds and garden chairs. So there’s not much about teak that we haven’t learned.
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What is teak and where does it come from?
The teak tree (Latin name Tectona grandis) is a deciduous hardwood tree native to South and Southeast Asia. It has large, often hairy, leaves and small fragrant white flowers which produce fruit called drupes. Teak trees are usually found in the tropical climates of Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and parts of India. Although they grow best in these warm, moist conditions, teak wood is actually capable of withstanding all types of extreme weather.
Teak wood is famous for being very strong and hardwearing. Its high oil and silica content help it to repel water, which prevents the wood from cracking and warping. These same oils make the wood resistant to termites and pests.
But teak is also known for its outstanding beauty. The wood is usually a rich golden-brown colour, gaining a characteristic silvery appearance as it weathers with age. It’s all of these qualities which make teak such a highly sought-after material across the world.
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What is teak used for?
Teak is a particularly versatile wood and has many different uses. It’s been a favourite material amongst boatbuilders for centuries thanks to its durability and resistance to water. Teak is commonly used to make ship decks, cabin woodwork and marine trim. Its excellent weatherability also makes it a natural choice for other exterior structures, including outdoor furniture.
Although teak is perfect for outdoor timber applications, it’s also great for indoor use. Traditionally, teak wood was used to make doors and window frames in Indian homes. Today, its strength and natural beauty have made it a popular choice for quality indoor furniture, as well as flooring, countertops and other interior finishes.
But it’s not just the wood that’s put to good use. The leaves from the teak tree are an essential ingredient in a number of Asian cookery dishes. In southern India, Pellakai gatti, or jackfruit dumpling, is made by pouring batter into a teak leaf and then steaming it.
Many locals also believe the leaves have antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as many other medicinal qualities.
Recycling teak in Indonesia
Although teak has several interesting uses, unfortunately it can no longer be used to build houses. That’s because it doesn’t meet today’s earthquake-resistant standards. New houses in Indonesia are now built from metal to help protect them from earthquake damage. This means there’s an abundant supply of teak wood in the region.
As Raft’s founder, Mick Quinn, explains, this wood can then be recycled and turned into beautifully designed teak furniture at the local Raft factory: “People take down houses that won’t stand earthquakes in Yogyakarta in Java. We take the wood, we buy it off them, and with the money we give them they can rebuild their houses in new materials that can withstand earthquakes.”
And that’s one of the great things about reclaimed teak furniture. Not only is it visually stunning and hardwearing, it’s also ethically sourced and environmentally-friendly.
Unlike ordinary plantation woods, reclaimed teak has a mature grain and rich colour which improves with age. Each reclaimed timber is also full of character. Whether it’s been recycled from an old Javan house or a disused shipping container, every piece comes with its own unique and interesting story. Plus, teak furniture is so hardwearing that it can easily cope with the wear-and-tear of everyday family life. In fact, its durability means it usually lasts a lifetime.
What’s more, reclaiming wood from old structures means less teak has to be grown in plantations, which is much better for the environment. At Raft, we’re also passionate about using green methods throughout the manufacturing process. With solar-powered kilns to dry and season the timber, our teak furniture is about as eco-friendly as it can be.
Fallen in love with teak? Join the club. You can view our full range of reclaimed teak furniture here.