The tumultuous governmental and environmental waves rocking the availability of authentic Burmese Teak are certainly nothing new. While the species has weathered many storms, its future always seems to hang precariously in the balance of Myanmar’s prerogatives. While there are certainly positive changes surrounding the Teak market, some have led to availability of a more diverse selection of Teak — and have prompted the availability of plantation Teak.
The Issue of Sustainability
Since one major issue regarding Burmese Teak has been sustainability, some have tried to answer with Plantation Teak. It may not be the ideal answer, though. Plantation Teak is definitely genuine Teak, or Tectona grandis, but it is still different from authentic Burmese Teak. Why? Location.
The soil chemistry where the plantations are located is different in that the percentage of silica is lower. That factor is significant, since the high silica content is what gives Teak its superior water resistance. Plantation-grown Teak also lacks the same consistent color and straight grain for which Burmese Teak is celebrated.
Instead, plantation Teak grows quickly and without a vast forest canopy, leading to more frequent lower branches, which translate into pin knots that interrupt grain flow and trap water. Of course, for marine applications, the potential of trapped water is extremely serious. For those reasons, J. Gibson McIlvain has determined that we serve our customers best by supplying only authentic Burmese Teak.
While we applaud those behind the plantation Teak movement for their commitment to sustainability, we believe there is a better answer to that dilemma: proper forestry management of Burmese Teak. In order to support responsible forestry management, we buy from only mills that have responsible, sustainable practices in play. (Of course, environmental regulations already prohibit the kinds of problematic practices that threaten sustainability.)
The Issue of Source
When the trade embargo on Myanmar was lifted, the Teak market became open to new suppliers. The savvy yacht builder or luxury home builder will take careful steps to ensure they’re still getting the best possible product.
Teak is a unique lumber product, sized differently than S4S dimensional products and yet also distinct from rough-sawn lumber. As such, it’s typically sold in sizes close to the finished product, coming in a variety of lengths, widths, and thicknesses — similar to dimensional softwoods. However, like rough-sawn products that come in bundles including random lengths and widths, some variance is to be expected.
The main concern is that you can get the size you need without paying for an obscene amount of overage. Because of the expense, you want to be cautious about every board foot. While some overage can’t be avoided, your supplier will determine whether you can get what you need without paying for much lumber that you simply can’t use.
One key to avoiding unnecessary overage is to provide your Teak supplier with as specific dimensions as possible for your project. If you provide two dealers with the same information and get drastically different price quotes, you’ll want to follow up with questions to determine exactly what they’re selling. Major price differences should alert you to problems.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.