AHEC boosted the profile of thermally modified American oak with display at IFFS

With a reputation for unveiling iconic pavilions at the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS), the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) brought an eye-catching display of American thermally modified (TMT) oak in March.

While most American hardwoods, such as white and red oak, tulipwood, maple and cherry, are suitable only for interior use unless treated, the introduction of thermally modified American red and white oak expands the range of applications to include exterior decking, cladding and outdoor furniture. Earlier works with tulipwood and ash had been successful with several high profile projects around the world. The successful production of TMT American oak has implications for its use in humid climates and exterior uses. The process, which can involve one of steam, vacuum or pressure, has been around for softwood for years but this introduction of American hardwood is relatively new.

At IFFS, visitors were able to see the aesthetic appeal for TMT oak and to assess its enhanced durability. Two ranges of red and white oak furniture by Singapore designer Jarrod Lim were displayed in an impressive pavilion constructed of the material processed in Indonesia by Omega Mas in Java. One of the furniture collections, which had been launched at the IFMAC show in Jakarta in September, was then tested outside in the Indonesian rain for five months. After a light sanding, it was sent to Singapore for the show, unchanged and thus un-noticed by visitors, many of which commented that the wood appears like walnut. The colour changes and darkens with the TMT process and has the advantage over staining by developing from inside out, facilitating sawing and moulding with consistent colour after cutting.

“This initiative has been well received by a number of buyers who have expressed great interest, particularly as it comes from a legal and highly sustainable resource,” John Chan commented. “American oak represents about 40 per cent of the national hardwood resource and is growing faster than it is being harvested.”