Block of the Week: Oak Wood
Barking Up The Wrong Tree
I'd estimate that about 95 percent of my Minecraft worlds begin with me collecting a single block of Oak Wood. It's the mother-block - the block from which everything else in the game develops. Without collecting wood, it's almost impossible to play Minecraft. Seriously, try playing Minecraft without wood. It'll be about as much fun as playing blindfolded, or with me screaming "USE WOOD YOU FOOL!" into your ear the entire time.
Wood was one of the very first blocks added to the game - preceded only by grass, cobblestone, dirt, planks and stone. First introduced in super-early version 0.0.14a_01 on 28 May 2009, oak wood was originally called "log" and dropped wooden planks when broken. It was almost nine months until logs became collectible in their own right, and nearly two years before the introduction of oak's cousins birch and spruce.
There are 600 different species of oak tree in the real world, split into families like "stone oaks", "silky oaks" and "she-oaks". For many hundreds of years, oaks have been a symbol of strength and endurance - you'll find them on German coins, the logo of the National Trust in the UK, and on medals and ribbons in the US Army. Judging by how many countries have named the oak as their national tree, they're one of the most popular kinds of plant in the world!
Oak wood is created naturally in Minecraft worlds when they're first generated - mostly as part of trees, but you'll also find oak wood that you can steal as part of houses in plains villages and woodland mansions (you THIEF). If you chose a bonus chest at the start of your game, you might find some in there too. Pretty handy for getting a quick start, rather than smacking a tree with your fists until you get an axe!
Oak wood is a great building material, but early in the game you'll probably want to turn it all into planks for crafting - just like the Vikings did in the 9th and 10th centuries, when they built their longships. They found that oak was resistant to insect and fungal damage, making it pretty handy to make boats out of. The builders of the great sailing ships of the European Age of Exploration found the same thing. Even today, oak is commonly used - both in Minecraft and in the real world - in furniture making and flooring. You might be standing on oak right now! Not us though. We're currently knee-deep in molten lava, desperately searching for a way ou... actually, we won't bore you with the details. We're here to talk oak!
Wood is also an important fuel source. In Minecraft, you can smelt 1.5 items per wood block on its own -- but a better approach is to either craft the wood block into four wood planks, allowing you to smelt six items, or smelt the wood block into charcoal, which can smelt eight. You only need eight pieces of charcoal to smelt an entire stack of iron ore! In the real world, scientists are working on how to turn wood into biofuels that could help us avoid climate change. Good luck, scientists!
After you've been playing in a Minecraft world for a while, you might notice that the forests have begun to disappear and you have to trek further and further to collect wood. The same thing is happening on Earth, and that's a real problem - deforestation means that only about a third of the forest that once covered the planet is still around.
Less forest means less trees converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, less places for wild animals to live, more wasteland, and more species going extinct. So next time you chop down a tree in Minecraft, take a moment to collect the saplings and plant them again. The wild wolves and ocelots will thank you for it.
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- Duncan Geere