The Mighty English Oak (Quercus robur) has been revered and romanticised since time immemorial; its reputation for strength, longevity and spreading shade are well deserved. While it was used in the production of provincial furniture and for other domestic purposes, oak was unsurpassed for building framed dwellings, barns, and in particular, warships during the fourteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries – for which, no other timber matched its efficacy or suitability. Broad spreading, gnarly English oaks were deemed the better by shipbuilders for being crooked that they could extract the peculiar timbers for their ships from the natural shapes of the boles and branches. 
The land and the sea do sufficiently speak for the improvement of this excellent material [oak]; houses and ships, cities and navies are built with it, and there is a kind of it so tough, and extremely compact, that our sharpest tools will hardly enter it, and scarcely the very fire itself, in which it consumes but slowly, as seeming to partake of a ferruginous and metalline shining nature, proper for sundry robust uses. It is doubtlefs, of all timber hitherto known, the most universally useful and strong ; for though some trees be harder, as Box, Cornus, Ebony, and divers of the Indian woods, yet we find them more fragil, and not so well qualified to support great incumbencies and weights ; nor is there any timber more lasting, which way so ever used. 
It was because of its extreme resilience and toughness that native oak was less favoured for furniture-making – the staple oak employed by cabinetmakers was not home-grown. Even before the Navy – ‘The Wooden Walls of Old England’ – decimated the nation’s indigenous oak forests, wainscot  was being imported from the Low Countries (when England wasn’t at war with the Dutch) in enormous quantities both as logs and quarter-sawn boards.
It [oak] is good for shingles, pales, laths, coopers’ ware clap-board for wainscot and some pannels curiously veined, or much esteem in former times, till the finer-grained Spanish and Norway timber came amongst us…
Wainscot’s typically straight, close-grained and knot-free character was more kindly and thus easier to work than native oak. The imported quarter-sawn boards revealed the renowned medullary rays which were widely considered wainscot’s most desirable feature – and an attribute often mimicked, especially with internal joinery, on deal and inferior woods by the use of stains and glazes (scumbling), even up until the mid-twentieth-century.
The dense, slow growing wainscot oaks (Q. robur and Q. petraea) originated either in Germany and were shipped to the Netherlands via. The Rhine, or, in the Baltics and were shipped or floated to the Zaanstreek (Zaan district – between the North Sea and the Zuiderzee). The Dutch had a well established sawmilling industry dating from the sixteenth-century which was dominated by sophisticated paltrokmolens (wind-powered sawmills).
The enormous mills employed wind-power for virtually every aspect of the elevating, loading and sawing process. Wind-driven crankshafts and connecting beams powered up to four individual gang saws; each with between six and ten reciprocating saw blades.
By the 1730s, the Netherlands boasted around 450 paltrokmolens. The sawmills were affectionately known by nicknames, usually pertaining to their prowess: One paltrokmolen built in 1734 was named ‘Het Amsterdamsche Wapen’ (The Amsterdam Weapon).
The Dutch were also highly adept shipbuilders, possessing one of the largest merchant fleets in Europe. Wainscot was shipped in broad-hulled noortsvaerders – a type of fluitschip with a unique hole in the stern that allowed easy loading and unloading of long timbers.
With the onset of the fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-84), shipments of wainscot from the Netherlands ceased, but the ever increasing demand for wainscot was met by Russia through the port of Riga on the Baltic Sea. Between the years 1785-1796 almost all of Riga’s annual average of 20,000 wainscot logs was shipped to British ports.
The appeal of wainscot during the eighteenth-century was reflected in its price; commonly twice the cost of native oak. The London trade (and that of the districts around the main provincial ports) used wainscot exclusively when oak was required for carcases (solid and veneered), drawer linings, seating, tables and, of course, wainscoting.
 “The cabinetmakers’ chief woods are Mahogany and Beech; next to these follow Dutch Oak (Wainscot)… In some country places a considerable quantity of English Oak is worked up into tables, chairs, drawers, and bedsteads…”
William Marshall, On Planting and Rural Ornament a Practical Treatise, Volume I, London, 1796, p.51.
 “Upon the whole, it may be said, that, in the construction of a ship, Oak is the only English Wood made use of; and that, of this English Oak, nearly two -thirds are requisite to be more or less Crooked”.
 Silva: or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesty’s dominions, as it was delivered in The Royal society, on the 15th of October 1662, by John Evelyn, third edition, volume 1, York, 1801, p. 106.
 The legend ‘THE WOODEN WALLS OF OLD ENGLAND’ was inscribed, around a ship on the obverse of the Duke of York halfpenny, struck in 1795.
 Estimates of between 1,000 and 3,000 oak trees, or fifty to one hundred acres of oak forest were required to build a single ship during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
 A Dutch or Low Country term which has been in use in England for many centuries, but now imperfectly understood. Its original form was Wandschote (from wand, a wall, and schotte, to defend or preserve). The preserving agent was here wood in the form of boards (literally wall-boards).
Timber Technicalities: Being Definitions of Terms used in the Home and Foreign Timber, Mahogany and Hardwood Industries…, William Rider and Son Ltd., London, 1921, p. 153.
 One of the earliest recorded uses of the word wainscot (the wall panelling) in English is in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for September 11th, 1660: “I caused the girl to wash the wainscot of our parlour, which she did very well, which caused my wife and I good sport!”
 Evelyn, p. 108.
 Herbert H. Kaplan, Russian overseas commerce with Great Britain during the reign of Catherine II, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1995, p. 224.