Teak Wood & Furniture – Buying, Negotiating, Shipping & Quality Control

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Upon embarking on my worldwide ministry, a nonprofit endeavor, I immediately fell in love with Asia. Home to two-thirds of the world’s populace, Asia is a busy place to say the least. Wal-Mart certainly has made billions of dollars as a result of buying cheap products from China and selling them back home throughout North America.

Buying low and selling high is the easiest way to generate a profit margin. Finding a manufacturer and wholesale provider abroad who makes the product you desire at a substantially reduced price can become a cash cow for you if you properly navigate through all of the initial nuances of buying and importing.

Much of the world’s teak is exported by Indonesia and Myanmar, two places most people don’t dare to go. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim populace and home some al-Qaeda sympathizers who hate Americans, while Myanmar is very strict and quite communist governmentally.

I’ve been to Myanmar (formerly named Burma) 5 times. My first trip to Burma was in 1999. Foreigners can only enter Burma with a visa, which only allows you to stay for 28 days maximum. Before entering the country, the government requires you to give them $300 USD, which they give you their government notes to later exchange for “chaht” once you’re inside the country. “Chaht” is a worthless currency in-exchangeable anywhere else in the world. Upon exchanging government notes for “chaht” you typically lost around 7% in those days. Hence the government gets your money first before anyone else sees it.

The food in Myanmar is some of the worst stuff I’ve ever tasted in the world and I’ve been to over 50 countries. Adding to the complexity of navigating through Burma is the dull, lethargic like manner of the people (from taxi drivers to shop keepers). This was not always the case, as in the late 80’s there was a strong democratic movement. The communist government however crused the student democratic movement by taking bayonets into the University, where a peaceful protest was occurring. They killed all the student protestors and immediately threw a blanket of fear over the country. Hence the fearful and cautious disposition of the people, who seem to have little initiative and motivation.

As for Indonesia, it’s got an oppressive history of its own. I’ve traveled through Indonesia from Sumatra to Papua and have visited the country 6 times. Indonesia killed over 250,000 people in East Timor over two decades before the tiny portion of the island was granted independence by the UN, but not before much bloodshed. Tsunami’s killed another 200,000 in Banda Aceh (island of Sumatra), but before that Muslim militants where bombing and burning churches throughout the province. The island of Ambon experienced similar clashes between Muslims and Christians. That being said there have been many Christian martyrs who have been killed for their faith throughout Indonesia.

Police and government official bribery and corruption remains commonplace and regularly practiced throughout Indonesia. It can take months if not years to collect all permits to do business, jump through bureaucratic hoops, pay entry fees to all parties involved, and than after making a deal ensure quality control and proper shipment of your goods on the other side.

Nevertheless if you can endure all of this, or find someone to represent you and do the dirty work on your behalf, teak can be a lucrative and profitable investment. Keep in mind government buildings and offices can be shut down rather quickly when there is a bomb threat. The United States Embassy in Jakarta has been shut down numerous times under such threats and security precautions. Even the island of Bali had a popular disco bombed and hundreds killed.

Teak (Tectona), is a genus of tropical hardwood trees in the family Verbenaceae, native to the south and southeast of Asia, and is commonly found as a component of monsoon forest vegetation. They are large trees, growing to 30-40 m tall, deciduous in the dry season.

Teak is a favorite among furniture lovers throughout the world. Teak is a dense, coarse, close-grained hardwood. It naturally contains high levels of resinous oil that acts as an insect repellent and allows it to be resistant to moisture and the drying effects of weather. Teak also contains silica, which creates a density to the wood that allows it to be resistant to fungal decay, water, rotting, warping, shrinking, swelling and many chemicals. It will not rust or corrode metals it comes in contact with and it can withstand the elements of all seasons. No other wood compares to teak regarding its durability, elegance, stability and low maintenance; thus making it the ultimate material choice for furniture construction.

Teak timber is used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture, boat decks, and other articles where weather resistance is desired. It is also used for indoor flooring and as a veneer for indoor furnishings. Teak is used in the construction of outdoor furniture and in various aspects of ship building because of its virtually indestructible composition. Teak yachts are the paragon of elegance as teak graces the decks of thousands of sailing vessels. Teak has been the mainstay of the boat building industry for several centuries. The furniture weathers beautifully and can be left untreated outdoors without the risk of rotting.

Teak requires minimal maintenance and does not need to be sealed or treated on a regular basis. The inherent imperfections present in teak wood enhance its natural beauty and adds uniqueness to each piece. When first purchased, the furniture is a bright, golden color and its natural oils make it appear polished. The surface oil evaporates within the first week, but the oil below the surface will last the lifetime of the furniture and enables the unmatched durability of the wood. After one or two seasons outdoors, the wood will turn to a silver-gray. And it will remain like that without ever warping, twisting, rotting or splintering. Teak wood furniture is knot-free, smooth, handsome and will never need to be replaced.

The world’s most valuable hardwood, teak is both beautiful. Teak’s golden brown luster, decorative grain and unique properties have made it one of the most demanded woods of the world. There are many uses for teak. Teak does not warp, crack or turn black when in contact with metals. It is ideal for marine use.

Authentic teak furniture is the standard of outdoor furniture that all other woods and materials are compared. Many homeowners scramble to cover, store, and/or weatherproof aluminum, metal or other type of wood outdoor furniture when bad weather approaches. This is a dilemma that owners of teak furniture do not need to fret about because teak wood can be exposed to the all elements. It is wise to be leery of claims of “teak-like” furniture. Oftentimes, this furniture is made of other woods that are not as durable as teak, such as; Nyatoah, Shorea wood, or Eucalyptus wood. These are Class 3 woods that are non-durable, susceptible to termite and other insect attacks, and need to be treated regularly with teak or linseed oil if used outdoors. Other Class 3 woods include American Walnut, Red Cedar, Japanese Oak, and African Mohagany. Teak wood is rated as a Class 1 wood meaning it is resistant to weather, insects, warping and is extremely durable.

Some manufacturers will treat furniture made of other woods and materials with teak oil. These manufacturers imply their furniture is actually teak and/or is just as durable, dependable and resistant to insects and harsh elements as genuine teak furniture is. These claims are false; while the oil does aid in adding some resistance and durability to other woods, the oil needs to be re-applied often. Furniture constructed with teak wood is able to withstand the elements for a century or more.

If you can find someone to be your liaison and overseas rep on the ground in southeast Asia, there is no limits to what you can do with teak. Buyers are always eager and ready. Retailers and sellers just need to deal with the harsh reality of knowing the culture, entering the countries who provide the precious commodity, and patiently dealing with the locals to establish an ongoing business relationship to keep the teak coming your way. The other alternative is to hire someone to do the dirty work for you.

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