Woodipedia: Walnut Wows in Traditional and Modern Settings

Walnut is a pick for architectural millwork and conventional furniture. However, it became the wood of midcentury designers, too. With the current resurgence of that fashion, walnut is again being selected to achieve a contemporary look in house interiors. It is a “smoking hot wood” nowadays, says Dave Paulsen, a salesman at Bohnhoff Lumber in Vernon, California.

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The Basics

While there are numerous types of pine trees, black walnut — juglans nigra — is the commercially harvested type for home-related uses. The majority of it comes in the fundamental U.S. states. The thickness of its brownish colour will change, and it may have a reddish, purple or grey cast. Black walnut typically includes a rather straight grain pattern and is famous for its reliable toughness.

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Cost: While the price of hardwoods varies regionally, the same as the price of gas, walnut sells for about $5 a plank foot wholesale. Much like all hardwoods, the price of walnut plummeted for some time because of decreased domestic demand. Americans purchased furniture created and then the housing market crashed and, combined with it.

However, due to tremendous demand in China, and to a lesser extent Canada, the price of walnut is skyrocketing. According to a report printed by Bill Luppold, an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, a vast percentage of chosen walnut is exported to China as whole logs. What’s more, the Chinese aren’t returning the walnut back as finished furniture, since it is considered a standing wood there.

Since there are many people who want the appearance of walnut with no paying its high price, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to stain or dye other less expensive woods in walnut tones. The term “walnut finish” generally implies that it is not authentic walnut.

Simplicity of use: Woodworkers love walnut. “It is rather simple to use,” notes Josh Salsbury, who functions at actor Nick Offerman’s woodshop in Los Angeles and whose table is revealed here. “It machines easily, does not burn like maple and is secure. Plus it smells pretty great when you cut it.”


Types of Walnut

You’ll sometimes hear about British walnut, but that species is grown primarily for commercial nut harvesting or within an ornamental yard tree.

Butternut, also known as white walnut, is an “incidental species,” says Jim Steen of Pike Lumber in Indiana. It is a lighter shade of brown but is no longer a “competitive species,” he says, since it has been beset with a fungal disease for the previous 20 years. Butternut is a very soft wood, on the purchase of poplar or alder, and isn’t considered commercially viable.


Claro walnut is a beautiful multicolored walnut that comes chiefly from Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. After harvesting, it is ordinarily air-dried instead of kiln-dried, which averts the gorgeous range of color stripes found inside a single plank.

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Not walnut: Ipe (pronounced EE-pay) is frequently referred to as Brazilian walnut, but it is out of a different genus and is therefore not a true walnut. Other woods that aren’t true walnuts are African, Caribbean and Patagonian “walnut”


Thick, live-edge walnut slabs are very popular for countertops and tabletops and are rather easy to discover. Slabs work well in both modern settings atop a metal table base as well as in more rustic state chambers.

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The Janka score measures a wood’s resistance to dings and dents. The scale ranges in the softest wood (quipo, at 22) into the hardest (Australian bull walnut, at 5,060). Black walnut is rated 1,010 (lbs of power). That positions walnut as “somewhat hard,” a little below hard maple (1,450) and white pine (1,360).

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Walnut is a fantasy to complete. It sands into a highly polished luster and takes any kind of sealing coat without difficulty. The biggest difficulty is addressing the problem of sapwood, which is the dramatically light-colored wood found in the outermost section of the tree. Some folks enjoy the natural variations between the light-colored sapwood and the darker-colored heartwood. If you discover the combination too active for your tastes, you can stain the wood to even it out.

If you’re likely to apply a paste wax to walnut, be sure to use a dark-colored wax. Should you use a neutral shade, the wax will dry into a milky color in cracks and crevices, whereas the dark-colored wax will blend in.

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UV Stability

While lots of woods — maple, such as — patinate over time, walnut gets lighter as it ages. “Walnut isn’t UV stable,” notes professional wood finisher Brian Miller, who has revived many Greene and Greene historic landmark homes in Los Angeles. “Despite a complete coat, it still lightens with age”



regardless of the current high need for black walnut and its comparative rarity in hardwood woods, walnut is still a sustainable resource. The majority of all timberland in this nation is independently owned, and professional foresters are generally hired to maintain the health of these properties. They follow best-practice guidelines and eliminate just dead, dying, diseased or damaged trees.

The American Hardwood Council says that the volume of hardwood in American woods is currently 90 percent larger than it had been 50 years back.

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A cautionary note. Forester Jim Steen says dying or dead walnut trees should not be hauled elsewhere in the place where they’re cut. This is because these trees may possess Thousand Cankers black walnut disease, which is spread mostly via the movement of raw wood to some other site.

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