December 30, 2022
Whenever you hear the word “Walnut,” the delicious walnut snack will surely come to your mind. The reason is that the term “Walnut” is more often associated with the single-seeded fruit of the Walnut tree than the tree itself. Yet, for woodworkers, Walnut is an expensive type of wood characterized by its dark, hard, tight, and dense grain. Woodworkers love this wood for its sterling qualities and properties.
Walnut belongs to the genus Juglans of the Juglandaceae family. This genus has around twenty-one species. The Walnut tree is deciduous, meaning it sheds its leaves during autumn. It can grow up to forty meters with a diameter of around 1.5 meters or more. This tree grows across the world’s temperate regions like Japan, China, Southeast Europe, the United States, Canada, and even Argentina. China, of course, produces the most walnuts, while the United States comes in second.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Walnut Wood You Must Know
- 9 Most Popular Types of Walnut in Woodworking Industry
- Frequently Asked Questions About Walnut Wood
Facts About Walnut Wood You Must Know
You might be familiar with the dark Walnut, which sports a coffee or chocolate color. Yet, this walnut type is only native to the United States and Canada. Besides, the dark part of the wood gets often taken from the heartwood, which usually carries reddish, gray, purple, or brown tints. However, the sapwood of this tree bears a lighter blonde color, which can be yellow-gray at times.
Walnut lightens in color over time, unlike oak, maple, and cherry, which darkens as they age. It doesn’t transition dramatically into a darker color than the abovementioned wood types.
Besides, with oil finishes, you can maintain its lighter color over time, adding a honey hue to this wood as it ages. Because of its sterling qualities, Walnut wood gets often used in carvings, knickknacks, flooring, cabinets, veneers, and furniture.
9 Most Popular Types of Walnut in Woodworking Industry
If you intend to use Walnut wood in your woodworking projects, you might need clarification about which Walnut species to use. You can check out the following different types of Walnut to familiarize yourself with each Walnut type:
1) African Walnut or Lovoa Trichilioides
One Walnut found in Western Tropical Africa is the African Walnut, Congowood, Tigerwood, or Dibetou. This tree is enormous that grows up to 150 feet or 45.72 meters. Its trunk can be up to 5 feet or 1.524 meters in diameter.
The wood of this tree is durable, hard, and stable. It also has closed grain. Besides, it has interlocking grain characterized by even texture.
This wood also exhibits excellent natural luster. Its heartwood carries a reddish-brown to golden yellow hue, while its sapwood shows a light gray to medium yellow color.
African Walnut has a Janka Hardness rating of 940 lbf, which means it is suitable for flooring. Regarding its workability, you will find it easy to work with this wood using your machine or manual tools. Moreover, it finishes nicely. You can also use it for making plywood, furniture, veneers, and cabinets. Plus, you can use it for woodturning.
2) English Walnut
English Walnut is the source of edible nuts many of us are fond of. This tree gets also referred to as Circassian Walnut, Common Walnut, French Walnut, and European Walnut. This tree is said to have originated from the United Kingdom and got propagated on the United States’ eastern coast. You will also find this wood proliferating in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
This tree can have a maximum growth of 120 feet or 36.576 meters and a maximum diameter of two feet or 0.6096 meters. English Walnut trees, found in the forests, grow taller than farmed trees. Nevertheless, most English Walnut wood gets derived from cultivated trees. These trees have broad crowns and shorter bases.
English Walnut’s heartwood has dark chocolate brown to pale brown colors, while its sapwood tends to be whitish to yellowish. It also has a lighter shade than its European counterparts. Besides, it may carry traces of varying colors based on the drying method used. You will also find tinges of grey and purple in this wood.
English Walnut has a moderate grade. It is still susceptible to insect attacks. You can use it for making fine veneers, furniture, decorative objects, and carvings. You can also use it for kitchen counters, shelves, bar tops, and tabletops. Moreover, veneers made of this wood also get utilized for architectural designs and panels. Manufacturers of guns also use this wood for its shock-resistant property.
3) Black Walnut Wood
One popular wood is Black Walnut wood. It is popular due to its remarkable strength, stability, shock resistance, and versatility. The American black Walnut, of course, is also a favorite wood of woodworkers across the globe. Its heartwood is excellent and is often sought after by woodworkers.
The heartwood of the Black Walnut is like that of the English Walnut. It has dark chocolate brown to pale yellow color, while its sapwood carries an almost white to pale grey-yellow.
Black Walnut wood is highly durable, making it ideal for many wood applications. It is also rot-resistant, though it is still vulnerable to insect attacks.
The use of Black Walnut wood is highly sustainable, and if you live in the United States, you will find this wood very much available. However, the domestic price of this wood is still high, though it is still within the affordable range. You can use this wood for cabinets, furniture, interior panels, and other applications.
4) Claro Walnut Wood
The Claro Walnut gets also referred to as the California Black Walnut with the scientific name of Juglans hindsii. This tree abundantly grows in California and Oregon. This tree has a maximum height of 59 feet or 18 meters and a maximum diameter of 4.92 feet or 1.5 meters. Moreover, this tree has a close affinity to the abovementioned Black Walnut.
The heartwood of the Claro Walnut bears a dark chocolate brown to light pale brown color with streaks of dark brown. It can carry a reddish, purple, or grey cast occasionally. Meanwhile, its sapwood bears a white or clear tone. You can also find figured patterns like crotch, curly, and burl on its grain.
Claro Walnut has long grains that are regular and straight. You can also find this wood easy to work with. But with Claro Walnut wood irregular grain, you might find it challenging to work with, especially when you plane it. Nevertheless, it finishes nicely and receives stains well. It also exudes a mild and faint odor when you work it.
5) White Walnut Wood
The White Walnut is also called Butternut or Spanish Walnut. White Walnut or Butternut refers to a medium-sized Walnut tree characterized by a short trunk that divides into many ascending limbs. Its bark is light brown to grey, sometimes tending to be whitish.
Butternut has lighter hues than other walnuts, and its wood is lightweight but hard. You can efficiently work on this wood and use it to make furniture, veneers, crates, boxes, carvings, and interior trims.
Butternut proliferates on the United States eastern coasts. Its fruit is oval-shaped in contradistinction to the fruits of Black walnuts and other Walnuts, which are round. Besides, it has a close affinity to Black Walnut. Nevertheless, it is lighter in weight and color. It also exhibits less density.
Butternut is not that durable because its open pores are susceptible to rot. Besides, it is vulnerable to insect attacks. Moreover, it becomes a bit fuzzy after sanding due to its lightness.
Woodworkers, however, like its lighter weight making it easy to handle. Its gold-like and pale tones are also endearing to woodworkers. Its applications, however, range from making cabinets, interior panels, and furniture. You can also use it for woodturning.
6) Queensland Walnut or Endiandra Palmerstonii
Another type of Walnut found in the land under is Queensland Walnut. This tree can grow up to 140 feet tall and is native to the Queensland Province of Australia. Its sapwood features a light brown, while its heartwood carries a grayish-brown hue with chocolate brown, pink, or black streaks. Its grain exhibits a wavy and interlocking structure.
Queensland Walnut’s Janka Hardness rating is 1,670 lbf which is pretty hard, and has 9,950 lbf/in2. Compressive Strength.
This wood is hard, and you may find it challenging to work with due to its silica content and interlocking grains. Besides, you may find it hard to machine cut. However, you can still work with this wood and make cabinets and furniture out of this wood. Besides, you can use it for flooring and veneers.
7) Bastogne Walnut
Bastogne Walnut is an offshoot of cross-pollination of the English and Claro Walnuts. Thus, this Walnut type is relatively new but produces strong lumber. Its applications include furniture making, gunstocks, and veneers. You can also find this wood used for woodturning, guitars, and knife handles.
Bastogne Walnut gets referred to as Paradox Walnut because it is a fast-growing Walnut type that even outgrows Claro and English Walnuts.
Luther Burbank was the one who pioneered the cross-pollination of the Claro and English Walnuts to produce Bastogne Walnuts. Amazed by its characteristics, he referred to it as the Paradox Walnut. Later, it got referred to as Bastogne Walnut for marketing purposes. Juglans Paradox is its scientific name.
Bastogne Walnut gets widely distributed across the State of California, and it can grow up to one-hundred feet with a maximum trunk diameter of five feet.
The heartwood of Bastogne Walnut varies in color from reddish-brown to light gold. In some instances, it can sport black to dark brown streaks. However, its sapwood bears a paler shade than its heartwood, with rippled grain in some sections.
You will find this wood easy to work with, provided you work along its strained and regular grain. Besides, it also receives stains nicely and glues well. Moreover, it offers a soft color afterward. Bastogne Walnut might be slightly more pricey than Black Walnut, though its price might be relative to its figure and color.
8) Peruvian Walnut
You might think this wood is from Peru, but it is not. It gets widely distributed in Mexico, Southern America, and Central America, but it is not solely from Peru. It can grow up to 18 meters, with a maximum diameter of 1 meter. It gets also referred to as Nogal or Tropical Walnut.
Peruvian Walnut has darker heartwood compared to other Walnut types. Its heartwood usually has a chocolate brown color with tinges of purple. It may also have streaks of light colors.
Peruvian Walnut is more expensive than other domestic wood types. But the costs of buying imported Peruvian wood are even higher.
9) New Guinea Walnut
New Guinea Walnut gets also referred to as Lamyo, Paldao, or Pacific Walnut. You can find this Walnut in Southeast Asia. It is a huge tree that can grow up to 120 feet with a maximum trunk diameter of 7 feet.
New Guinea Walnut has medium to light brown hues with greenish, greyish, or reddish streaks. Its sapwood, however, has grey to wide pink hues.
This wood has a Janka Hardness rating of 910 lbf or 4,040 N. This rating means it is softer than other Walnut types like the Black Walnut and Queensland Walnut. This characteristic makes it easy to work with manual tools.
New Guinea Walnut has interlocking grains, which might be a problem using machines. Nevertheless, it finishes nicely and glues well. You can use this wood for making furniture, veneers, flooring, and cabinets.
Frequently Asked Questions About Walnut Wood
After reading the aforementioned different types of Walnut wood, you are better positioned to choose the kind of Walnut to use. Nevertheless, it will also help if you familiarize yourself with the following FAQs about Walnut wood:
Is Walnut a Softwood or Hardwood?
One factor differentiating hardwood from softwood is the shedding of hardwood leaves during autumn. Since hardwoods are deciduous trees, their leaves fall during autumn. Softwoods, however, are coniferous trees, meaning they have cones and pines instead of leaves.
Besides, hardwoods come from dicot trees, while softwood comes from gymnosperm trees like conifers. So, if you look at the Walnut tree, it comes from a deciduous tree that sheds its leaves during autumn. As such, it is hardwood.
Is Walnut Wood Expensive?
Walnut, of course, is more expensive compared to many hardwoods. Compared to Hickory, for example, it is more costly. For instance, twenty board feet of Black Walnut might cost around $350, meaning for every board foot, you will need to pay up to $17.50. On the other hand, a board foot of Hickory may cost up to $13.
Walnut trees grow slowly, which may also account for their high price. Pine, on the other hand, grows fast, while Black Walnut may take around four decades to fully mature. Thus, Walnut is more expensive than Pine, Oak, or Hickory.
Does Walnut Woos Have Open Grain?
Walnut’s grain may be closed or open depending on where it inhabits or grows. Unfigured Walnut comes with straight and a bit of open grain. Figured walnuts come with a fiddle back, stump, burl, and coarse textures.
Walnuts with open grain tend to expand and shrink with the alteration in humidity. They are also more porous. On the other hand, closed-grain ones do not readily expand or shrink and are less porous.
Is Walnut Wood Good for Outdoor Furniture Use?
Walnut wood, like Black Walnut wood, for example, is too expensive to use outdoors. So, you might as well not use it outdoors. Besides, there are many other excellent options for outdoor furniture like Ipe and teak wood.
Black Walnut is prone to warping and insect attacks. Thus, it may not be a good idea to use it outdoors. But when properly treated, wood can last longer outdoors.
Black walnuts, if not treated, will be helpless against insect attacks like dry wood termites. Moreover, UV light can damage the color of Walnut wood, though this is not an issue specific to Walnut wood. Remember, even teak wood gets affected by weathering.
Walnut wood will never be expensive if it is not an excellent wood. But since it carries sterling qualities and properties, it becomes an expensive one. Nevertheless, it will be good to note that there are various Walnut species, and each Walnut, although quite similar to other Walnut types, is still unique. If you are a wise woodworker, you will undoubtedly seek to understand these differences in wood properties to add to your stock knowledge about the different wood types of woodworking.
While reading this post, you will notice the differences in Janka Hardness ratings of the Walnut types. The Queensland Walnut wood, for example, lords it over other Walnut types regarding hardness. Yet, it is less workable than different Walnut types. So, knowing these differences will help in your choice of Walnut wood.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.