american walnut

Wood Highlight: American Walnut

Walnut – A Timeless Hardwood Choice

Walnut, a popular, widely available hardwood, has a straight grain and varies in color from a yellow sapwood to a rich, deep brown heartwood. Black Walnut, the most common variety, is grown in the eastern hardwood forests, while English Walnut is grown in California. Walnut is the only dark brown domestic wood.

Common Uses for Walnut

Walnut is a popular choice for furniture, flooring, and countertops, as well as small projects. It is also used in gunstocks because it withstands heavy recoil and does not warp. Many high quality early American furniture was made of walnut. Today, walnut is a favored choice for live edge tables.

walnutwoodgrainWood Properties of Walnut

Walnut is quite strong, with a score of 1010 on the Janka scale—comparable to cherry. It is moderately heavy and hard and has a fine, open grain, which is generally straight, although it can be irregular. Color can vary widely, even across the same board, from yellow sapwood to deep chocolate brown heartwood. Walnut dries slowly, with little shrinkage.  Its rich patina and luster improve with age. Walnut has a high resistance to decay, although it is vulnerable to insect damage. While it still compares favorably in price to exotics, walnut is one of the most expensive domestic hardwoods.

walnutwoodenlampWoodworking with Walnut

Walnut is quite easy to work with as long as it has a straight, regular grain (which it typically does). It works easily with hand and machine tools and nails, screws, and glues well. Walnut also holds stain well and polishes nicely.  It is excellent for turning or carving and responds well to steam bending. If less color variation is desired, walnut can be steamed to match the sapwood to the heartwood.

Cool Facts about Walnut

Walnut tree roots release juglone, a toxin that kills other plants growing above them.

Dogs can become ill after eating the husks from black walnuts.

Early American colonists exported walnut wood to England as early as 1610.

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