American Black Walnut: A Bold & Beautiful Furniture Species
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 02/06/2012 8:46AM
Sponsored by: Northwest Hardwoods: Lumber that’s Graded For Yield®
click image to zoomFamily Name:
Juglans nigra of the Family Juglandaceae
Black walnut, American black walnut, walnut, Virginia walnut, black hickory nut, Canadian walnut, walnut tree, canaletto
American black walnut trees average 70 to 100 feet tall, but can grow to 150 feet tall with diameters of 4-6 feet. Their average weight is 40 pounds per cubic foot, with a specific gravity of 0.64.
• The wood from American black walnut is typically heavy, hard, stiff and strong with good shock resistance.
• Black walnut works well with hand and machine tools. it glues easily and stains and finishes very well. black walnut’s heartwood is extremely durable.
• It offers a wealth of figures: butts, burls, crotch, fiddleback, leaf, stripe, curly and more. the heartwood ranges from chocolate brown to purplish black. American black walnut is, to many, a national treasure. Author Albert Constantine Jr. called it one of the most desirable woods of this country, “Not only because of the beautiful wood of various figures that the tree produces, but also for the food value in the black walnuts.”
Walnut offers a wealth of figures, from butts and burls to fiddleback, crotch, leaf, stripe, curly and more, and has a rich range of colors. The heartwood of black walnut ranges from chocolate brown to purplish black.
Long considered a premier domestic cabinet wood as well as a favorite for gunstocks, black walnut is also used in high-end furniture, musical instruments, paneling and fine veneer.
Peggy Farabaugh, CEO and owner of Vermont Wood Studios in Vernon, VT, has seen a huge increase in interest in walnut at her business over the past couple of years. “It’s almost like a walnut renaissance,” she said.
Farabaugh said walnut’s price — currently 25 percent higher than the other species Vermont Wood Studios sells— has not been a deterrent. She added part of the price of walnut is based on the availability of the wood. The company purchases some logs from the Midwest to make walnut slab tables.
Baker FurnitureLong considered a premier cabinet wood, American black walnut is also ideal for use in high-end furniture. Photo: Baker Furniture “It’s popular with our customers. You see the imperfections in the wood and the slab has a live edge. It’s a very rustic look. We also use walnut in casegoods, dressers, chests and night stands and as an accent. For example, we will combine cherry with walnut inlays or walnut drawer pulls,” Farabaugh said.
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.