Wood of the Month: American Black Walnut

American black walnut is one of our finest and most cherished native hardwoods. It is prized by woodworkers, craftsmen and carpenters for its rich dark color, stability and workability. The black walnut can be found growing from the Mississippi Valley to the Carolinas and from upstate NY to Florida. It rarely dominates a woodland. At one time, American black walnut was considered for our national tree.

Natural characteristics of black walnut includes a creamy white sapwood and a heartwood that ranges from light brown to dark chocolate brown, with an occasional purplish cast and darker streaks. Quality black walnut is cherished for use in furniture, cabinetry, interior woodwork, veneer, flooring and gunstocks.

In an effort to increase yields, the commercial lumber industry found that steaming black walnut at 180 degrees for six days would bleed the natural tannins in the wood to tone down the bright natural sapwood producing a more uniform color throughout the wood. We feel that by showing less sapwood, the steaming process creates a lifeless, homogenized board. However, this process is not permanent. Even with proper UV finishes, steamed black walnut fades over time to a soft brown – which is what you will have with natural walnut.

At AdvantageLumber.com, we offer both steamed and unsteamed black walnut because we find that many of our fine cabinetry craftsmen like the unsteamed characteristics of black walnut.

1 thought on “Wood of the Month: American Black Walnut”

  1. I appreciate receiving your newsletter and generally file the information for future reference. I’ve forwarded this issue on to my son who builds decks and will be rebuilding our back porch and future deck area. I was curious – we have a nice size black walnut in our front yard – a limited number of plants will grow under it, however, the squirrels love it but truly create a dirty mess with the falling debris. I’m thinking about replacing it with perhaps a flowering dogwood, Based on your article it seems that there is value in the wood. I would not know how to price it, however, perhaps local cabinet, funiture or possible gun rifle makers may be interested in the stock. Any thoughts or recommendations. Much appreciated.

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