How much do you really know about the Walnut wood species? Walnut wood is popular with woodworkers, DIYers, wood carvers, wood turners and makers worldwide despite the high lumber price. Walnut’s rich color, superior strength and workability make it an ideal species for all woodworking projects. Is Walnut the perfect species for your next project? Read on to learn more about the Walnut and Butternut that Forest 2 Home supplies to the F2H woodworking and creating community.
Black Walnut tree growth
Black Walnut trees (Juglans nigra) are native to North America, growing as scattered individual trees or in small groups of trees. In the United States, growing Walnut trees can be found from the East Coast to the Midwest growing in: western Vermont, western Massachusetts, New York, central Michigan, southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, northeastern Nebraska, south to western Oklahoma, central Texas and northwestern Florida and Georgia.
Walnut may appear in other areas, though it is far less abundant. This is, in part, due to its sensitivities to soil conditions. In order for Black Walnut trees to thrive, they require well-drained, nearly neutral soils that are moist and fertile. The growth of Walnut hardwoods is also hindered by damaging agents such as insect attacks, tree disease- including root rot and mold-and frost. While it has various challenges with thriving in forestlands, Walnut wood has the biological advantage of being allelopathic, which means it can release chemicals from its roots and tissue to damage other organisms, which gives it a competitive advantage and fighting chance.
Average Walnut trees grow to a height of 75-130 ft tall with a trunk diameter of 2-3 feet and take roughly 100-years to reach maturity.
Is Walnut a hardwood?
Hardwood species are classified by the seeds the tree produces. Each hardwood tree species has a coating that takes the shape of a fruit or a shell that becomes a flowering plant. These flowering seeds are known as angiosperm, which translates in Greek to “vessel seed.” Additionally, hardwood trees lose and regrow their leaves annually, making them deciduous.
They differ from softwood trees, as trees classified as softwoods seeds do not have any coating and are instead, dropped to the ground to deal with the elements. Examples of softwood tree seeds are needles and cones that are dubbed gymnosperm, meaning “naked seed.” Except for Larch, all softwood trees retain their needles year-round, making them evergreen trees.
The Walnut species is classified as a hardwood tree due to the nature of its growth with its flowering seed. While it is a common misconception that the term “hardwood” refers to the strength and heartiness of the tree, in the case of Walnut, the species truly is a hard wood!
The Janka Hardness Scale is used to determine the relative hardness for domestic wood species, like Walnut hardwood. The test measures the amount of force that is required to embed a 11.28mm steel ball halfway into a piece of wood. While the Janka Hardness Scale is traditionally used to determine whether a wood species is suitable for flooring, it is a good measure of determining a wood species resistance to wear and its overall durability. Wood species with a higher number rating are harder than wood species with a lower rating. The data from the Janka Hardness Scale is expressed in pounds-force, or lbf.
On the Janka Hardness Scale, the Walnut hardwood species rating is dependent on Walnut type. Black Walnut is ranked at 1,010 lbf, while the exotic Brazilian Walnut is ranked at 3,684 lbf. While this may appear to be a large difference in overall strength, when comparing it to the 22 lbf strength of Balsa wood, a softwood tree species, we can see that Walnut species overall rank high against others.
Types of Walnut
There are various types of Walnut trees that grow all over the world. They all belong to the Juglandaceae family of plants, a genus comprised of 21 species. Their characteristics range, from heights of 30 ft to 130 ft and their leaves differing in size
- Black Walnut tree (Juglans nigra): as discussed, the Black Walnut tree is native to North America and grow between 75 ft-130 ft tall. Black Walnut trees is also known by the names of American Black Walnut and American Walnut, or if you are native to the United States, you may just know it as Walnut. The Black Walnut hardwoods bark is dark gray to brown in color with deep ridges that create a distinctive bark pattern. Black Walnut is the Walnut species carried by Forest 2 Home.
- Butternut (Juglans cinerea): Butternut, otherwise known as White Walnut, greatly resembles the Black Walnut tree though it is smaller, has smoother, gray bark and its wood is lighter in color. Butternut generally reaches a maximum height of 66 ft. Forest 2 Home supplies Butternut lumber by the board foot.
- English Walnut (Juglans regia): the English walnut tree is native to southern Europe and has many names, including Persian Walnut, Maderia Walnut and Carpathian Walnut. The English Walnut hardwoods bark evolves as it grows to its 65 ft. capacity, changing from olive-colored bark in its infancy to deep gray to brown bark with age.
- California Black Walnut (Juglans californica): this Walnut hardwood is more representative of a large shrub or small tree than the standard Walnut trees that come to mind. Growing between 20ft and 50 ft tall, these trees have a thick bark that is a dark gray in color.
- Northern California Black Walnut (Juglans hindsii)
- Arizona Black Walnut (Juglans major): the Arizona Black Walnut tree grows to only 50ft in height but has a vast and dense crown that can spread up to 65 ft wide. Its bark is gray-brown in color with deep furrows and flat-topped ridges.
- Andean Walnut (Juglans neotropica): native to Ecuador, Peru and Columbia, the Andean Walnut tree can grow up to 131 ft. in tall. It distinguishes itself against other walnut species with its red-colored wood. The Andean Walnut has reddish-brown bark with deep, long grooves.
- Japanese Walnut (Juglans ailantifolia): these Walnut trees are native to Asia and can grow up to 66 ft. tall. They have light gray bark with long, intertwining grooves.
- Little Walnut (Juglans microcarpa): more of a large, tree like shrub than a standard tree, the Little Walnut only grows between 10 and 30ft tall. It is also known by the name of Texas Black Walnut and has a gray to dark brown bark with an indistinct pattern.
- Manchurian Walnut (Juglans mandshurica): native to East Asia, this Walnut tree is one of the most enduring. It is a fast-growing tall Walnut tree and can withstand temperatures as low as -49 degrees Fahrenheit. Its bark is grayish brown in color with grooves.
Walnut scarcity and lumber price
With the odds stacked against it- insect attacks, tree disease and a slow growth time- Walnut hardwood is not plentiful enough to harvest as frequently as other tree species. Its growth scarcity combined with the overwhelming interest and high demand for use in home interiors and woodworking projects increases the Walnut hardwood lumber price.
While alternatives like dark stains for light colored wood species are available to mimic the appearance of Walnut, though some still opt for the highly in demand lumber. Walnut wood's durability and workability make it stand out against other wood species, just as much as its color does.
Walnut woodworking projects from F2H
The high-quality lumber (like that in the F2H shop!) is highly sought after for all kinds of projects. Not sure which Forest 2 Home Walnut is right for you?
Try the Hardwood Sampler Box
Create some coasters with Walnut wood from this wood sampler box, combined with epoxy resin
Forest 2 Home Cutting Board Kits
The Carolinas Cutting Board Kit features Walnut hardwood, Cherry hardwood and Hard Maple hardwood
Large project inspiration
Ben Hirschenfang just finished his beautiful walnut table, created with Walnut hardwood.
(created by @bhirschenfang_llc on Instagram)
Custom built drawers crafted with Walnut hardwood.
(crafted by @dacutler on Instagram)
Modern, custom entertainment console built with Walnut.
(built by @lilbarnabis.co on Instagram)
Have any questions about the other Forest 2 Home premium lumber species? Send an email to email@example.com or leave a comment down below!
Are you ready to create your next project out of Walnut wood? Be sure to tag @shopf2h on Instagram so we can see and share your work! If you include the hashtag #BuiltWithF2H on final project photos shared on Instagram and Facebook, you will automatically be entered into the #BuiltWithF2H Project of the Month! Happy Woodworking!