Properties of Walnut Wood

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Walnut trees grow throughout the eastern United States, and tend to be about 100 to 150 feet tall. They have a variety of uses and are a favored wood for furniture makers and cabinet makers all over the world. Well-made walnut furniture lasts a long time, and antique walnut cabinetry can be found dating back to the Middle Ages.

Appearance

  • Walnut ranges in color from grayish to purplish. Aged walnut tends to develop a patina, making antique walnut furniture exceptionally beautiful. The sapwood is often paler in color while the heartwood tends to be darker. The grain tends to be fine and straight. Certain varieties of walnut can have curled or wavy grains; these are rare and valuable, and most often found in fine furniture.

Processing

  • Walnut tends to hold moisture for a long time, which can make kiln drying complicated. To prevent degradation in the kiln, walnut needs to be monitored, and temperatures in the kiln must be kept at optimal levels. Cooling must be done with care.

Finishing

  • Carpenters report that walnut is easy to work with, responding easily to hand and machine tools. Walnut holds onto nails and screws well, and bonds easily with wood glues. Walnut can be polished easily and also holds paint very well. Because of the way it holds moisture, walnut tends to stain evenly.

Uses

  • Walnut is used in furniture, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, doors and flooring, and architectural woodwork. It is known for its use in gunstock and novelties. Because it takes to steam bending well, it was historically used in the making of wagon wheels and often in rocking chairs and rocking horses.

Types

  • American Black Walnut is the most common, clearly coming from the trunk of the black walnut trees growing on the East Coast of the U.S. From the stump of its rootstock comes burl walnut, which is usually used as a veneer. The root stock can weigh up to two tons. Curly walnut comes from trees that have grown under duress into gnarled and twisted shapes. Also available are English walnut, Italian walnut, French walnut, Circassian walnut and Turkish walnut, each of which has its own distinctive grain properties and color palette.

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