Walnut wood is exceptionally strong, durable and beautiful. It is the wood of choice for many woodworkers because, despite its hardness, walnut is exceptionally easy to work with. The demand for fine quality logs often exceeds the available supply since some of the best wood is often made into veneer for doors and cabinetry. There are 20 species of walnut, each with its own individual characteristics. Six species are native to the United States.
Walnut is a fine-grained hardwood that is dense and shock resistant. Certain areas of the tree provide wood suitable for particular uses. Wood best for gun stocks is found on the tree at around ground level. The grain is generally straight, which is a requirement of a piece used for this purpose. Some types of walnut, such as claro walnut, are well known for the beautiful configuration of the grain.
Natural Color Variations
Color varies from species to species. It is also affected by the location where the tree grows. Even a single tree may have a wide range of coloring in its wood. Generally walnut colors are warm and rich. A deep chocolate brown is a common choice for furniture making and cabinetry, although you will find walnut wood that ranges from the light tan of the sapwood to the purplish-black of some of the heartwood. The rich colors of the wood finish very well.
Particularly prized is the black walnut ("Juglans nigra"), native to North America. Its large, straight trunk and tight, often burled, wood grain make it a valuable timber tree. American black walnut, originally found mainly in the Eastern part of the United States and Canada, has been used by craftsmen and woodworkers for over 200 years.
English walnut ("Juglans regia"), which is also known as Italian, European, French, Russian, Turkish, Circassian or royal walnut, can have a color range from light blond to much darker, richer tones. Franquette English walnut, found in Northern California, is extensively marbled with many mineral lines. English walnut was originally transplanted to the United Kingdom from Persia by the Romans.
Bastogne and Royal Walnut Hybrid
Bastogne walnut is a cross between black walnut and English walnut and is often the choice for gun stocks. Another variety used for this purpose is royal walnut hybrid, which is a cross between eastern black and claro black, as its strength and hardness is able to easily withstand the hard recoil of a rifle.
Supply and Demand
Walnut wood is nearly always considered to be a specialty wood and not a construction wood. Most lumberyards and home-improvement centers carry only limited amounts, if any. Usually, walnut is a special-order item, or you need to search for a specialty wood supplier. Much of the walnut grown in the United States is shipped to foreign markets such as Japan and Germany, where the value of it is nearly double that of white oak. Walnut is a wood that is constantly increasing in value because of its slow growth and because too-few walnut plantations has resulted in a diminishing supply of trees.
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