Everything There Is To Know About Black Walnut

Introduction

In This Guide:

What do you think of when you hear the words: 'Black walnut..'?

For most people,  black walnut wood is associated with a certain level of esteem and even luxury. 


All across the world, black walnut is considered to be a premium-quality material; a favourite hardwood of carpenters, craftspeople and home owners alike. 

But, is any of this even based on real-world factors?

Or are we all just being blinded by the rich dark chocolate tones of the wood... ...or the fact that the walnuts themselves are so delicious... or because walnut wood is usually a little more expensive than other wood? 

Read on to find out this, and everything else there is to know about black walnut!

  • A Prized Past
  •  Walnut Wood Uses, Comparison & Benefits
  • Wood Characteristics
  • Species Specs & Comparison To Other Hardwoods
  • Black Walnut Wood In The Home
  • Pet Safety & Nut Allergies
  • Growing Black Walnut For Fun Or Profit
  • Summary & Black Walnut Products

In This Guide:

  • A Prized Past
  •  Walnut Wood Uses, Comparison & Benefits
  • Wood Characteristics
  • Species Specs & Comparison To Other Hardwoods
  • Black Walnut Wood In The Home
  • Pet Safety & Nut Allergies
  • Growing Black Walnut For Fun Or Profit
  • Summary & Black Walnut Products
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Black Walnut In History

A Prized Past

As this tree species is native to North America, the history of black walnut [Juglans nigra] begins with the native Americans using almost every part of the tree for a variety of purposes. 


It was (and still is) used for making hair and pigments for clothing, cooking or eating the walnuts raw, to using the bark and husks for medical treatments, and of course; the wood for tools, utensils, furniture, and much more. 

Black walnut is perhaps now most commonly now known for its wood being used to make cutting boards, plates, spoons and premium furniture or fittings. 

You might also have seen the hulls widely available in stores such as Holland & Barret, as it's still praised for natural health and medicinal benefits. 

Why is it so popular?

walnut wood - Uses, Comparisons & Benefits

 European walnut, and the more popular American black walnut are both part of the same family of strong, soulful trees. They both produce high quality and highly sought-after wood and nuts that are enjoyed and celebrated all over the world. 

 
All types of walnut produce stable and reliable wood. That is to say, it will stand the test of time thanks to the fine grain density, high shock-absorption rate, and overall stability of the entire Juglans tree family. 

In fact, these are some of the key characteristics of walnut wood, coupled with its beauty, that make it so desirable.  

Select the three sections below to expand the details for each:

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Black Walnut

Wood Characteristics:

  • Dense & fine-grained hardwood
  • Rich colouration ranging from dark brown to honey-white
  • Absorbs shocks and impact well
  • Lightweight considering the strength
  • Does not tend to warp, shrink or crack over time
  • Has resistance to scratches and scuffs
  • Smooth & finishes well (due to fine grain)
  • Naturally resists decay and fights infection (juglone)
  • Can exhibit burls & interesting knots
  • Relatively easy and versatile to work with 
  • Responds well to steam-bending

Quality-Grading Walnut Wood

When it comes to grading the quality of black walnut, a lot is taken into consideration to determine what it will eventually be used for (veneer, furniture, flooring, etc).


Grading usually focusses on the following factors: 

Length and diameter
• The amount of knots (less is better)
• Grain density & patterns
• Wood colouration

In this Section:

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Black Walnut Wood

Specs & Comparison To Other Hardwoods

As mature trees, black walnuts can reach up to 30 meters (100 feet) tall. It will typically take them around 30 years to reach maturity, by then the trunks will be around 75cm to 1 meter (30 to 40 inches) wide. 


On occasions, walnut trees have been known to reach up 1.5 meters (60 inches) in diameter depending on conditions and climate. 

Given the right growing conditions, black walnut can grow as much as 7-10cm (3 - 4 inches) each year. 

This steady growth makes for very consistent grain that is durable, very easy to work with, and does not tend to warp or crack over time. 


Walnut Wood Vs Other Hardwoods

To give you an idea of where black walnut ranks against other popular hardwoods, red oak has a score of 1290 on the Janka Test and cherry comes in at 950. 


Black Walnut's score of 1010 places it firmly at the 'premium' end of the scale of hardwoods and coupled with the attractive appearance, makes it a highly desirable wood for furniture, flooring and kitchenware in the home.

Acacia wood comes in at a whopping 1750 on the Janka Test, which is why acacia is very often used outdoors and also for kitchenware, where it can withstand exposure to the harsh elements for many years.

If you want to see the Janka results for (almost) all species of hardwood, you can see a list of them here

Compared To Other Hardwoods

Value & Pricing:

Why Does Walnut Cost More?

Although black walnut grows in abundance in North America and can be grown across much of the world, it's still not as common other hardwoods such as maple or cherry. 


Walnut trees in general do not grow quite as tall as other species, yielding a little less wood per tree than other quality hardwood species.

As a result, walnut is not commonly available in longer boards, and often have more knots to work around when crafting it into a piece of furniture or kitchenware

The hardness and shock-resistance, coupled with the light weight in comparison to its strength, also add to walnut woods value, and price tag.

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Black Walnut In The Home

Why choose black walnut for your furniture, flooring or kitchenware?

When black walnut wood is used for a piece of furniture, kitchenware, or as flooring in your home, it has a strong presence and sets the tone - no matter how prominent or small of a detail it might be. 


The strength, beauty and versatility of this wood makes it an excellent choice for statement pieces that will stand the test of time, being passed down from generation to generation. 

In terms of care and maintenance, walnut wood is easy to look after and will not succumb to scratches, dents and other damage as easily as many other types of wood.

Black WAlnut Trees

Growing Black Walnut 

In the next section, we'll discuss the safety precautions of black walnut for pets and those with nut allergies. 


First, let's take a quick look at growing - or cultivating black walnut at home for fun, or farming it for profit. 

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Black Walnut Safety

IS IT FOOD-SAFE, PETS-Safe, & what About NUT ALLERGIES?

In a nutshell (intended), the wood is safe for everyone - just, not for ingesting

When growing, the tree is also safe for humans (excluding those who have nut allergies), but is unsafe for horses and dogs.

Think of black walnut as being like inedible chocolate; it's luscious and rich, you should never give it to animals, but it is a beautiful part of life that you definitely deserve to indulge in!

Usually, any kitchenware made from walnut wood is finished and sealed with an natural mineral oil like linseed oil, coconut oil, acacia oil, or beeswax

What's more is that the oil from walnuts is sometimes used as a finish for sealing wood.

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In Summary...

All in all, if you're looking for wood that's both reliable and beautiful, black walnut is one of the very top contenders. It has a history as rich as its colour and its superb qualities will never go out of fashion. 

What's more, is that you don't often find all of the characteristics that black walnut has in a tree that's not grown in an exotic rainforest. 

That is to say, most wood of this caliber is all too often an exotic hardwood from very questionable sources. On the flip side, the vast majority of black walnut is grown in the US, where it is also native to. From that point alone, it's already a better choice of wood for many people.

Something Missing?

If there's anything we missed, or something more specific that you would like to know more about, leave a comment below and tell us! We'd love to hear from you. 

Can't Get Enough Of Black Walnut?

If you love walnut wood, you'll love our collection of wooden kitchenware, & home decor. Shop our range of walnut & black walnut wood pieces below.

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Shop our Walnut Products

Feeling inspired? Shop our range of walnut and black walnut wood tableware & more here!

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