Few species have stood the test of time as being luxury, high valued item like walnut. With a mix of straight and irregular grain and a nice dark colour, walnut is a beautiful species.


Walnut, however, is known as being difficult to work with due to the defects that are allowed in its grade. One walnut mill commented that if regular walnut was graded like a normal hardwood, it would grade 1 Common at best.


Walnut is in a league of its own when it comes to grading. Knots and cracks are allowed in the face-and-better grade that we stock. We do carry another option, a “superior” grade, or “red oak rules” as some may know it, but only in a few thicknesses. The superior grade means the walnut is graded as if it were any other hardwood. Superior grade does come with a premium price, but the defects are fewer.


So why does walnut allow for more defects? To start, there is a limited supply of furniture grade walnut. Walnut trees tend to have quite a few wild, twisted branches, and the trunks don’t always yield long lengths. If all the walnut lumber was held to the “higher” grading standard, there would be barely any walnut available in the market. Also, most walnut logs that are high quality are sent off for veneers, leaving less options for lumber.


Another notable attribute of walnut is its dark color. Before drying, the sapwood is white and the heartwood is dark, giving a very distinct contrast. In some species this color contrast is desirable, however, the majority of consumers prefer a more consistent color when it comes to walnut.


To minimize the contrast, walnut goes through a steaming process. Steaming draws out moisture from the green lumber and the chemicals in the lumber oxidize, which darkens the sapwood.


As mentioned before, working with walnut may be frustrating. Due to the number of defects allowed, the waste may be higher in walnut than other species. Most shops we deal with figure in a higher waste factor when ordering walnut, some 30%, a few up to 75%, and even the odd shop that just doubles the order right away.


If you are wanting to work with walnut, please know that defects are a part of the grade. If you are willing to pay for the superior grade, your waste may not be as high. If price is a factor and the budget does not allow for walnut, poplar could be a good alternative depending on the application.


While poplar is not a dense as walnut, it does have a similar grain pattern, and with a few more steps in the finishing process, it can be stained to appear very close to walnut.


Craftsmen Hardwoods does also carry walnut sheet stock, as well as walnut edge banding.

If you are needing to glue a walnut panel, we also offer Titebond Dark glue, which will hide your glue lines and blend right into the walnut. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or to place an order!

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