Americans living in the eastern half of the country may be most familiar with the edible nuts of the native walnut tree. Or, its intriguing ability to sour the soil with chemicals to prevent competing trees from growing too close to it. The wood of the walnut tree is a prized hardwood for use as lumber and veneer. Fine furniture, flooring, cabinetry, musical instruments, paneling, gunstock and other ornate wood products like toys and bowls can be made from it.
Walnut wood comes from the black walnut tree, sometimes also called the eastern or American walnut (Juglans nigra). It is a large deciduous tree native to the eastern United States where it grows most abundantly in deep, fertile and moist soils with good drainage.
Saleability of Trees
According to the University of Missouri Extension Service, not all black walnut trees may be best used as lumber. A healthy tree produces abundant crops of edible walnuts and may offset the financial or practical gain made from felling the tree merely for its wood. Conversely, half-dead, poorly or slowly growing or over-crowded black walnut trees with diminished nut crop yields may be best cut and sold as timber. The price paid for walnut tree logs depends on their quality. Lots of branches cause knots in the wood while cracks/splits and decay in logs can diminish the amount of wood or its cut wood lengths. The University of Missouri mentions that if a tree can yield a log that is at least 8 1/2 feet in length with a minimum 12-inch diameter, it is highly desirable for taking to a sawmill.
The cut log of walnut contains both sapwood and heartwood. The core of the log is the prized heartwood--a chocolate brown wood with hints of purplish hues. Surrounding the heartwood nearest the bark is the sapwood, which is a contrasting tan in color.
Walnut wood is often straight grained with a fine texture, but is known to display ornate grain figure variation. This fine texture allows it to be readily worked with both hand and power tools but will tend to dull cutting blades. It receives finishes well. The wood reveals a dull but satiny sheen in light. With age the wood attains a rich patina.
Walnut is considered a moderately heavy wood that is very strong with relatively high density. One cubic foot of this wood weighs around 36 to 38 lbs. According to Wieland & Sons Lumber Company, the density of black walnut is comparable to that of hackberry, red elm or ash, but less dense than red and white oak.