What is Walnut Wood?

What is Walnut Wood?

The wood of black walnut is dark, hard, dense, and close-grained. Woodworkers value it for its strength, texture, and color. It polishes to an extremely smooth finish and ranges in color from milky white sapwood to dark chocolate heartwood.

Natural walnut wood develops a beautiful patina over time. As the only domestic wood species that is dark brown in color, it has a sizable following among serious woodworkers and collectors of exquisite furniture. Additionally, walnut is used in premium cabinets, natural wood flooring, culinary accessories, and gunstocks.

While there are numerous types of walnut trees, only a few are indigenous to North America. Eastern Black Walnut, commonly known as American Black Walnut or American Walnut, is the one that is most frequently used in woodworking.

Walnut Wood’s Characteristics


From light brown to dark chocolate, with a hint of blonde or yellow


Black walnut tree (Juglans Nigra)


630 kg/m3, 38 lbs, 1010 on the Janka scale


$2 to $38 per board feet

Common Uses

Furniture, cabinets, flooring, gun stocks, paneling, veneers, novelties, kicknacks

Frequently Asked Questions About Walnut Wood

Due to the distinctive characteristics of walnut wood, people frequently have numerous concerns regarding how it is incorporated into furniture, how to care for it, and where it comes from. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions concerning walnut wood.

What Color is Walnut Wood?

The majority of people are familiar with walnut wood at its darkest form, which can range from dark chocolate to coffee in hue. Indeed, it is North America's only natural dark wood. However, the deep hues are limited to the tree's heart. This is referred to as the heartwood, and it may also exhibit lighter browns, purples, grays, or reddish hues. The outermost portion of the tree, dubbed sapwood due to the fact that it transports the tree's nutrients, is often a pale blonde tint, however it can also be yellow-gray.

In contrast to cherry, maple, and oak, which all darken with age, walnut wood actually lightens slightly with age. This aging process is not as dramatic as some of the other woods we offer, and it may be partially controlled with an oil finish, which saturates the grain and imparts a little honey tint that becomes more apparent as the item ages and more oil is added.

Why Does Walnut Wood Change Colors Over Time?

Numerous factors can alter the natural hue of walnut wood. For example, the elements frequently darken pale wood and brighten dark wood, so years of sun exposure will typically lighten walnut wood furniture.

While some people stain walnut wood to preserve the darker hue in perpetuity, it is commonly clear-coated or oiled. While a clear coat does not completely prevent color change, it can help to mitigate it if maintenance is conducted on a regular basis. On the other hand, an oil-finished piece needs to be oiled regularly, which will give it richer hues over time.

Additionally, some wood producers employ steam during the drying process to attempt to balance out the colors between the heartwood and sapwood. This frequently brings out more grays in the work, which is why our craftsmen prefer to avoid this approach when picking their woods.

What are the Common Uses of Walnut Wood?

Walnut wood is frequently used to create knickknacks, carvings, and gunstocks, as well as cabinets, floors, furniture, and veneers.

What Does the Grain Pattern of Walnut Wood Look Like?

Generally, walnut wood is straight-grained, though it may occasionally exhibit waves or curves that provide character to a work.

Is Walnut a Hardwood or a Softwood?

A frequent misunderstanding concerning hardwood vs. softwood is that it shows the wood's toughness or resistance to damage, such as scuffing or denting. Indeed, the name "hardwood" denotes wood that originated from a dicot tree, such as a broad-leaf variety, whereas "softwood" denotes wood that originated from gymnosperm trees, such as conifers. As a result, the most common softwoods are pine, fir, and cedar, whereas the most frequent hardwoods are walnut, cherry, maple, and oak.

How Dense/Hard is Walnut Wood?

Those concerned about wood's durability may also use the term "hardness," however this is referring to the Janka hardness test. A steel ball is placed on a block of wood and force is exerted until the ball is partially lodged. The force is expressed in pounds-force (lbf) or as a numerical value preceded by the word "Janka." Wood types may be rated on the basis of their "side hardness," which is determined by running a test perpendicular to the grain, or on the basis of their "end hardness."

The density of walnut wood is 1,010 lbf or 1,010 Janka. By comparison, cherry has a Janka value of 995, hard maple has a Janka value of 1,450, white oak has a Janka value of 1,360, and red oak has a Janka value of 1,290.

Where Does Walnut Wood Come From?

There are numerous varieties of walnut trees. Our craftspeople at TY Fine Furniture work solely with exquisite Eastern Black Walnut (juglans nigra).

Where Do Eastern Black Walnut Trees Grow?

Direct sunlight and well-drained soil are ideal conditions for black walnut trees. Although they are distributed throughout the eastern United States and eastern Canada, the healthiest and most renowned walnut trees are found in the American Midwest, particularly in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

These trees grow higher and thicker than trees in other growth locations, resulting in more vibrantly colored lumber with more uniform grain patterns. This region provides the lumber for our walnut wood furniture.

Here at TY Fine Furniture, we source all our walnut lumber from local sustainably managed forests, in fact most of our lumber comes from within 50 miles of our woodshop. 

How Big Are Eastern Black Walnut Trees?

Eastern black walnut trees mature at approximately 150 years of age. At this stage, some reach heights of 150 feet and diameters of up to 8 feet. Their root systems are also fairly extensive, and they emit a toxin that inhibits the growth of vegetation up to 50 feet from the trunk.

How Can I Tell if the Furniture I Have is Real Walnut Wood?

The easiest approach to determine whether a piece of furniture is produced from genuine walnut wood is to purchase it from a reputed furniture maker, simply because many varieties of wood seem identical or can be altered to resemble another type. Having said that, there are a few telltale signs of faux walnut wood.

To begin, an original item would typically have some color variation, even across individual boards, due to the fact that walnut is not typically stained. Additionally, the grain will be straight, with some curls.

Veneered Walnut Furniture vs Solid Walnut Furniture

Due to the higher cost of walnut wood compared to some of the other hardwoods used to produce fine furniture in the United States, it is frequently utilized as a veneer. By using walnut as a veneer, you may achieve the appearance of walnut while saving on material expenses. However, exercise caution in determining the extent to which you wish to reduce costs. On top of another solid hardwood, a high-quality walnut veneer will be applied. Avoid laminate veneers and particle board interiors — whatever savings you save will quickly evaporate as the furniture is likely to deteriorate in short order. We always see veneer as a false economy, we generally encourage customers to buy 100% solid wood furniture that you can enjoy for generations. 

Can Walnut Furniture Go Outside?

On the one hand, walnut is an exceptionally hard wood. It typically does not distort in response to variations in humidity and temperature, and it is rot-resistant. However, because all wood deteriorates when exposed to the environment, we recommend avoiding outdoor walnut furniture. Consider our tropical hardwood options of Teak, Ipe or Cumaru instead, these sustainably sourced tropical hardwoods are very weather resistant and durable for long term outdoor use. 

Is Walnut Wood Eco-friendly? Are Eastern Black Walnut Trees Endangered?

Although walnut trees were formerly widespread, they take more than 100 years to mature. The earliest immigrants utilized wood to construct homes, cabinets, and fence posts, but subsequent generations used it for nearly everything, including railroad ties and airplane propellers.

Although trees are not endangered, there are significantly less of them than in the past, which is why environmentally conscious businesses like ours acquire wood from sustainably managed forests, most often our walnut has grown within 50 miles of our woodshop. 

In terms of environmental friendliness, it is an excellent choice. By selecting a domestic variety that is sustainably grown, materials spend less time in travel, lowering their carbon footprint. Furthermore, harvests are strictly regulated in the United States, ensuring that tropical deforestation is not a worry. Additionally, walnut's longevity assures that a piece designed by a skilled craftsman will survive 50 or more years, whereas a person may easily discard ten inexpensive particle board pieces in the same period of time.

What to Look for When Purchasing Walnut Furniture

The most common error individuals make when purchasing walnut furniture online is purchasing an item that is not constructed entirely of walnut wood. Numerous businesses call their products as "walnut" solely because they resemble natural walnut wood in color. If you're seeking for genuine walnut wood furniture, the following points to consider:

  • Authenticity: Is the wood genuine, natural walnut?
  • Craftsmanship: Is it expertly constructed utilizing industry-leading techniques?
  • Quality: Is it backed by a lifetime warranty?
  • Maintenance: What type of finish is used and how often is it required?
  • Eco-Friendliness: Is the wood harvested sustainably and locally?

How to Care for Walnut Furniture

How to care for your furniture is highly dependent on the type of wood finish used to coat the wood. While all pieces benefit from routine cleaning, it is generally recommended to avoid commercial cleaners, as they may leave residue on lacquer-finished pieces or damage wax and oil finishes. Oil-finished pieces generally benefit from applying a natural Danish linseed oil at least once a year, however those in warmer areas may need to do it more frequently.

Discover the many wood finishes we offer and how to care for them.

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