Working With Walnut
In my experience, fine craftsmen tend to favor specific types of wood, much like a mechanic might prefer working on a certain make or model of cars. It is most often a matter of comfort and familiarity. The craftsman may have created a great custom piece with a specific type of wood so they tend to go back to it.
Every type of wood has its own tendencies. When it comes to finishing the piece, this can be especially true. For example, maple can be difficult to finish because it is liable to shrinkage because of its fluctuations in seasonal humidity. As walnut is one of my favorite woods to build custom wood furniture with, I have learned that in all its beauty, it can still be difficult to work with at times. Below you find information on a couple different types of walnut and a couple tips on working with it when you’re building custom made wood furniture.
Varieties of Walnut
There are two prominent types of walnut- California Walnut and Black Walnut. The California Walnut is mostly harvested in California, although its variety grows in Oregon and Washington. It is slightly lighter in color but has more prominent figure than Black Walnut, which is extremely durable. This makes it ideal for custom built furniture. Fun fact, Walnut was the chosen wood for gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson for their rifle, shotgun and pistols because it could withstand the recoil from the gunshots throughout the guns lifespan. It is also used for less than 1% of hardwood production in the US.
Woodworking with Walnut
Despite the sturdy nature of the finished product, walnut is an unusual stout wood because it reacts very well to steam bending. It also takes glue very well but the run-out must be cleaned immediately because if the glue dries, it will show through the final finish in a coffee colored ring within the finished piece of custom designed furniture.
While Walnut is proven to be a difficult wood to work with, do not let it deter you from using it. Your attention to detail and your patience will be tested but if you take the time necessary to work with Walnut, you will be rewarded with a beautiful work of art.