Black walnut is a prized number due to its grain properties and natural beauty. But it excels best in interior and exterior decor.
I’ve spent 20 years cutting and staining wood to make beautiful artwork. So, I know the best attributes of black walnut wood and which applications suit it best.
I’ve gathered the nine black walnut project ideas to highlight black walnut wood’s beauty.
Let’s dive in.
9 Best Black Walnut Wood Projects
If you want bold yet classy flooring, black walnut is an excellent choice. It warms up a room and contrasts paint colors nicely.
Walnut wood is soft enough to cut and shape easily but hard enough to withstand the stress of daily life. It also resists wear and tear, which allows your floors to last for decades.
Black walnut wood takes stain pretty well, making it easy to adjust the hue of your lumber. For instance, some people prefer a uniform coffee-brown color. So, they’ll often stain their finished furniture to match the lumber’s darkest shade.
Black walnut ages flawlessly and becomes heirloom material. My family’s century-old walnut furniture has developed a deep patina over time, which is a toned layer that takes decades to form.
Patina is valuable because it helps experts determine its genuineness. So, it gives character to your black walnut furniture and drives up the price as an antique.
Doors and Door Frames
Black walnut wood is a premium choice for homeowners who want stylish hardwood doors. Its grain is prized for its linear pattern and strength advantage.
It is resistant to warping and cracking, which makes it perfect for entry and patio doors. Plus, its durability ensures that your walnut wood door will last for decades.
Some of my home’s oldest doors are made from black walnut wood, and they’re still in perfect condition.
Black walnut wood doors may fade from sun exposure over time. However, the wood stains well, so a fresh coat of dark walnut stain will refresh the doors.
Walnut doors are also great for fine carving, which allows carpenters to engrave beautiful patterns. This bit increases the value of black walnut wood by preserving antique designs.
Shelves and Cabinets
The dense black walnut wood is a bold way to add character to your living room and kitchen. Its dark shelves also create a classic design to add to your current decor or even update it.
Black walnut’s water resistance comes in handy in kitchen applications because it prevents the cabinets from absorbing spills and splashes. Plus, using thick slabs of dense walnut ensures that your cabinetry lasts long in good conditions.
However, one common drawback is the price. It justifies using black walnut wood for large kitchen applications due to the cost and limited availability. But walnut wood always makes an elegant statement for homeowners who still use it.
My current table is a DIY black walnut wood project from the pandemic. It has its fair share of wear from constant use, but the seal and finish have protected it from swelling and wear.
If you’re using black walnut wood for kitchen cabinetry, I’d advise you not to skip any steps. Sand, stain, and finish it meticulously with high-quality products. Your cabinets will thank you.
Bowls and Cutlery
Bowls and cutlery fall under black walnut wood’s wood carving advantages. It can be a little challenging due to its moderate hardness, but it is still soft enough to carve into cool shapes.
Black walnut sculptures resist warping and cupping, which ensures that your pieces remain flawless over time. And, due to black walnut’s incredible stain retention, you can deepen the brown or slap new colors on your artwork.
The main concern about carving with black walnut is its susceptibility to splintering. However, you’ll likely experience this if you’re carving across its linear grain.
Black walnut grain ranges from open to closed, and while closed-grained wood is harder to carve, it takes a finer finish.
For carving black walnut wood, I’d always recommend using sharp tools and a mallet. Mallets help you achieve the desired cut with much less force.
Chairs and Tables
Deep chocolate chairs and tables make a modern and elegant impression. It has a dense and shock-resistant nature, which makes it ideal for high-activity areas like dining tables.
Black walnut wood is also perfect for heirloom furniture because of the rich patina that has formed over the years. So it won’t only stand the test of time, but it will also appreciate in value.
My parent’s home is full of (now antique) black walnut wood crafted over the last century. With proper maintenance, your furniture can become a part of your family’s heirlooms.
Gunstocks and Knife Handles
Black walnut wood is by far the best material for gunstocks.
Its fibers are densely packed and aligned, creating a shock-resistant firearm body. It has been used for centuries to stock everything from pistols to military-grade rifles.
Black walnut wood can handle the intense load from recoiling rifles. Since it is so dense, filling the grain can be tricky. But its stain absorption allows you to tint the stock and even create the traditional checkered designs. Stained black walnut wood is truly a beauty.
Again, the biggest complaint about black walnut good stocks is their price point.
Walnut wood is certainly luxury lumber, and it may not be practical to fill your safe with walnut-stocked firearms. But I’d certainly take the opportunity to add a stocked 500 Jeffery to my collection.
If you plan to use black walnut wood for gun stockings, you should use the taproot. It is much denser than regular boards and has an interlocked grain, which slashes the chance of splitting from shock.
Black walnut is a heavy and dense tonewood for violins and guitars. As a tonewood, it creates a bright tone with good sustain, much like the bell-like ring of maple wood.
Due to black walnut density, its guitars are much louder than many others. So, they’re great for pairing with other instruments because they cut well.
An all-walnut guitar is prized for a high value of money because of its sound appeal. Plus, black walnut’s hardness and stability push its instruments toward the heirloom side. They’ll pass through generations in excellent condition.
If, like me, you like a blend of brightness with warm overtones, you should cop a black walnut guitar.
Black walnut wood is used to create framing and interior trim.
It creates a neat contrast for window trims, and you can easily shape it with small tools. Black walnut is also easily stained to different shades and sheens, allowing you to customize your project to match an aesthetic.
Black walnut wood contains juglone, which is a toxin that resists rot and insect infestation so that your trim lasts for decades.
These interior trims will be stable enough to withstand shock and warping to withstand wear over time.
If you appreciate hand-carved wooden ornaments, then you’ll love black walnut decorations.
They are fun, small black walnut projects that can help you teach children wood carving. For instance, the holidays give me a reason to carve wooden soldiers, socks, and candy canes to scatter in the house.
Due to black walnut’s stainability, you can match your carvings to different inspirations.
The beautiful projects can adorn your house or you can present them to loved ones. And, because of black walnut’s longevity, your ornaments and heirlooms.
How Durable is Black Walnut Wood?
Black furniture will usually last for over 70 years under good maintenance. This is one area where its straight grain is advantageous – straight-grained boards are denser and more durable.
Is Black Walnut Wood Waterproof?
Black walnut wood isn’t waterproof.
However, it is only water-resistant and resists rot-repellent. But it can absorb moisture as a deck or flooring (often long-sitting water), causing it to sag from the added weight.
Is Black Walnut Wood the Strongest Wood?
Black walnut wood isn’t the strongest wood for furniture. The title belongs to the Australian Buloke. It has a Janka rating of 5060 lbf, while walnut wood has a 1010 lbf rating.
Pros of Black Walnut Wood
- Single boards have a rich tone variation
- It takes stain and polish easily
- It repels rot and insect attack
- It lasts for several decades
- It is shock-resistant
Cons of Black Walnut Wood
- It is expensive
- Requires extra maintenance in exterior settings
- It is prone to splintering when carved across the grain
- Sourcing may be difficult because of its limited availability
Is Black Walnut Wood Toxic to Humans?
Black walnut trees contain juglones, which are thought to inhibit other plants from growing. Hence the saying that “Nothing grows under a walnut tree”.
For instance, it would be easy for humans to inhale or ingest it if walnut wood crumbled easily. But because it remains intact and juglone is water-soluble, it rarely affects humans.
That said, black walnut wood contains the least amount of juglone in the entire tree. And since the wood is non-porous, you’re unlikely to come in contact with the toxin.
Is Black Walnut More Expensive Than White Oak?
Black walnut is more expensive than white oak because it is rarer and more difficult to source. For instance, black walnut is nearly two times more expensive than oak per board foot.
Now, white oak is still valuable and durable. It is just more populous and easier to source, which lowers its price point.
What is The Difference Between Walnut and Black Walnut Wood?
What we call walnut wood is called English walnut. It grows in Central Asia and possibly originated in Iran. On the other hand, black walnut comes from eastern North America.
While both trees are considered hardwoods, English walnut wood is lighter in color and density.
English walnut wood has a honey-brown color with a consistent grain pattern, while black walnut is usually a coffee-brown color with straight or irregular grain.
Black walnut is much more durable than English walnut, even before harvest. So, California grafts black walnut onto English walnut scions to prevent pests and diseases.
The Grand Conclusion
The deep brown color of black walnut wood is perfect for furniture and ornamental use. It is non-porous and durable, and it has a luxurious appeal.
So if you have a suitable wood budget, you should give it a go.
I’ve analyzed the core advantages and disadvantages of walnut in another article, so you should check it out before buying walnut lumber.
Do you have black walnut wood in your home or workshop? Tell me your go-to walnut application in the comments and share this article with a fellow woodwork hobbyist.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Expensive is Black Walnut Wood?
Black walnut wood costs anywhere from $6 to $15 per board foot, making it a pretty expensive choice for furniture. Because of its price point, many people use cheaper alternatives like cherry and mahogany and stain their projects with a black walnut stain.
How Dark is Black Walnut Wood?
Black walnut wood is as dark as mocha-brown, but this only applies to the heartwood. The sapwood is a creamy-white or blonde color. So, wood dealers will often steam the freshly sawn lumber to achieve a rich walnut wood color.
Is Black Walnut Wood The Most Expensive Wood?
Black walnut wood is certainly pricey, but it isn’t the most expensive wood for furniture. The most expensive wood is Amazon rosewood, which used to exceed $17,000 per ton. However, it is the world’s most endangered species by value, so you can legally purchase it in the US.
Is Black Walnut Wood More Expensive Than Mahogany?
Black walnut wood is more expensive than mahogany wood because of its rarity. Mahogany averages around $6 per board foot, and black walnut wood hangs around $11 per board. But to be fair, black walnut wood is much harder and denser than mahogany wood.
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