If you are looking to build something extremely durable and good-looking around your home, then two of the best types of wood you have at your disposal are walnut and rosewood, specifically Brazilian rosewood.
Today, we want to take a closer look at both materials to see what makes them different and which one is best used for a variety of applications. Let’s figure out if walnut or Brazilian rosewood is what you want to use for your next project.
What Is Walnut?
First, we have the walnut tree, specifically the eastern black walnut tree. This type of tree can be found all throughout eastern Canada and the eastern United States, reaching heights of 150,’ with trunks as wide as 8.’
Walnut wood is fairly hard, one of the harder types of hardwood that can be found in North America, and it features a very straight and tight grain. However, the grain of this wood may sometimes be a bit wavy or curvy, and it also might have some knots, gaps, and voids.
As for the color, walnut tends to be very deep and dark brown, something like dark chocolate or coffee. As far as North American wood goes, this is one of the only trees that grow naturally very dark, and unlike many other types of wood that will get darker over time, walnut will get lighter.
This wood is very dense and hard, so it is quite resistant to denting and scratching, plus it does also contain some natural oils, which means that it is somewhat resistant to the elements, mainly pests and moisture.
Walnut is a good choice for both indoor and outdoor use, although it is generally used for indoor purposes, particularly for making floors, furniture, cabinets, veneers, carvings, and more. This wood is a slow-growing type of tree, is not very sustainable, and can therefore also be quite expensive.
What Is Rosewood?
Rosewood refers to a number of richly hued timbers that are very dark brown in color. All real types of rosewood belong to the genus Dalbergia, with Dalbergia nigra, AKA Brazilian rosewood being the most popular and prominent. What does need to be said is that this tree is listed as an endangered species and is protected.
This means that real Brazilian rosewood is hard to come by, and if you do come by it, the price is going to be very high, plus this is a type of wood that is often harvested and sold illegally.
There are other types of rosewood, including Madagascar and Indian rosewood, although the Brazilian variety is the most popular. One of the defining features of this wood is that it smells like roses, and like flowers in general.
This wood is extremely hard, dense, and heavy, which does make it very durable and resistant to many different forms of damage. This material also has excellent pest and rot resistance, and it stands up to moisture very well too.
Brazilian rosewood tends to be a very dark chocolate brown in color, but may also be lighter purplish to reddish-brown, with very dark contrasting streaks. These contrasting streaks may sometimes form what is known as a landscape or spider-webbing grain pattern.
The grain texture of this wood is very uniform and straight, but may at times be spiraled or interlocked, combined with a medium-to-coarse texture. Brazilian rosewood is often used for making musical instruments, small decorative pieces, and indoor furniture. This is an extremely expensive type of wood and it’s not something that you would use for large-scale applications.
Walnut vs. Rosewood: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both walnut and rosewood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
Walnut features a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf. Brazilian rosewood, on the other hand, features a Janka hardness rating of 2,790 lbf. This means that Brazilian rosewood is almost three times harder than walnut, and therefore much more durable and resistant to denting, scratching, and physical impacts. It’s just the much stronger of the two, and therefore much better for high-strength applications.
Brazilian rosewood features an average density of about 52 lbs per cubic foot. Walnut is significantly lighter than Brazilian rosewood, coming in at around 43 lbs per cubic foot. This is another factor that makes this wood significantly more durable than walnut, although it is also much heavier, and therefore much harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
Walnut wood is well known for being fairly durable in terms of moisture and pest resistance. With that being said, it’s certainly not the first choice we would go with for outdoor purposes, as it will start to degrade over time.
On the other hand, Brazilian rosewood is a tropical hardwood that is used to growing in moist conditions, as well as with many pests. Due to its hardness, density, and propensity to produce many natural oils, Brazilian rosewood is ideal for outdoor purposes, as it is very moisture and pest-resistant.
Overall Durability and Strength
When it comes down to it, in more or less every regard, whether hardness, physical durability, flexibility, or moisture resistance, Brazilian rosewood is the far more durable option.
Appearance – Grain and Color
Walnut tends to have a fairly subtle grain pattern, whereas Brazilian rosewood may have spider-webbing or other very distinct patterns, mainly due to those black streaks it has. In general, due to having a much more defined grain pattern, this wood also has more variation in terms of color.
Walnut has a darker base color, although the black streaks in rosewood may be darker, with the main part of rosewood being slightly lighter than walnut. Most people would agree that Brazilian rosewood is the far better-looking of the two.
If you need something that is easy to work with, then walnut is probably the better one, as it is not nearly as hard or dense as Brazillian rosewood. This wood can be hard to work with because it is so hard and dense that it is not only hard to lift but may also dull your sawblades. Rosewood also has many natural oils in it, which can make it hard to paint or stain.
Walnut is going to cost you roughly $25 per board foot. Brazilian rosewood can cost you around $70 per board foot, if not more.
When to Use Walnut Wood?
If you need a type of wood that looks very nice, is very durable, and is also somewhat cost-effective, then walnut is always a good option to consider, especially if you are going to use it for indoor purposes.
When to Use Rosewood?
If you want what has to be some of the best-looking and most durable wood around, whether for indoor or outdoor use, and you are willing to pay the huge cost, then rosewood is always a good option to consider.
Alternatives to Walnut and Rosewood
It is no secret that both walnut and rosewood are very expensive. If you want hardwood that isn’t quite as expensive, oak, alder, ash, poplar, and maple, all make for great alternatives.
In a separate article, we wrote in detail about walnut alternatives.
What it really comes down to here is that rosewood is extremely expensive, but also much better looking and more durable than walnut. That said, both make for great options in their own rights.