If you are looking to build something around your home, then going with solid wood is always a good option. With that being said, there are of course dozens of different types of wood that you can use for woodworking. Two very popular types include walnut and wenge.
Today, we are going to compare these two to see which one is best used for a variety of purposes.
What Is Walnut?
First, we have the walnut tree, specifically the eastern black walnut. This is the type of tree that grows all throughout eastern Canada as well as in the eastern United States. These are fairly large trees that can grow up to 150’ tall and 8’ wide, and they enjoy growing in well-drained soil with plenty of sun.
Walnut is well known for being a very hard type of wood that is also very dense, so it is quite durable and resistant to denting, scratching, and physical impacts.
Walnut wood also features a lot of natural oils, which combined with its density and hardness, allow for extreme resistance to fungus, pests, moisture, and decay. Although it is often used for indoor purposes, it also makes for a good outdoor type of wood.
Moreover, this wood usually has a very straight grain, and it’s also very tight, although it can be a bit curvy or wavy at times. Walnut wood may also have some knots, gaps, and voids, although not too many of them.
In terms of color, walnut is a very deep brown color, something like coffee or chocolate. Although walnut wood is very dark, it will get lighter over time. Because walnut wood takes so long to grow, it is fairly expensive to use.
What Is Wenge?
We then have the wenge tree, which is native to various countries in central Africa, as it does like growing in hot climates. This tree is moderately tall, as it can grow to 90,’ and features a trunk that is roughly 4’ in diameter.
This type of wood is well known for being extremely hard and durable, as it has excellent scratch, dent, and impact resistance, as well as a very high crushing strength. It is one of the more durable types of hardwood that comes out of Africa.
Moreover, in terms of pest, fungus, and rot resistance, it is also very highly rated. It’s an excellent type of wood to use for both indoor and outdoor purposes.
As for appearance, the wenge tree features a straight grain, although it has a very coarse texture combined with a low natural luster. Although it might have some very small knots, it usually doesn’t have too many imperfections.
Where color is concerned, the heartwood of wenge wood is a medium brown with a reddish or yellowish hue, combined with black streaks. This type of wood is often used for paneling, furniture, and musical instruments.
Walnut vs. Wenge: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know what both walnut and wenge wood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One difference here is that wenge wood is much harder than walnut wood. Walnut features a Janka hardness rating of 1010 lbf, whereas wenge wood features a Janka hardness rating of well over 1800 lbf. This means that wenge is much more resilient to physical impacts, denting, and scratching.
Weight and Density
Another major difference here is that wenge is also a bit heavier and denser than walnut wood. Walnut features a weight of roughly 43 lbs per cubic foot, whereas wenge wood features a density of roughly 55 lbs per cubic foot.
This means that wenge is more structurally sound and more durable than walnut, although also a bit heavier, and therefore harder to work with.
Resistance to the Elements
Although both types of wood are resistant to the elements, walnut does have a slight advantage here, mainly due to it containing more natural oils. Both are more than suitable for outdoor use, although when it comes down to it, walnut is probably the better option.
Overall Durability and Strength
When it comes to strength and durability, wenge wood is definitely the stronger of the two, although it won’t survive for quite as long if you use it for outdoor purposes.
Appearance – Grain and Color
The big difference here has to do with the appearance, with walnut having a very straight and tight grain, although it can have curves at times, and it usually doesn’t have many knots, gaps, or voids. Walnut wood has a very dark brown, coffee-like color.
This type of wood will grow lighter over time. Wenge wood also has a straight grain, straighter than walnut, although it also has an extremely coarse texture. This type of wood also has a medium-brown color with a yellowish or reddish hue, combined with black streaks.
Due to it being so hard and dense, wenge wood is often considered to be much harder to work with than walnut. Wenge is going to make your saw blades go dull much faster.
Walnut is a fairly expensive type of wood, as it can come in at up to $25 or even $30 per board foot. However, Wenge wood tends to be even more expensive, generally between $25 and $40 per board foot. This is partially because there is not much wenge wood left in Africa, so the supply is quite limited.
When to Use Walnut Wood?
If you are looking for a very beautiful type of wood that is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use, you need something that is very durable, yet still won’t break your bank, then walnut always makes for a good option. Walnut wood is the better option for outdoor use.
When to Use Wenge Wood?
If you need a type of wood that is ideal for all sorts of indoor and outdoor applications but particularly for indoor use, and you need something that has extreme durability and resistance to physical damage, and you are willing to pay for it, then wenge wood is the ideal option to consider.
Alternatives to Walnut and Wenge Wood
If you are looking for a hardwood that is more affordable than either of these two, ones such as maple, poplar, alder, white oak, ash, and beech all make for good alternatives to walnut and wenge.
Both walnut and wenge wood are fairly high-end types of wood that work well for both indoor and outdoor applications. The main difference here is how resistant to the elements they are, their appearance, and the cost. Now that you know what makes them different, you can make an informed choice between the two.