Walnut vs. Zebrawood: Which One to Use?

Walnut vs. Zebrawood: Which One to Use?

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Are you looking for the perfect timber to use in your woodworking project? Walnut and zebrawood are two incredible types of wood. If crafted well and used in the right project, both walnut and zebrawood create striking aesthetics. But when should you use one over the other?

This article will discuss the different properties of walnut and zebrawood, so you know the best times to use them.

What Is Walnut?

Scientifically, the walnut tree originates from Greece and Asia. However, it is so well entrenched into European cultures that many consider walnut to be a native tree of their own country as well.

The walnut was planted all across Europe, where it held an important cultural position for centuries. In Greek mythology, the walnut symbolized wisdom.

In Roman mythology, when their gods came to Earth, they lived on walnuts. In some areas of France, there is a custom for newlyweds to dance around a walnut tree.

One of the main reasons that the walnut tree was widely planted is the high quality of the timber that it creates. The second reason is that the nuts from the tree are a fantastic food source. In fact, the walnut is the oldest known source of food from trees.

Interestingly, there are many types of walnut trees. The walnut family is composed of 21 species of tree.

However, there are two main types of walnut that are predominantly used in woodworking, these are the European walnut and the black walnut. While similar, the two species have some differences, with the black walnut being much darker than the European.

What Is Zebrawood?

The first mention of zebrawood was back in 1773 when it was noted in the records of the British Customs for Honduras and Nicaragua.

Straight away, cabinet makers from Britain started using the wood for their work. When this supply ran out, another source of zebrawood was found in West Africa.

The West African tree that supplies zebrawood is scientifically known as Microberlinia brazzavillensis.

However, there are a lot of tree species that are referred to as zebrawood around the world. The West African tree can grow up to 150’ tall and have a trunk diameter of 5’.

Walnut vs. Zebrawood: What Are the Differences?

Walnut and zebrawood are both highly celebrated types of wood, with their own unique characteristics. In this section, we’ll outline the differences between the two types of wood, so you know which one is best to use in your project.


Walnut and zebrawood are both strong timbers that can withstand a good amount of stress and impact. However, zebrawood is considered stronger than walnut.

Appearance and Color

Zebrawood is characterized by its striped appearance, as it was named after the zebra animal, which shares similar contrasting stripes.

The dark stripes can vary in shade from brown to black and the lighter tones most frequently vary between cream and golden yellow.

The stripes will look different for every piece of timber, in some they can be consistent, but in other pieces, they are not.

The thickness of the stripes can also change dramatically, with some much thicker than others. If the timber is quarter sawn, that will enhance its stripes.

Walnut is an exquisite, rich, deep-colored wood. The dark elements of the walnut’s tones are often compared to chocolate.

The sapwood is often much lighter than the heartwood, which can bring nice contrasts to the boards. The grain is usually straight and uniform.


For European and American woodworkers, zebrawood is considered an exotic timber. It is hard to source and must be transported a long way to reach local timber merchants.

Also, because the tree’s bark is so thick, it must be stripped before transportation, which adds to the labor costs of milling it.

Walnut is another expensive timber, however, it is cheaper than zebrawood. Despite how slowly the walnut tree grows, it is still easier to source and mill.

When to Use Walnut Wood?

Walnut is loved by woodworkers for many reasons. The cultural significance of walnut has meant that it was traditionally used for high-end projects where only the finest materials were acceptable.

Alongside the cultural significance of walnut, it is a fantastic timber to work with – particularly with hand tools.

Cutting and shaping walnut can be a real pleasure, although difficult at points. The smell of freshly cut walnut is delightful.

Walnut polishes to a very high sheen thanks to its close, tight grain. Some projects that walnut is frequently used in are cabinets, furniture, and veneer.

Some further uses are gunstocks, flooring, instruments, and paneling.

When to Use Zebrawood Wood?

Zebrawood is mainly considered a decorative wood, with the distinctive stripes celebrated and put on display.

Some uses for the wood are veneer, paneling, boxes, gun grips, guitars, furniture, inlay, and marquetry.

Interestingly, in the past, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz also used zebrawood to clad the dashboards of their vehicles.

Alternatives to Walnut and Zebrawood Wood

Both walnut and zebrawood are expensive and can be difficult to source. Sometimes, this means that we have to consider alternative timbers to use in our projects.

In this section, we’ll outline some other types of wood that can be used instead of walnut and zebrawood.


Teak is a strong, dense, and close-grained hardwood. It’s been used for centuries as a high-end material in cabinetry, paneling, and room decoration.


Bubinga is another exotic hardwood from Africa. It is very strong and has lovely grain patterns. The coloring is between red and brown, with purple sometimes included too.


Deciding between walnut and zebrawood can be very difficult. Both types of wood are used in high-end work, they are strong, look great, and can turn an average project into something special.

Both walnut and zebrawood are expensive timbers, but because zebrawood is harder to source, it can cost a lot more than walnut.

If you are able to examine the stock of timber before purchasing, that will play a big part in deciding which wood type to choose. Look for the best boards, with minimal defects, and straight grain.