Because walnut offers such a wide range of color and grain variations, it was one of the most highly valued wood types for furniture across the globe during the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, it remains a popular type of wood for woodworking to this day.
There are currently 21 known species of walnut tree all around the world, from North America to Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In this article, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages they come with in general.
Advantages of Walnut Wood
There are many advantages when it comes to using walnut timber.
As it’s a type of hardwood, walnut is very durable and has great rot resistance. As stated above, its attractive wood grain and color are another reason it is so heavily sourced. Although it is a hardwood, walnut absorbs both stain and polish very well.
The first advantage of walnut is that it is a very durable type of wood. Due to its rot-resistant properties, it generally does not warp despite changes in humidity and heat.
The only thing to keep in mind is that all wood deteriorates eventually when exposed to the elements, so ensure you seal the walnut before using it externally. In saying this, we recommend you do not place walnut furniture outdoors as it will shorten its lifespan. The most common use for this material is for furniture which is displayed indoors.
If you are using it indoors, there will be no problem with this wood’s lifespan. There are many examples of walnut furniture still in existence that were made way back during the 18th century.
Here is the main reason that walnut has been so heavily sourced since its discovery. The beautiful variation of pores and grain in this timber is unmatched by any other hardwood on the market.
For this reason, walnut is commonly used for furniture, as well as musical instruments, knife handles, veneers, cabinets, and much more. When you see a well-polished piece of walnut furniture you understand why these pieces are so high in value.
This timber is definitely one of the most visually appealing types of wood available today.
Wear and Tear Resistance
Due to its toughness, walnut has a strong resistance to wear and tear. This is another common reason it is used for furniture. When made into a cabinet door or drawer, the timber had to be resistant enough to be opened and closed hundreds if not thousands of times without breaking.
Also, the fact that furniture often gets moved around when cleaning or moving homes means that walnut needs to be sturdy enough to take a few bumps.
When used externally, this wood is also very resistant to wear and tear. Polishing or sealing this timber with a product like polyurethane can really enhance its resistance to both water and general damage.
Disadvantages of Walnut Wood
As with all types of timber, there has to be some bad with the good. Walnut is no exception, although there aren’t a lot of disadvantages when compared to other hardwoods.
Firstly the weight of walnut can make it a difficult timber to work with when using large pieces. This shows off how dense and strong the timber is, but can also be a pain to work with if you don’t have a partner to help.
Also, the fact that walnut is so heavily sourced has driven the price up, which means that while this timber is often easy to find, it always comes at a cost.
Lastly, if walnut is used externally and not sealed or stained it can bleach in the sun. This will ruin the lovely look of the timber and is also quite hard to fix.
If you use walnut for small jobs, carving, and woodworking then this section may not apply to you. But if you are using this material for paneling or large furniture then you will know exactly what we are talking about.
Walnut is a very dense and heavy timber. This is all well and good for its durability and long life but when you’re working with the material it can be a real pain in the back… literally. While this may not matter if you have a crew of workers with you when dealing with large alone pieces of wood, you may run into some trouble if you are working alone.
Due to its strong demand amongst the wealthy since the early 18th century, walnut has stayed amongst the top tier of most expensive timbers. This is due to its visual aesthetic, as well as the fact that a walnut tree takes up to 100 years to mature.
This disadvantage of walnut can ultimately cancel out why walnut is so popular, as it bleaches very badly when exposed to sunlight. While this isn’t a problem when used indoors, if walnut is used outside you will need to thoroughly maintain it.
Routine maintenance can be considered annoying for some, but for those who are fans of carpentry or woodworking, it can also be a delightful task with satisfying results. You don’t need to go over the top when maintaining your walnut. A standard application of oil or sealant from your local hardware store is enough to help protect the wood from the sun’s bleaching effects.
Is Walnut Good for Woodworking?
Walnut is a great timber for woodworking, carving, and machining. Despite its benefits, a few issues can make working with it challenging. Tear-out can be a problem when trying to work with walnut that has irregular or figured grain. Nevertheless, if you are working with wood that is straight-grained, you shouldn’t have any major issues.
The visual appeal of this material is perfect for woodworkers, as the simplest job can give that ‘wow’ factor when using a nice slab of walnut.
How Does Walnut Compare with Other Types of Wood?
While walnut is oftentimes the best choice, there are many other types of wood worth considering. As such, before going all in, you might also want to see how walnut compares with: acacia | ash | birch | cedar | cherry | chestnut | ebony | hickory | mahogany | maple | oak | pine | rosewood | sapele | sumac | teak | wenge | zebrawood
As you can see from this article, walnut’s appearance makes it stand out against other hardwoods. This timber does have some disadvantages, but if you know what you’re looking for and have other workers to help you move large pieces around, then these disadvantages shouldn’t cause a problem.
Good luck using walnut for your future building projects.