Black Walnut Board Selection?

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Forum topic by Danestar posted 05-25-2010 06:53 PM 3119 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Danestar's profile


32 posts in 4135 days

05-25-2010 06:53 PM

I am torn in my decision process on selecting Black Walnut Boards for Coffee table and 2 end tables. Before I get drilled I am aware or the “Its from a tree not a paper mill” theory and respect it. However I am torn if I should allow my table tops to show the knots and cracks or buy boards with the least amount to avoid the knots. Do walnut boards 8-10”x8’x4/4 typically show a number of knots and cracks? When I read top quality boards what exactly is top quality vs ok quality. I have a local shop Hughes Hardwoods in Sacramento that was around 7.45bf. I haven’t purchased black walnut before but really want the tables to come out good and want the best boards I can get within reason. Anyone have any suggestions or comments?


11 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4663 days

#1 posted 05-25-2010 07:02 PM

I think walnut is like many other woods it can have knots and it’s up to the purchaser as to what look and grade they prefer.


View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5304 days

#2 posted 05-25-2010 07:08 PM

It really depends on the look you are going for. As long as a knot is tight, it will not cause any structural problem for your tables, unless maybe it falls right on an edge. You may have to slightly fill some open areas around a knot if you want a super-smooth finish. But the grain variations surrounding a knot can be quite beautiful.

The other thing to consider when selecting walnut is whether you want any sapwood showing or not. The sapwood is very light in color compared to the dark tone one usually associates with walnut. Many boards will have both heartwood and sapwood. Again, it’s strictly personal preference. Some people like to see the wide variation in color, while others will try to select boards that are all heartwood.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Danestar's profile


32 posts in 4135 days

#3 posted 05-25-2010 07:23 PM

I did notice the sapwood in about half of the boards at my local shop. I think I am going to stick with the darker non sapwood boards for this project. Also when I speak of knots I am speaking of the open hole knots and regular knots. Do either one make the board better or worse. When they classify a board as top quality what exactly are they referring to? Also I mentioned that price is that normal?

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 4979 days

#4 posted 05-25-2010 07:29 PM

What ever happened to the natoional hard and soft wood grading association where hardwoods were graded from and without getting into specifics on knots, how many how big etc etc

First and seconds… good as it gets

Selects and better….........not quite as good as it gets

  1. 1 # 2 and # 3 common, combinations of all three

all of what used to work has been diluted into a Walt Disney World of nonsense.

Buy the best you can afford

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 4041 days

#5 posted 05-25-2010 07:35 PM

Cracks are worrisome, knots not so much … you can fill them if you like the grain pattern around the knot. You can also deal with checks (cracks) in a board by butterflying them, but that us usually only done on exceptional boards (like crotch pieces). If a board is honeycombed (full of small cracks throughout the board) stay away from it.

If you have a project in mind, you should know the approximate BF that you will need, and can shop with that in mind. Keep in mind that you will have some waste where you saw out a knot or a check that you don’t like.

$7.45/bf doesn’t sound like an ungodly price, but you can probably find it cheaper if you look for a small sawyer in your area. Also, if you can find it, air dried walnut retains its reds and purples better than kiln dried.

View thatwoodworkingguy's profile


375 posts in 4016 days

#6 posted 05-25-2010 07:58 PM

Cracks and knots in walnut are not that big of a deal in my opinion.
I often enjoy the presence of a crack because it allow for interesting visual intrest by using a butterfly key.
Also knots can be very attractive. And if its to deep and worrys you, you can always mend it with epoxy.
Like I said I like imperfections in walnut. And with that wood there is usualy interesting figure around the knots and cracks.
Just my opinion

-- ~Eagle America~ ~Woodcraft~

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4160 days

#7 posted 05-25-2010 10:03 PM

I think some of the neatest things I have made came from gnarly, knotty wood. It’s harder to work with, but you can be rewarded with something that is quite interesting. The baby cradle I have in my collection of projects on this site is an example. That was very gnarly oak. I also did a small cherry table (not in my list of projects) with very knotty wood. Neither qualifies as “fine furniture”. Both qualify as “very interesting furniture”.

With respect to walnut, the problem I run into most often is sapwood. I just don’t like walnut sapwood.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 4044 days

#8 posted 05-25-2010 10:40 PM

I have seen local (Oregon) black walnut from $5bf up to $30bf, more for outstanding stuff; $7.45 looks pretty good, but of course the value is based on what you are getting. For $5bf you can expect defects, like end splits, sapwood, and knots of any size. For $30bf you can expect clean, clear heartwood, both sides. The pieces you talk about are pretty nice sized boards, I would expect some defects at your price. Whether or not you spend more money could be based on what you are going to do with the tables; if you are going to use them yourself or as a gift, build them to look like you want them to. If you plan on selling them, figure the cost of spendier wood against what you expect to sell them for. $30-$50bf wood seems rediculous, but when you look at it, you can see why it is worth so much.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4901 days

#9 posted 05-26-2010 12:39 AM

You’re looking at fairly small boards. Chances are they should easily be fairly clear with an occassional tight knot. You shouldn’t be seeing alot of sapwood. If what you said about there being sap in half the boards you were looking at, I’d say that’s a pretty poor offering of walnut.

Be careful when selecting your boards. If the stuff has been around for awhile (and I doubt it has from what you said) once oxidized, it can be real hard to see sap wood. I don’t know how many times I’ve selected my peices only to start planing and have the sapwood pop out at me.

The rest is left to your artsy side. Crotches, knots, etc. are all a part of whether you like them or not. If you’re looking for sleek italian mordern stuff, then you won’t wnat knots.

Personally, I like alot of character in wood. When I built my kitchen cabs out of walnut, I found bug trails, knots, etc. I left them in. And I selected specific boards to resaw for the crotchwood for my lower door panels.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 4823 days

#10 posted 05-26-2010 02:20 AM

I am paying around $3 to $5 a board foot in the Sacramento area. Send me an email and I will get you the info for a guy who has about 30,000 BF of walnut for sale. It is all air dried. The prices depend on quality and quantity.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Danestar's profile


32 posts in 4135 days

#11 posted 07-30-2010 08:27 PM

John I sent you a message if you still have the contact for walnut

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