tips for buying black walnut

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 03-20-2008 03:41 PM 12175 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 5190 days

03-20-2008 03:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: black walnut lumber purchasing

I’ve got an opportunity to buy some black walnut and was wondering if anyone could offer any tips on what to look for. It sounds as if the lumber was cut over 10 years ago and has sat in a barn after being stickered (?) with the wood spacers. Since it has air dryed for so long, it sounds like this should be good material to work with. I assume the lumber will be rough sawn so seeing much of the grain pattern will probably be a challenge for my inexperienced eye.

On the other hand, I’ve never worked with black walnut before (or most types of wood for that matter). I was just wondering if anyone had suggestions of things to look for. The price will be about 1/2 the cost of what my local lumberyard charges, so I think it could certainly be a good deal if I can go into the purchase with some knowledge of what I’m doing.
Thanks in advance everyone!

24 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#1 posted 03-20-2008 03:44 PM

If it has been sitting in a barn , stickered, for 10 years, it is certainly dry. There is not much else you need to know, in my opinion. I’d buy as much as I could afford and/or had room to store.

Don’t worry about how it looks in rough sawn condition. Trust me…. if it is black walnut, it will be gorgeous when smoothed and finished.

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

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 5401 days

#2 posted 03-20-2008 03:46 PM

Be careful. I got a deal on some Black Walnut a few months back … it’s addictive. The only thing I can tell you is to check the amount of sapwood (the light stuff). Too much you’ll be scrapping a lot of wood. Beyond that, I haven’t seen ugly walnut so if I were in your shoes, I’d get me some of that.

-- Working at Woodworking

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#3 posted 03-20-2008 03:48 PM

And Russel, even the sapwood issue is a matter of personal preference. No need to scrap it if you like the look.

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

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 5401 days

#4 posted 03-20-2008 03:49 PM

Very true, Charlie, very true.

-- Working at Woodworking

View jerry118's profile


22 posts in 5203 days

#5 posted 03-20-2008 04:03 PM

Even the sapwood can be salvaged. Soak some nuts or a lot of the shell material in al little water and after a week or two strain out the chunks. use the liquid instead of a stain and you will find it difficult to tell it is sapwood.

-- Jerry, Wichita KS

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#6 posted 03-20-2008 04:14 PM

Interesting tip, Jerry!

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

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5190 days

#7 posted 03-20-2008 04:38 PM

Wow guys. I didn’t expet responses so fast. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what I’ll use this for, but since I’m just learning, I tend to choose my projects based on learning a new skill, not on what I’d just like to build (although it does need to serve some purpose as a gift or as something for the home).

I have to admit, I’m very excited about this chance to buy some new material. I actually enjoy buying lumber (even the little I’ve bought in the past) more than buying tools. I’ll proabbly pick up a little bit of cherry too, but we’ll see what I can afford.

Charlie—I looked at some of your past projects and the walnut/cherry box stood out to me. you certainly seem to know your way around a shop.

Russel—I saw the walnut/maple music stand you built and I think I’ve got the idea for what I want to build. It certainly won’t be as intricate, but I may look into some kind of coat tree. If I can’t some up with a design i like using a square post, maybe some other wall mounted coat rack to try a few new joints.

jerry—Thanks for the tip on finishing. I have no idea what I’m going to see when I show up there, so I may end up giving your idea a try depending on what is available.
Thanks again!

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 5199 days

#8 posted 03-20-2008 05:20 PM

You will also want to check all of the boards very carefully. Beetles like walnut. It depends on what part of the country you live and where the walnut came from. I have seen and gotten some walnut in the past that was full of beetles. I ended up burning or throwing it out. One must always be careful when purchasing wood. I do not mean to scare you, just make you aware of potential problems. Air dried wood can have some of the best colors and shimmer. It has something to do with the slower process of drying. Anyway, have fun building with walnut. It is a beautiful wood. John

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5526 days

#9 posted 03-20-2008 05:49 PM

John’s two comments are right on. Beware of holes with little piles of sawdust, indicative of the powder post beetle.

Air dried walnut has a wide variance of red and purple accents, excellent shimmer etc. Nothing like the steamed gray ukkiness of big box walnut. I think it’s well worth getting as long as you look it over carefully.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Dooley's profile


85 posts in 5185 days

#10 posted 03-20-2008 06:22 PM

I would also suggest getting your hands on as much of that walnut you can store. I may be a bit bias though because its my favorite wood. The workability of walnut is right where I like it, and the finish is awesome.

Interesting side note if I may, check out this story about a black walnut, pretty funny.

-- Dooley

View GMoney's profile


158 posts in 5266 days

#11 posted 03-20-2008 07:42 PM

dooley, very interesting article. thanks for the link.

-- Greg, CT

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5368 days

#12 posted 03-20-2008 09:23 PM

You don’t have to throw away/dye/stain the sapwood…shame on you guys ! Just use some imagination.

View joey's profile


396 posts in 5366 days

#13 posted 03-20-2008 10:57 PM

What is walnut going for in your guys area, here I can get 4/4 for $4.35 a bft and 5/4 for $4.90 bft


-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 5278 days

#14 posted 03-21-2008 12:19 AM

The biggest thing we’ve found right now is there is nothing left that’s wide. If you can get ahold of anything over 10-12” it’s at a real premium.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5190 days

#15 posted 03-21-2008 04:20 AM

Thanks everyone for your responses. I’ll be sure to check for any small holes caused by beetles. The wood was moved from one spot to another though, so checking for sawdust may be a challenge. I assume any dust would have been knocked off as soon as theboards were moved.

Daren—I like your joints with the alternating wood colors in the dovetails.

joey—I think walnut around here costs about what you said. I’m thinking that I could get this for under 3.00 per board foot with the individual I’m talking too. 25% off is enough of a deal to get me interested.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open to see if he’s got any particularly wide boards, but I think he said it is mostly just 6-8 inches wide. As long as it is straight, that is perfectly fine for my needs. Thanks again for all this advice and please keep posting if you have more guidance. I have a couple more days to learn before plunking down my long saved money. Thanks!

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