Walnut Wood Characteristics

By Wade Shaddy

Walnut wood is a hardwood used for building furniture, cabinets, picture frames, trimwork or any other custom woodworking project when Individuality is desired. Walnut differentiates itself from other hardwoods by its color and price, which is typically higher than other hardwoods. Walnut is prized by craftsmen for its workability and appearance.


Walnut wood has a creamy brown color that is unequaled among the hardwoods. It ranges from a dark chocolate brown to a creamy amber. It has subtle streaks of white and black swirls intermixed randomly through the grain pattern creating a complex blend of colors that complement each other. Walnut wood needs no stain because of its existing beauty, but when stain is added, walnut wood will take on added colors such as red, which is one of the most common pigment additives typically applied to walnut for extra character.


Even though walnut is classified as a hardwood, it is one of the softest of all the hardwoods, ranking only above alder on the hardness scale. This soft quality makes walnut a good candidate for hand carving, and it is often used for sculptures or other art projects. Due to its softness, walnut is also one of the lightest of all the hardwoods. Large projects built from solid walnut are far lighter than other hardwood projects of similar size.

Grain Pattern

Typical grain patterns in most hardwoods are bold and define the species. Grain patterns in walnut can be hard to identify. They are subtle and varied, containing swirls, dips and inconsistencies. Walnut wood has defects in the grain pattern that create dark black splotches. Also know as burls, these are highly sought after features that give walnut character and actually add opulence and a certain mystique to the appearance of walnut wood. When all of these factors are mixed together, they create a complex blend of patterns that is aesthetically pleasing.


Milling walnut is a pleasure. With its inherent softness, walnut yields easily to almost any saw blade, router bit or knife. It has a pleasant scent when it is cut and produces a light, curly sawdust that doesn't hang in the air like oak or ash. Walnut has a slight flexibility to it, giving the walnut strength and making it less likely to chip, shatter or split. Walnut can easily be carved by hand with almost any kind of knife, and due to the curving grain patterns, cuts without creating long splinters that run along straight grain lines.

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