Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra) - Canadian Woodworking Magazine


Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra)

Illustration by Mike Del Rizzo

There are only two species of the walnut genus native to Canada – butternut and black walnut (also called American black walnut). The tree is indigenous to Southern Ontario, but has been planted in Southern British Columbia and parts of Eastern Canada. Black walnut reaches heights of around 100 feet and diameters of up to 3 feet.
Black walnut's natural durability and striking, dark brown colour have made it a wood of choice for fine furniture and cabinetry. You'll find that many antique furnishings were made from walnut. It's also used for decorative paneling, interior joinery, and flooring, as well as clock cases, musical instruments and gunstocks. By the way, while you can eat the nut from a black walnut, virtually all the walnuts we consume are from the Juglans regia species (English or Persian Walnut). Black walnuts are tougher to crack and stronger tasting; however, they are well suited for baking. You'll find out everything you need to know about edible walnuts on the Internet at

Black Walnut
Physical Properties
Black walnut is wonderfully strong, hard, and stiff. It's tough and has a natural resistance to decay. It also has good steam bending qualities, high dimensional stability, and is quite shock resistant. The wood can be straight-grained or figured, including fiddleback, curl, crotch, and burl. Occasionally you can obtain quartersawn walnut, which has a more beautiful grain pattern and striking colour than plainsawn lumber. The colour of the sapwood is whitish, and the heartwood can be light to dark brown. In some cases, it can have dark streaks and a slight purplish tone.

Working Characteristics
Walnut is an excellent choice for a woodworking project. The wood works easily with hand tools and machines. It’s good for carving, routing, turning, drilling, and planing. However, planing does require extra attention when using figured wood. If you've worked with black walnut before, you’ll know that it sands and finishes beautifully, and readily accepts stain. One of the most unique traits of black walnut is that this wood improves with age, developing great lustre and a rich patina over time. So if you choose black walnut for your next woodworking project, you'll be able to enjoy the finished piece for many years to come!

Radial Shrinkage5.5%
Tangential Shrinkage7.8%
Volumetric Shrinkage14%
Weight (lbs/cu ft)38
Average Specific Gravity.55
SustainabilityWidely available
ToxicityDust can trigger allergic reations
Available AsSolid wood, veneer, burls
Size Range1" to 4" thick; up to 13" wide; 4' to 12' long
Price Range$8 - $12 per bd ft (solid); $1.50 per sq ft and up (veneer)

Photo courtesy of The Wood Database

Laura Morris


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