April 2018

Black Walnut Table & Sap Wood

Black walnut is the king of all woods. Not only is the chocolate-brown heartwood beautiful it has cooperative working characteristics. For this entry table the chocolate-brown heartwood is surrounded by a thin band of cream-colored sapwood and two outside live bark edges remain intact. It is a joy to work with black walnut.

This entry table was commissioned from Texas Native Black Walnut. Black Walnut is a large tree to 100 feet tall and a trunk to 3 feet or more, with a straight stem. They can be found in East Texas on rich bottomlands and moist fertile hillsides, as far west as the San Antonio River. This tree was found along Buffalo Bayou in Houston Texas.

The black walnut tree once grew abundantly in the eastern U.S. bottomland forests, where the soil was deep and rich. Trees 150 feet tall with 50-foot clear stems and 6-foot diameters were not uncommon. The rage for walnut as a fine furniture wood occurred in a period from 1830-1860, during the popularity of the Empire, Victorian, and Revival styles. Unfortunately by this time, black walnut wood was already becoming scarce.

Black walnut is a slow growing tree which accounts for the durability of its heartwood. It would be hard to overstate Black Walnut’s popularity among woodworkers in the United States. Its cooperative working characteristics, coupled with its rich brown coloration puts the wood in a class by itself among temperate-zone hardwoods. To cap it off, the wood also has good dimensional stability, shock resistance, and strength properties.

For this table I have included the thin band of cream-colored sapwood. Interesting fact – The sapwood, comprises the youngest layers of wood and is the network of thick-walled cells brings water and nutrients up from the roots through tubes inside of the trunk to the leaves and other parts of the tree. As the tree grows, cells in the central portion of the tree become inactive and die. These dead cells form the tree’s heartwood.

Black walnut never faltered in its use as gunstock material. It is unsurpassed, since no other wood has less jar or recoil, it doesn’t warp, shrink or splinter, and it is light in proportion to its strength. The smooth, satiny surface makes it easy to handle.