Many of our customers are surprised by the rising cost of Walnut lumber.
“Why is this more expensive than Mahogany!” is something we hear a lot. As a domestic species many think it should be easy to get and at least less expensive than some of the other popular, exotic furniture woods, like Mahogany. While Genuine Mahogany can be tough to source, nature has been kinder to that species than it has for Walnut.
The American Black Walnut tree Juglans nigra does not grow as big as the Mahogany nor does it have the same growing seasons lengths. Comparing the two species is a little like comparing apples and oranges. Maple on the other hand makes a more apt comparison since it grows in the same geographic areas. Maple is a bigger, heartier tree, and can be aggressive thus starving other species like Walnut. Walnut is a light demanding tree and does not do well in windy areas. When surrounded by other more aggressive species the Walnut will not grow as tall, usually staying in the 30-70 foot range.
Some of these natural limitations do mean that getting longer length lumber is tough. Walnut trees have many more branches lower to the ground than a species like Oak or Maple so it is much more common to find knots and non straight grain that FAS (Firsts and Seconds) grading systems prize. With these limitations in mind the grading system for FAS Walnut has been downgraded to allow more wood into this top quality category. Walnut is essentially in a group all its own.
So when our customers order FAS Maple or Oak and FAS Walnut we are quick to explain to them that when compared side by side, the Walnut may not be as clear and long as the Maple or Oak. This is not us trying to be sneaky but merely a factor of the downgrade in what is considered an FAS Walnut board.
This is not to say that Walnut is by any means a substandard lumber species, on the contrary it is still one of the most highly sought after species for furniture makers. In many cases these “defects” are exactly what the craftsman is looking for to put their own unique stamp in their creations.