It’s no secret that the McIlvain family’s heritage in the U.S. lumber trade actually predates our country’s formation as a nation. But did you know that Walnut lumber was also exported during the Colonial times as well? British and European craftsmen were quick to recognize the uniquely attractive coloring and grain of this domestic species. It easily gained popularity for interior applications such as cabinetry furniture. Because it was in such plentiful supply, it quickly eclipsed Mahogany as the go-to species for those desiring a lumber species with darker coloring. Today, American Black Walnut still retains a place in our inventory.
Black Walnut certainly stands out from among other species for its chocolate-colored heartwood. Its rich, dark coloring provides a contrast to most other domestic species, such as Oak and Maple. When it’s freshly milled, Walnut can naturally exhibit a variety of colors, sometimes including light creams and even purples. For that reason, most wood workers prefer steamed Walnut to unsteamed Walnut. The steaming process helps to even out color variation and helps achieve the mellow deep brown color for which Walnut is highly prized. Over time, the color of Walnut becomes lighter, allowing it to blend with other lumber species.
In addition to its appearance, Walnut lumber is celebrated by woodworkers everywhere for its ability to hold details well. Walnut has excellent hardness and is gentle on cutting tools. Those characteristics allow it to be machined easily and made into paneling, doors, and furniture.
Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we purchase Black Walnut from mills throughout the Ohio River Valley, from which we’re able to source a large selection of gorgeous Walnut boards in a wide variety of sizes, including planks up to 12” wide. Because of how the Walnut tree grows, it doesn’t offer as much potential for long, wide, clear boards. For that reason, Walnut is graded differently from other domestic species.
Due to a heightened demand for steamed Walnut, the vast majority of our Walnut inventory is comprised of steamed Walnut.
Today, Walnut is certainly not a “bargain” when it comes to price. However, its popularity continues to create demand, and that demand clashes with limited availability. As a result, Walnut can be more expensive than Cherry or even some exotic species. Today’s décor trends are all about drama created by combining light-and-dark extremes without sacrificing warmth; that theme creates plenty of possibilities for on-trend applications using Walnut lumber.
Whether you’re considering Black Walnut lumber for flooring, cabinetry, trim, furniture, or something entirely outside the box, we can help you source and mill high-quality Walnut in the sizes and specifications that your next project requires.