Decisions, decisions… Your Guide to American and European Walnut
Timber selection always involves a choice: selecting the best wood for the job. Sometimes the terms on which that choice is made are obvious. Are you rebuilding a pier? Balsa wood is probably no good. What about a tiny scale model of the Arc de Triomphe? Well then, huge greenheart beams may not be the best option.
Other times the right choice is less obvious, particularly when it comes to aesthetics. As varied as timber is, sometimes the differences between two species can be less clear then perhaps they should be. Even the most seasoned timber experts will admit to sometimes getting their American and European oaks mixed up, even when there are some critical differences between them.
We’ve historically kept the very best American black walnut that money can buy. It’s no idle boast for us, we genuinely believe that we stock boards without equal this side of the Atlantic – we’ve probably bored you to tears telling you all about it in the past.
But what about the old world walnut? What are the differences between the English/French/European/Persian* walnut, and the good ol’ American black that we so know and love?
European walnut runs the gamut of colours from ruby-red to grey-brown, with every possible tone in between.
American black walnut is much… blacker…
Whilst European walnut skews towards earthy reds, black walnut tends more to deep, brooding purples. Our American walnut is very carefully steamed, a process that results in the overall colour being toned. Across the board, tonal consistency is greater – even between heart and sap – perfect for those projects where uniformity is everything. Because European walnut processing is simpler, you find a pleasing array of colours and seriously characterful timber.
Neither species of walnut is exactly a towering. Walnuts trees tend to be pretty small and stumpy on the whole, but Americans are just a bit more imposing. Whilst never exactly towering, those loftier proportions mean that you get squarer boards with straighter grain in black walnut. The smaller proportions of the European walnut means more of the characterful, rustic timber prized by makers of contemporary furniture.
With similarly dense timber and a forgiving, easily worked grain, the timber of both species of walnut tree is fantastic for any number of high-end projects.
Hopefully that has given some ideas about the differences between American and European Walnut. As for which of these amazing species you should choose for your project? Well, that’s completely up to you!
To find out more about the choices on offer, come and have a look in our slab gallery and see some of our extraordinary boards. We promise you won’t be disappointed…
*As with all things timber, there are a mind boggling array of names.
Guides | 4 years AGO