The Magic of Walnut Hardwood

The Magic of Walnut Hardwood

Has Wonderful Walnut Hardwood Cast its Spell over YOU?

First, some background. Eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) is native to eastern North America (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juglans_nigra#/media/File:Juglans_nigra_range_map_1.png) and commercially important. It’s treasured for its rich and distinguished appearance; in particular, its distinctive brown coloration and its tight, straight grain pattern. Plus, despite its heft and durability, walnut wood can be easily worked, so it’s perfect for woodworkers to craft into fine furniture, cabinetry, flooring, ceiling paneling and countertops, for example.

Walnut is the second most popular North American hardwood

In terms of demand, Walnut trails only Maple – America’s favorite hardwood, due to its hardness and neutral colors, which make it complementary to almost any kitchen décor. Interestingly, the gap in demand between maple and walnut has been narrowing for years, despite the steadily-expanding price gap between America’s two most favorite hardwoods.

It’s almost as though Black Walnut hardwood has some mysterious power over humans, causing us to want it more even as we collectively drive its price higher.

Rising overseas demand for U.S. hardwood is also driving the cost of walnut higher.

Asian markets require a sustainable source of temperate hardwood

Temperate hardwood includes such species as ash, cherry, maple, oak and walnut. Thanks to careful stewardship of its forests – the U.S. grows more new hardwood each year than it harvests – the U.S. is able to supply rising worldwide demand. For perspective, it’s estimated that 60% of all hardwood lumber produced in the U.S. is exported, and that half of exports wind up in China.

Between 1992 and 2017, hardwood lumber exports to China ballooned from $8 million to $1.5 billion, according to the American Hardwood Export Council. China is the world’s largest producer of furniture, and 20 percent of the furniture that the Chinese manufacture is exported. Prior to 2008, China exported 80 percent of the furniture it made. The drop over time – from 80% to 20% – reflects China’s rising domestic demand and is yet more evidence of the country’s socioeconomic gains over the past decade.

Black Walnut’s Value

Black Walnut hardwood trees are typically worth $1000 and more. A pristine log, 26 inches in diameter and 16 feet long, can fetch up to $3,000, according to an article on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website. Due to their rising valuations, Walnut trees are increasingly the target of tree thieves. Reports of walnut tree theft by unscrupulous loggers looking to make a quick profit are becoming a regular occurrence across the region where the species is common. Using a litany of excuses and suggesting myriad alleged misunderstandings, more and more frequently tree thieves are cutting down valuable walnut trees growing on private property without the prior permission of landowners. And of course, once a tree has been cut down, there’s no going back. Fortunately, states are recognizing the threat and enacting stiff penalties for such crimes.

What is your Walnut Tree Worth?

If you happen to have walnut trees on your property that you are considering selling, here are a few points to keep in mind.

Black Walnut hardwood is typically classified into two grades of quality – lumber-grade (more common) or veneer-grade (rarer). Veneer-grade wood is wood that can be sawn into thin slices, usually 1/8-inch thick and thinner, that are then glued onto other surfaces to impart a fine quality look and finish. To determine the grade of your tree, measure three things:

  • its diameter at 4-1/2 feet above the ground;
  • the height of its trunk up to its lowest limb; and
  • the number of major defects in the trunk.

In order to qualify as Grade A veneer, your tree will need to be at least 19 inches in diameter (60 inches in circumference). A black walnut tree that is Grade A-veneer at 19 inches diameter might sell for $700–$800. If you’re the patient type, you might consider waiting until the tree grows another 6 inches in diameter, when it might fetch twice as much.

More blogs on Walnut Hardwood:

Fast-Rising Demand Is Driving Black Walnut Lumber Prices to Record Highs

Walnut Butcher Block Tops

Walnut Butcher Block – Bring the Trend Home

Live Edge Table Project Featuring Wood Slabs from Created Hardwood Ltd.

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