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Buyers, sellers put a premium on walnut


Higher prices haven’t slowed sales of black walnut (juglans nigra), according to hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

“Walnut is still always one of our top two sellers, even though the price has increased. In 4/4 alone we’ve seen a price increase of $1.50 a board foot over a year, year and a half, and in the 8/4 we’ve seen it even go up almost $2 a board foot,” says Clint Dillon of Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan, N.C.

“We try to get as much unsteamed as we can, but most of our customers aren’t really picky when it comes to that. I don’t particularly like the steamed myself. I think it kind of dilutes the heart color. We’re seeing strong sales on all of our live edge, especially in walnut. All of our live edge is North Carolina walnut that we get from local mills, so it’s a big thing for us.”

Walnut (4/4 FAS) was selling for 7.95/bf in April at Steve Wall Lumber.

Suppliers outside of walnut’s prime growth area are reporting they prefer premium grades to get a better yield. One of those is Bruce Stevens of Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, N.H.

“Because of the limited availability, it’s still continuing to hold the price levels it has over the past few months, if not actually increasing five or ten percent. A lot of that increase is probably due to the freight cost of moving the lumber from the Midwest where it’s growing to the Northeast. But people are still buying it, that’s for sure,” says Stevens.

“Prices since last fall have hiked up about 15 percent, especially for the higher grade we sell. There are several mills in the Midwest that offer a proprietary grade, so essentially we’re selling something that’s virtually clear in all heartwood and that commands about $14 a board foot today, versus the standard FAS grade which is around $8.50 per board foot.”

Carl Mahlstedt of Goosebay Sawmill & Lumber in Chichester, N.H. is also focused on purchasing and promoting premium grades.

“We’re only listing premium, but we will get people lower grades if they ask for it. If you pay less for it, you end up buying twice as much to make up for defects. With premium you get to use most of the wood,” says Mahlstedt, who notes his 4/4 rough premium sells for about $13.25/bf.

“I thought pricing would slow down, but over the last couple of years it’s gone up so high and it’s still as popular as ever. It seems to me that pricing has probably peaked for the FAS walnut. The premium walnut seems to be rising and there’s just less of it around than there used to be with the wider widths and fewer defects.” 

This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue.

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