Nobody’s steamed about walnut sales

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Walnut

Strong demand continues for walnut, according to hardwood dealers and sawmills interviewed by Woodshop News. They say it’s been their top seller for months.

“It’s pretty strong right across the board, especially in premium grades,” says Rick Hearne of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, Pa. “We’ll get customers who want totally clear boards, unsteamed, all heartwood. Our customers tend to be more boutique-oriented people who want to see the life of the tree and the wild colors. A single piece of walnut can go from a crimson to a gold to a brown.”

Premium black walnut can be difficult to obtain and there’s a growing concern over the Thousand Canker disease, a blight that is killing walnut trees in North America. Restrictions on transport have been implemented in his region, according to Hearne.

“I’m buying the good eastern Pennsylvania walnut because the state forestry department will allow you to sell kiln dried lumber out of the zone. They’ve been here and certified our kiln as being able to kill the beetles and the eggs and we get that checked once a year. Because of that we’re able to buy logs that we would normally have a lot of competition with over other log dealers.”

Bob Laurie of L.L. Johnson Lumber Mfg. Co. in Charlotte, Mich. is seeing increased demand for walnut.

“It’s much stronger than it was last year,” Laurie reports. “It’s a staple. It’s always been there. Like all the hardwoods, they have their cycles of going up or down. But everything is going up due to Covid. More people are home making things. Prices are going up on just about everything. But walnut and white oak, those two are going faster than the others due to the demand.”

Customers want every bit of the walnut log, according to Gary Green of G.W. Green Urban Forester, a sawmill in Syracuse, Ind.

“The advantage of walnut for me is people like the low grades, too,” says Green. “I grade it as Select & Better, No. 1 Common, then I combine the No. 2 and No. 3 Common, put it all in a stack and sell it for cheap to get it out of the way for about $2/bf. If it were 15 years ago, I would be cutting up the No. 2 and 3 Common for firewood.

“The most recent call I got was from a millwork shop in New England for No. 1 Common walnut to make moldings, but primarily I’m selling to home hobbyists, and occasionally small production shops. And the live edge trend is huge. Everybody wants the 3-1/2’ by 12’ slab.”

Prices for 4/4 walnut were quoted at $5/bf for No. 1 Common; $7.50/bf for plain FAS, and $14 and up/bf for clear with no defects. 

This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue.

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