Walnut buyers are clear about what they want

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Domestic and foreign buyers are getting picky when it comes to buying walnut, according to suppliers and retailers interviewed by Woodshop News.

Walnut has been a top seller for much of the past decade, and buyers had been willing to accept naturally occurring defects. Now, they want wide, clear stock and that’s not always easy to come by.

“Walnut and butternut have their own grade criteria as established by the NHLA, and these are more relaxed rules than for other hardwood species,” explains Bruce Stevens of Highland Hardwoods, a retailer and wholesaler in Brentwood, N.H. “A lot of times a lay person may get upper grade walnut and think they’re looking at what would be a common grade in another domestic species. We have very little call for common grade walnut here. Our sales are really all upper grade sales. It’s a top grade, just not as clear as ash, oak, maple and the other species.”

Skip Kise of Good Hope Hardwoods in Landenberg, Pa., says most of the big, defect-free logs are going to the export market, creating a surplus of smaller logs domestically.

“The foreign markets have basically increased their log sale requirements. They used to take 20” diameter and up but now they want 30” or wider,” he says.

Rob Lamoureaux of Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn., says customers are showing a preference for veneer-grade walnut, called 90/90, which is 90 percent clear on both faces.

“It’s about 30 percent more expensive than standard FAS but you get a much better yield. You don’t have to worry about cutting around defects, knots and sap. It’s pretty much dark all the way through. It’s been moving pretty good for us,” says Lamoureaux.

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue.

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