Recent walnut sales are mixed. But hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News say the one constant in the market is customer fondness for the wood’s rich and characteristic color.
Doug White of Doug White Hardwoods in Marissa, Ill., says walnut is much more popular than it was six months ago and is certain that its rich physical appearance is what draws customers.
“It’s a design trend,” White says. “I think we’re selling a lot more of it for hardwood floors. We are doing several jobs in hardwood floors right now in rustic grade. People seem to like having character in their hardwood floors. Some sales are picking up with furniture and cabinetry use also.
“Walnut is a medium-density wood so it’s easy to work with and it’s a stable wood in my opinion. We steam about three quarters of our walnut to blend the white sapwood in to be uniform with the dark wood.”
Eastern black walnut (Juglans negra) grows plentifully in the central and eastern parts of the U.S. from southern Canada down to Florida. The species is currently threatened in some locations by thousand cankers disease, a result of the combined activity of a fungus and the walnut twig beetle. Information on the disease and resources for finding local quarantines can be found at www.thousandcankers.com.
Jerry Anton of O’Shea Lumber Co., a wholesaler in Glen Rock, Pa., says walnut sales are way up.
“We’ve seen a lot of demand for walnut lately. It’s going into flooring and countertops, a lot into architectural millwork, tables, moldings and some cabinets,” Anton says.
He, too, believes the dark hue of the species is what is drawing consumers. He sees a lot of interest in darker furniture and rustic flooring.
“Pricing seems to be going up all the time. The availability seems to be fairly good, but there’s some limited supply in different thicknesses or grades. It’s definitely getting tighter. There’s also a walnut canker causing some issues about the availability and being able to ship it from one state to another and they’re trying to control this in certain counties.
Bob Hakken of Wagner Wood Products in Holland, Mich., says he hasn’t sold any walnut this fall, but expects demand will return shortly, just as it always does.
“Earlier in the year I sold some, but it seems to have fallen off completely. Pricing has been fairly stable. From what I’ve seen over the years, a number of different species will be popular for a few months and something else replaces it for a few months and when that goes away, the first one comes around again. It’s just periodic like that. Walnut was hot from last winter to mid-summer and then dropped off. But it will be back.”
Retail quotes for 4/4 select grades of walnut ranged from $5 to $5.95/b.f.
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue.