Walnut has gained in popularity during the last couple of years with woodworking customers looking for highly figured slabs, regardless of the walnut species, in the form of boards, panels and veneers.
Lumber suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News say the trend is the result of recent demand for large, live-edge table tops, and also for darker hues in cabinetry and furniture.
“I’ve been cutting walnut flitches for over 40 years, and the market’s been up and down. You didn’t sell a lot of them years ago, but in the last couple of years everybody wants one-piece slab tabletops — those are really hot right now,” says Sam Talarico, owner of Talarico Hardwoods in Mohnton, Pa. “In the past, when you could get a 5’ wide by 16’ long [black] walnut log, which is rare, you couldn’t sell it. Now it’s the rage.”
Talarico adds that customers in the market for walnut aren’t concerned whether the species is black walnut (Juglans nigra), claro walnut (Juglans hindsii), paradox walnut (also known as Batstogne), or Circassian, an English walnut — all species he sells — as long as they’re impressive-looking slabs. He says many people are in the market for California claro because they’re familiar with it. While it’s known to grow extremely fast and is therefore highly figured, its downside is that it’s dense, unruly and takes a long time to dry.
Pricing for walnut can be all over the map, depending on the species, where it is grown, its color and figure characteristics, and the length, width and thickness of the log. Talarico’s supplies can run from $16/bf for 6/4, 8/4, 10/4 size slabs 2’ wide and up.
“When you start getting over 3’ long slabs, its $25/bf; these are wide, matched flitches. When you start getting into curly walnut and other special logs, it can be $50 a board foot and up. I’ve got some Batstogne walnut for $150/bf, and Circassian walnut burls at $200/bf,” adds Talarico.
— Jennifer Hicks