Stately wood tabletops are all the rage these days with many unique tree slabs available, especially those made of walnut, a thick and durable hardwood rich in color. Hardwood suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News report a strong consumer interest in walnut varieties as some favor it with a live edge to add flare to their projects.
Rob Lamoureaux of Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn., reports adequate supplies and stable prices. He says customers are mainly looking for clear grades of walnut, which is a notoriously knotty tree.
“In the past month, we’ve seen a spike in sales on walnut mostly for countertops and tabletops. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve had five orders to prepare slabs for tabletops with a live edge. We don’t see it used so much for furniture, but for millwork like crown molding,” Lamoureaux says.
“I see a lot of different things going on. I’m not sure if it’s a design trend or not. People are more comfortable with their money and we always see that right after an election. But we’ve always had success with walnut.”
Eastern black walnut, (Juglans nigra), is native to eastern North America. Claro walnut (Juglans hindsii), also known as Western walnut or California walnut, is very similar to Eastern black walnut, but still distinctive in appearance. It grows in the Western U.S. from Northern California to southern Washington to western Idaho.
“With the claro, the trees get a lot larger and the growing conditions are different, which also translates into a different color in the wood,” says Aaron Blumenkron of Goby Walnut Products in Portland, Ore.
“We sell more claro walnut than anything and we’ve constantly been sold out of material probably for the past year. So, as a whole, sales have picked up and continued to stay strong. Live-edge material is incredibly popular right now, especially for the big slabs.”
Blumenkron has seen an uptick in the use of live-edge slabs for commercial interior spaces, such as bars, coffee tables and bathroom vanities at hotels and restaurants. Regular slabs are often used for interior furnishings like trim, stair treads and railings.
Doug White, owner of Doug White Hardwoods in Marissa, Ill., says walnut’s popularity has exceeded a one-year stretch, which is not the typical case with other hardwoods.
“It’s been a pretty good mover of ours, more than the lighter-colored woods like the hickory or birch and maple, which have particularly fallen off for us. But we’ve seen a lot more walnut than normal,” says White says.
“The dark color seems to be the trend. We sell a lot of flooring in walnut and other things and it seems like flooring has taken a turn for the dark, too. It’s been doing that for over a year.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.