When it comes to versatile and highly sought-after choices, Walnut and Black Walnut woods are at the top of any list.
Their rich hues, captivating grain patterns, and exceptional hard-wearing durability have made these woods a household name, popular in a variety of wood applications.
In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the unique characteristics, properties, and applications of both kinds of wood, including:
- What both woods are and where they come from
- The differences between each wood when it comes to durability, cost, and workability
- Factors to consider when choosing between English Walnut and Black Walnut Wood.
So, whether you’re deciding which type of walnut wood to use in your next woodworking project or have yet to explore — keep reading!
What is English Walnut Wood?
Coming from the same tree that produces the common walnut, the English walnut (otherwise known as the Juglans Regia) has been in Britain since the time of the Romans.
Its light hue, straight grain pattern, and velvety-smooth texture make it one of the most sought-after woods for both flooring and furniture.
Classed as a hardwood, it’s also impervious to decay, durable, and versatile. With its soft brown color and unique grain pattern, walnut is an amazing wood that exhibits a great deal of diversity.
From wild and swirly to knots that fit perfectly into the flow of the grain, it has a distinctive appearance that is unlike any other type of wood.
What is Black Walnut Wood?
Like the English Walnut and other types of walnut wood, Black Walnut comes from a species of juglans nigra tree.
From the East Coast to the Great Plains, Black Walnut is considered one of America’s most beautiful native tree and possesses all the same durable and hard-wearing properties of its lighter English relative.
Its cooler, chocolate-brown to gray color is often infused with light streaks, creating an eye-catching and visually-pleasing contrast.
With its straight grain and occasional waves, knots, and mineral streaks, it’s no surprise that furniture makers love using it for its workability and dimensional stability.
Difference between English Walnut vs Black Walnut wood
|1200 – 1600 lbs/cubic meter
|1400 lbs upwards/cubic meter
|Relatively versatile, easier
|Challenging, especially for intricate designs
|Moderate durability, less strong
|More long-lasting, strong and shock resistant
|Handcrafted woodwork, veneers, string musical instruments
|Everyday use items, furniture, gunstocks
|Color and appearance
|Lighter, warm honey to pale brown
|Cooler gray to dark brown hue
|Subtle pattern, straight lines, occasional wave or curl
|Diverse and irregular grain, strong color contrast
|Hardness and durability
|Softer, less durable in high use or extreme areas
|Tougher and more durable
|Availability and cost
|More widely available, generally more affordable
|Depletion due to wildfires, higher cost
|Lighter shade, customizable with stains
|Dark color, trickier to customize
|Lower resin levels
|Higher resin content, enhanced finish
|May cause allergic reactions due to allergens in wood dust
|Allergenic potential in wood dust
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing the two woods is their visually striking color variations. Black Walnut has a more intense, deep coloration compared to English Walnut, which has a warm, honey-toned brown hue.
But that’s not all that’s different: you’ll also find that English walnut is considered a more lightweight timber due to its density range of 1200 to 1600 lbs per cubic meter.
In comparison, black walnut tree wood is much denser, ranging from 1400 lbs upwards per cubic meter.
No two woods are the same, and English walnut is considered a relatively versatile wood with an easier workability profile than Black Walnut.
Due to its dense and hard nature, Black Walnut can be a bit challenging to work with — especially when creating intricate decorative designs that require more handling.
This makes it an ideal choice for less decorative uses and more commonly used in more simple designs like flooring, wall paneling, and even some exterior home cladding.
When it comes to durability, although English Walnut has moderate durability and offers some resistance to decay and surface damage, it may not be as strong as Black Walnut.
Due to its natural resistance to decay and strong, shock-resistant characteristics, Black Walnut is often more long-lasting and durable in high-use or harsh environments.
Although they share part of the same name, both have different uses.
When it comes to creating beautifully handcrafted woodwork, many seasoned and hobbyist woodworkers turn to English Walnut as their wood of choice due to its warm tones and attractive grain patterns.
However, it isn’t just a go-to for woodworkers; English Walnut is also frequently used to create wood veneers and string musical instruments such as violins, guitars, and cellos.
On the other hand, Black Walnut is a top contender when it comes to being the wood of choice for everyday use items such as bowls, tables, and even gunstocks.
Although both trees are expensive compared to other timbers like pine (since they grow so slowly – taking on average 20 to 30 years to produce a mature tree), the availability to ever-growing demand of Black Walnut makes it the more costly option between the two.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Between English Walnut And Black Walnut Wood
Color and appearance
English Walnut tends to be a lighter, warm honey to pale brown hue, whereas Black Oak is a cooler gray to dark brown wood.
English Walnut typically displays a more subtle pattern, featuring straight lines and the occasional wave or curl.
The grain of Black Walnut tends to be more diverse and irregular and has a stronger color contrast.
Hardness and durability
Despite both being classified as hardwood, English Walnut’s softer texture makes it less durable in high-use areas or areas exposed to extreme elements.
The softness and workability of English Walnut make it the perfect wood for more decorative and delicate designs. Although equally durable, Black Walnut tends to be a tougher and less versatile choice.
Availability and cost
Wildfires have made Black Walnut particularly vulnerable since 2018, leading to the depletion of a substantial amount of this prized resource and driving up prices even more.
In combination with its slow growth rate, this means that English Walnut is generally considered the more affordable of the pair.
English Walnut’s lighter shade is perfect for those who want to add a personal touch to their woodworking projects by using a custom stain.
The dark, rich color of Black Walnut can make it a bit trickier to customize to specific preferences.
Black walnut is typically more resinous than English walnut due to its higher resin levels.
This natural resin has the ability to enhance the finish of wood, providing a natural shine and deeper texture to its surface.
Allergic reactions may occur in some people due to the presence of allergens in Walnut wood, specifically English and Black Walnut.
These are mainly present in wood dust and can escape into the air during woodworking processes such as sanding, cutting, and shaping.
Deciding between English or Black Walnut as the best option really comes down to the intended use you’re aiming for!
When it comes to applications that require durability and resistance to the elements, black walnut is a top performer.
Its sturdiness and durability also make it an ideal choice for furniture, flooring, and projects that require a more robust nature.
On the contrary, the softer nature, lighter hue, and elegant appearance of English Walnut make it perfect for indoor furniture, cabinetry, and decorative pieces.
Regardless of your choice, both options are sustainable, durable, visually appealing, and versatile!