Walnut Butcher Blocks
While you’ve most likely seen the walnut tree’s nuts in every grocery store across America, the truth is that it is actually the tree itself that is the most valuable to our economy and to woodworkers and contractors alike.
Walnut wood is a highly versatile and beautiful wood that is durable, easy to stain and transform into any design or shape, and sustainable in nature. The light color and stunning texture of walnut wood makes it one of the most popular woods in America and beyond. From kitchen cabinets and flooring to guitars and of course, cutting boards, walnut is one of the most highly produced and utilized wood materials on the market. Still, the question remains: why?
To better understand just what makes walnut wood one of the best materials out there for any and all projects, let’s take a look at the various strengths and weaknesses of this popular material, what is main characteristics and common uses are, and why we specifically chose this wood to be one of the three wood materials we create our kitchen products from.
The Main Characteristics of Walnut
Walnut wood is the only dark-brown domestic wood species and has a natural lustre that can’t be beat. On top of this, walnut wood is incredibly durable and only strengthens and hardens over time. Walnut wood is also known to become lighter over time ever so slightly unlike cherry wood which has the opposite effect but walnut’s rich color is truly what makes this wood so unique.
The American black walnut tree is the most common walnut tree in the United States and it is most typically used for woodworking and flooring as well. You may also see this wood being used for furniture, gun stocks, guitars, car interiors, kitchen items, cabinets, and veneers. As one of the most versatile woods on the market, walnut is perfect for all kinds of projects and is sure to last for decades.
For the most part, walnut wood is a straight-grained wood with fine pores. However, some walnut wood has been known to have swirls in its pattern making it particularly unique. On the Janka hardness scale, Walnut ranks 1,010 lbf or 1,010 Janka. This means that it is slightly more durable than cherry wood and slightly less durable than maple wood.
Most of America’s walnut trees are grown in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The warm temperatures, direct sunlight, and dry soil make for thicker and stronger walnut trees without fail. If left alone, a black walnut tree will reach maturity at 150 years old and will grow during this entire time. Trees of this age can reach up to 150 feet tall with an 8 foot diameter. However, the average walnut tree that is used for furniture, kitchen items, paper, flooring, and other production is roughly 50 years old.
Despite how long it takes for these trees to mature, choosing reputable sources still means that this wood can be eco-friendly and sustainable. With every tree being cut down, another is planted. This process leads to continual growth and also ensures that the environment still continues to benefit from these highly useful and mighty trees.
What are the Most Common Uses for Walnut Wood?
Typically, the American black walnut is used for furniture, flooring, veneers, cabinets, counters, construction, gun stocks, guitars, kitchen items, and carving. When it comes to versatility, the American black walnut tree is truly a star.
The main reason that walnut is used for construction, furniture, flooring, counters, and cabinets is because of its rich color, its beautiful natural lustre, and its durability. Walnut wood is known for being able to withstand varying temperatures, harden further over time, and do well with water damage likewise.
As for kitchen items, guitars, gun stocks, and carving, walnut wood is perfect for shaping however you like. It can bend easily without breaking if cut thin enough, it is capable of being carved and designed expertly, and it does well with humidity, water, and cold weather.
In this way, walnut is truly a perfect wood for contractors, designers, creators, companies, and woodworkers alike. However, to understand exactly how this wood is so effective for various industries all at once, let’s take a look at its many strengths and weaknesses in-depth below.
Walnut’s Strengths and Weaknesses
When looking into any wood for production, it is important to know what makes it special and what cons may affect your designs as well. While we found that walnut wood’s pros far outweighed its cons, to show you exactly the process we went through to choose walnut wood as one of our main woods for production, we’ve broken down both sides of walnut wood in full. After all, it takes a critical eye to create perfection and we are confident that we’ve done just that with our walnut wood butcher blocks.
The Most Common Strengths of Walnut Wood
Walnut wood has an innumerable amount of pros to name but these are some of the main ones found on forums, in the woodworking industry, and in the production industry alike. By analyzing these pros, we can determine how they affect butcher block production specifically and what makes walnut blocks better than other wooden butcher blocks on the market.
For starters, walnut wood is fairly sustainable in comparison to other woods on the market. For those that care about the environment and want a product that is sure to do more good than harm, walnut wood is perfect for the job.
Walnut wood is produced with the environment in mind. Every tree that is cut down is replaced with a new tree and this constant transfer actually helps the environment significantly. Furthermore, because walnut wood is incredibly durable and becomes even harder over time, it lasts for decades making it sustainable just in its lifespan and lack of waste likewise.
- Easy to Work With
Walnut wood is known for being one of the most easy woods to work with as it is durable, can be carved and manipulated without breaking or cracking, and has a beautiful color that requires little to no treatment before use.
With its natural lustre, walnut wood is perfect for furniture and flooring without any stain or lacquer whatsoever. It is also perfect for guitars and gun stocks as it is smooth and straight grained meaning that it does well with bending and carving and is not likely to crack from humid or cold weather.
Walnut wood is an impeccably stable and sturdy wood to utilize for furniture, kitchen items, and cabinets as it does not break easily and can withstand water damage and changing temperatures. Because it prefers direct sunlight and heat, walnut wood is used to humidity and can also handle cold weather because of its durability.
On top of this, its rating on the Janka scale means that it can handle being dropped accidentally and not break or crack. This is perfect for kitchen items such as cutting boards or butcher blocks as it means that your block can handle being cut on and dropped from time to time.
Walnut wood also happens to be a very resistant wood. This means that it can withstand water, temperature changes, carving, scratches, and other damage that some woods simply cannot. It also means that it won’t simply shear off from falls or knife damage as well.
This is important as walnut wood is great for cutting boards and butcher blocks specifically because it does not create as deep of grooves in it to capture food bacteria and cause illness.
Lastly, walnut wood is also very cost-effective in comparison to other woods on the market such as ash or oak wood. Walnut wood’s production process may take 50 years but this does not mean that the wood goes up much in price despite it. Although walnut wood is far more scarce than it was a decade ago, walnut wood still is relatively cheap and, combined with its durability and lifespan, it makes for a very cost-effective purchase.
The Weaknesses of Walnut Wood
Now for the weaknesses of this highly popular wood. While there are not many, these are the top five that we found to be the main concerning factors when determining whether or not to use this wood for our production process.
- Heavier Than Other Woods
Walnut wood is a particularly dense wood meaning that it is a bit more dense than other woods on the market. This can be a problem for those looking to make lightweight furniture or cabinets but, for wood butcher blocks or cutting boards, this density is actually preferred.
A heavier and thicker wood is ideal for cutting as it does not slide around when cutting and is also able to withstand being dropped or cut on for years without falling apart, cracking, or warping.
- Not as Accessible
As stated above, walnut wood has become a bit more scarce in the last few decades primarily because of how popular it is and how long it takes for a tree to mature. Fortunately, by choosing to work with some of the manufacturers in the states, you can avoid subpar walnut trees and also still be able to receive them at an affordable cost.
The main thing to recognize is that its rarity is now one of the things that makes this wood so valuable and the reason for its rarity is because of how incredible it truly is for any and all industries.
- Not as Weather Resistant
Unlike cherry wood, walnut wood is not as weather resistant. Although it can handle humidity and some water damage, it is not a wood you will want to soak in water and it is also not a wood that should be left in too cold of temperatures either.
The best way to care for your wood butcher block is to keep it in a room temperature area with little to no humidity. You may also want to treat your block from time to time with wood treatment and try not to clean your block in the dishwasher as this is sure to cause irreparable damage and warping over time.
- More Costly Than Alternative Materials
Walnut wood’s scarcity does mean that it is relatively more expensive than other woods. However, as stated above, walnut wood lasts far longer than the cheap alternatives you may find at the local grocery store or kitchen aisle.
Furthermore, while walnut wood may cost a bit more, our prices truly do not reflect this uptick as we believe affordability is highly important when it comes to cutting boards and butcher blocks alike.
- Requires More Care
Lastly, walnut wood requires more care than a cheap plastic or cutting board from the store as it is a high-quality wood that repays its owner with longer lifespans for caring for it properly.
With this being said, while you may not be able to chuck your walnut wood butcher block in the dishwasher to clean it like you would a plastic cutting board or butcher block, its lifespan makes up for this by far.
Now that you know what makes walnut wood so special and what specific things to consider when purchasing any walnut wood products, you may still be wondering how these qualities affect butcher blocks specifically.
To answer this, let’s analyze the qualities of walnut wood that affect our products specifically below.
What Qualities of Walnut are Ideal Specifically for Butcher Blocks?
The main qualities that matter when it comes to butcher blocks are their durability, longevity, and how they handle consistent cutting and liquids on their surface.
For walnut wood, all of these considerations are covered. Since walnut wood is incredibly durable and cost-effective, this means that it can withstand being dropped, rinsed under water, and cut on repeatedly.
On top of this, walnut wood lasts far longer than other woods or plastic cutting boards which means that it is a good investment. In fact, on average, a walnut wood butcher block can last decades rather than a few years like the ones you might find at your local grocery store.
Finally, walnut wood is resistant meaning that it can handle being cut on without making deep grooves that will collect bacteria. This also means that it can handle liquid on its surface as long as it is dried off after use. With all of these things combined, it is clear why walnut wood is perfect for cutting boards and butcher blocks that are meant to last.
All in all, walnut wood is not just a versatile and durable wood but it also stands apart from the rest by being highly affordable and easy to produce. This is where walnut wood truly shines by giving high quality at a low cost. With quality and affordability in mind, it’s no wonder why we provide walnut as one of our main wood materials for our clients.
At the end of the day, a butcher block is only as good as the material it’s made from and, judging by the information above, it’s clear to see that our walnut butcher blocks are truly ‘cut from a different cloth.’
To find out more about how to care for your walnut wood butcher blocks and cutting boards, check out our in-depth article ‘Best Way to Clean all Wooden Cutting Boards’ today!