next stop- black walnut

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For my next project, I have been commissioned by the wife to build a matching bedroom set. Headboard, 2 dressors, maybe 2 nightstands. The wife wants the furniture a dark color (which I personally don't like, but it will go good with how the room is decorated). I have experimented with a variety of pigment stains, dyes, and gel stains on oak and pine but I don't like the results. I was thinking of using black walnut for this project instead.
I havn't used walnut before, so I have a few questions for the learned woodworkers out there.
1) I was thinking of finishing as follows: oil, shellac, wax. Any comments on this or better ideas? What is your preferred oil for walnut? What is your preferred finish for walnut?
2) I will use plywood for parts of this project. Will walnut faced plywood finish the same as solid walnut? I know sometimes this can be an issue with some species, but I think it is mainly when it is stained?
3) I expect walnut to be more expensive than oak, but how much more is it? I can get kiln dried red oak for $3.50/bdft. Am I in for major sticker shock with walnut?
Any other advice or opinions are appreciated. Anyone who would care to share pictures of completed walnut projects is greatly appreciated.
Frank
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picture if you like.

I find that ply wood finishes the same as long as you are using a clear finish. I find that stains will often look different. Basically the plywood tends to have a repeative grain that is often book matched or repeating from a rotary cut. The more consistant grain pattern in ply wood will be the tell tale sign between it and a solid board IMHO.

Price varies from place to place. In SE Texas Walnut is about 50% more than Red Oak.

Walnut is fun to work with. Relative soft compared to Oak but still hard. Looks great with a clear finish. Look at a.b.p.w. for pictures of a couple of night stands that I bouilt out of Walnut.
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Walnut has been my favorite wood for around 50 years. All my living room furniture except those damn overstuffed sofas is walnut that I made. Here's what I do (there may be better ways, but don't tell me):
1. I use Behlens pore filler mixed with walnut stain to bring up the figure and give me a smooth surface for finishing. I do that because the grain is somewhat open and this makes the final look better.
2. I have finished with oil, gloss varnish, satin varnish, beeswax and probably some other stuff I have forgotten. Depends, not on the wood, but how it will be used. Something that will be handled a lot needs varnish. Salad bowls need mineral oil. For furniture I like oil because it can be retreated in a few years after the kids stop putting cokes on the damn coffee table.
3. Price? I don't buy enough other woods to be able to compare. last time, I think it was $4.50 a board foot. It does pay to shop around several sources if they are in your area. Even when drunk I would not buy by catalog or internet. I want to see what it looks like.
Bob Moody
ps. I also turn the stuff and it looks great.
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Bob Moody wrote:

Apropos of cokes on the coffee table, froogle "JCA350" and "JCE350". Convenient, keeps soda (or beer) cold for hours, and no condensation rings.

--
--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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You haven't tried hard enough. I just made a shelf out of dyed and stained hickory. Attached directly to a teak headboard, it looks like teak. (No, really! I can show you a picture of it. Okay, considering the time I put into it, it might have been cheaper to use teak, but it was a challenge.)
There are plenty of nice woods that sell for half the price of walnut. With a little experimentation you can come up with something dark that looks good.
I don't particularly like walnut; either to work with or to look at. But that is just me I am sure.
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On Tue, 18 May 2004 21:38:57 GMT, "Frank Ketchum"

very thin veneers. THis can affect the way it looks.
If parts of your projects must be veneered I would lay sawn veneers on rather than using already-veneered plywood, just on the basis of one unfortunate result. But, I have seen walnut plywood that looked perfectly ok.
Rodney Myrvaagnes J36 Gjo/a
Ask not with whom the buck stops . . .
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<snippage>

(Opinion follows:) Walnut was made for an oil finish. Watco, Tried & True, etc., all look great. Oh, wait, you want to put stuff on it? I'm not nearly as fond of walnut with a film finish... But I love shellac & wax on cherry and maple. I haven't tried it yet on walnut. <snippage, due to no experience>

Walnuts are grown commercially in northern California. Orchards have an economic lifespan, which pretty much guarantees that some nice woods find their way into the hobbyist market from time to time. And if your family happens to know a grower or two, then the commercial price isn't really relevant. But it runs about $4.50/bf 4/4 S3S in the Bay Area - sometimes less, sometimes more. Depends on width and figure. Red oak, same places, $3.25.
Really spectacular grain patterns command higher pricing.
If I was investing all that time into the pieces you mentioned, I think I would start with a small chest of drawers, and get very comfortable with cutting and using my own veneer. It's consistent with the teachings of the acolytes of St James Krenov (tongue in cheek), makes a stronger piece, and conserves 'good' wood.
And in my case, I could probably justify the new purchase of a new drum sander. ;-)
Patriarch, whose 150 bf stash of 10 year air dried flame figured claro is waiting to be made into floor standing clocks. Waiting for the skills to be worthy of the wood....
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They grow black walnuts commercially? Black walnuts trees have an economic lifespan??! Boy, they must be really different than the black walnut trees we have around here; must be a dwarf variety. Do they have much wood in them?
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"patriarch snipped-for-privacy@nospam.comcastDOTnet>" <<patriarch> wrote in message

Are these actual Black Walnuts? I understand that there is a "California Walnut" in addition to the common Black Walnut.

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Leon wrote:

Check out <http://www.walnuts.org . Tell you more than you ever wanted to know about walnut production in California. Turns out all the commercial species of walnut (the nut, not the tree) are varieties of Juglans Regia (aka "English walnut"), although often grafted onto Juglans Nigra ("Black walnut") root stock.

--
--John
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Some of the grafts, particularly on older trees, yield pieces 5 to 8 ft above the ground line. And the root ball (term?) often has the best grain patterns, not even counting any burls....
Patriarch
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Yep. Nobody has figured a way to get the nutmeats out of a black walnut as economically as white.
Up near Yuba City, where the floor of the valley is still basically flat adobe, they simply flood the sections of orchard periodically as if they were rice paddies. Since they shake the trees, they like to keep 'em low and dense, so there's not more than about 4-5 feet from graft to branches.
What you want are the grafts and root balls.

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When I was a kid in the 60s we used to gather up bushels of black walnuts. We laid them out in a dirt driveway and ran over them a few times with the car to loosen the outer hulls then we took off the outer hulls and laid the nuts out on the ground to dry awhile. After gathering them we all spent coutless hours all winter with a brick and hammer cracking these things and filling quart jars (not many) with the meat. To this day there are no brownies or tollhouse cookies that taste right because you just can't get black walnut meats at the store and those english (or California) walnuts might as well be peanuts or something 'cause they ain't even close to a black walnut. BTW no matter how well you gloved up, you had stained hands and other body parts for weeks after a session taking the outside hulls off of these things but so did all the rest of the neighborhood kids so it didn't really matter.
Dave Hall.
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"patriarch <" wrote:

I like to use a coat of orange shellac on kiln dried walnut. It takes on a rich, warm character.
Grant
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"patriarch <" wrote:

I like to use a coat of orange shellac on kiln dried walnut. It takes on a rich, warm character.
Grant
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For what its worth...I use Arm-R-Seal on Black Walnut. It's the best I've found and VERY easy to use....
message

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Where do you buy your Walnut in the Bay Area??? I live in Oakley which is inland from Oakland about 50 mi. When I bought my house, the tract was surrounded on three sides by Walnut orchards. Come to find out that I was alergic to Walnut trees, but that is another story. Anyway, almost all of the Walnut orchards in the immediate area are gone now (replaced by housing) and I never saw a stick of it for sale in the area other than a little firewood. I have been looking for a good place to buy good hardwoods including Walnut.
Wayne
"patriarch snipped-for-privacy@nospam.comcastDOTnet>" <<patriarch> wrote in message

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The walnut native to california is Claro Walnut. See <http://www.bakerhardwoods.com/ for a source of Claro walnut in the (south) bay area.
Claro grown for nut production generally doesn't produce good furniture wood[*], so the walnut from the former orchards was probably sold as firewood.
There are a couple of wholesalers in the Livermore/Pleasonton area who carry eastern black walnut, and I suspect you could find some in Stockton, were you to look hard enough. Check with the local cabinet shops.
scott
[*] few long boards, anyway.
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snipped-for-privacy@slp53.sl.home (Scott Lurndal) wrote in writes:

The Woodsman, Custom Milling/Drying, 2701-A North Alpine Rd., Stockton, 209-931-3293. This fellow comes highly recommended by the folks at Diablo Woodworkers, with whom I affiliate. I haven't personally done business with him, but folks I respect think he's a fine fellow. You might give him a try. He's pretty close.
My family, on my father's mother's side, came to the Modesto area in the 1850's. I've lived most of my life near Walnut Creek. So I'm familiar with Oakley.
A close friend of my parents has orchards in Stanislaus County. Around 1990, he pulled out an old, declining walnut orchard, and replanted in almonds. He and a partner had the black walnut portions of the trees milled, and stored to dry in an old barn. A very small portion of this marvelous wood found it's way to me, through a fairly circuitous route. I found out, after acquiring the wood, that the orchard was less than five miles from the place my grandfather ran his blacksmith's shop, in the early days of the Depression.
This friend has a small number of bolts available, which may or may not still be good, from some ungrafted black walnut trees that came down last winter. For family health reasons, in his family and in ours, not much has been done with these yet. They may, at this point, yield only a few good bowl blanks. We'll have to see.
Long boards, and the lack of them, leads me to understand why veneering is going to be how I best use this great stash of wood. Or small boxes & short clock cases...
Patriarch
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On Tue, 18 May 2004 21:38:57 GMT, "Frank Ketchum"

I don't know where you live (freight costs) but Wall lumber (http://www.walllumber.com ) has been running specials on walnut.
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