Changes in grading systems understandably make us raise an eyebrow. After all, when it comes to manufactured lumber products, the obvious beneficiaries of that sliding scale end up being the manufacturers. While the situation is different for solid lumber, one common thread runs through both: quality cannot be assumed based on grade. If you see a similarly graded product from another source and it has a much lower price, chances are that the lower-priced product is an inferior one. How does that make sense? Grade tells only part of the story, and there’s a good bit of wiggle room within any given grading category.
Overview of Reasoning Behind the Grading Adjustments for Walnut Lumber
That said, there does seem to be a decent case for grading categories to be adjusted; such is the case with Walnut. Why do we think the adjustments to grading categories make sense for this particular species? The Walnut trees currently available do not allow for much lumber to fall within the typical ranges for top grading categories. Instead of simply allowing more Walnut to fall into the lower grading categories, altering the qualifications for each grading category allows for the existing grading system to still serve Walnut customers, allowing them to assess the quality of the lumber more easily than they otherwise would. So unlike the grading changes for plywood and other manufactured products, when it comes to Walnut, the adjustments to the grading categories actually serves the customer.
Application for Boat Builders Desiring to Use Walnut Lumber
In recent years, boat builders who have been accustomed to Teak have been increasingly interested in Walnut. Part of this has to do with the limited availability and political drama associated with Burmese Teak, while another part is simply due to shifts in trends. However, taking plans intended for Teak and trying to secure Walnut to meet those needs is often a frustrating scenario. The long, straight-grain boards of Teak cannot easily be replaced with similar sizes of Walnut. Simply assuming that the same grade of Walnut would easily compare to Teak would be a big mistake. As much as we wish we could, none of us can make lumber to order; the best we can do is accurately classify and describe what’s available to us. In this world with all its made-to-order, color-matched, manufactured building products, it’s important to remember that natural products like lumber do not play by the same rules.
There’s a big difference between FAS Walnut and Walnut that’s actually 100% clear; the completely clear stuff is available, but since it’s rare, it also comes with a premium price tag. With some carefully considered value engineering in consideration of both price and availability, the savvy boat builder can reduce the amount of premium Walnut needed while also explaining to a trusted supplier the necessity of completely clear lumber for a select number of applications. J. Gibson McIlvain purchases higher grade Walnut for customers requiring Walnut suitable for the unique needs of boat builders.