Although Walnut is known for its deep chocolate brown color, freshly milled walnut lumber can exhibit variations in hue from deep browns to creams or purples. The reason for this is that Walnut trees have major differences in the features of the heartwood and sapwood.
The heartwood, the non-living section of wood in the center of the trunk, is where the dark brown colored wood is found. On the other hand, the sapwood, which comprises the outer rings surrounding the heartwood, is a contrasting cream color and is usually avoided, mostly for color matching purposes. The purple tones in the wood occur in the boundary between the heartwood and sapwood.
The process of steaming can mellow these color variations to achieve a more uniform appearance in Walnut lumber. Most of the Walnut boards that pass through the lumberyards at J. Gibson McIlvain are steamed so we can offer the most consistent appearance to our customers.
History of American Walnut
Historically, Walnut first gained popularity during the colonial era, when it was exported from the colonies in the Mid-Atlantic back to Britain. British woodworkers were so impressed with the beautiful color and grain of Walnut, as well as the ease of obtaining it, that the wood eventually took a larger market share than Mahogany. Today, Walnut furniture pieces made during the colonial era are among some of the country’s most prized antiques.
To this day, Walnut is still one of the most popular species for furniture and interior woodworking applications. Other common uses for Walnut lumber include flooring, architectural paneling, and millwork, as well as custom doors and cabinetry.
A drawback to Walnut lumber is that, because of the natural growth pattern of the trees, it can be hard to find the wider widths of lumber that many projects require. The J. Gibson McIlvain Company can usually provide planks up to 12″. We work closely with our mills to find the largest trees, and, in doing so, we are able to provide our clients with the largest selection of quality walnut lumber in a variety of sizes.