#8: Black walnut

Bird number: 24
Date: December 18, 2011
Wood: Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
Source: Northern Indiana

A member of the Woodcarving Illustrated forum is a chainsaw carver. He offered to send me some pieces of black walnut, and I took him up on the offer. He also shipped a small amount of cherry, as well. He didn’t ask for anything in return, but I sent him a couple of birds: one from cherry and one from walnut. As usual, though, Debra got the first walnut bird:

I usually carve these birds with the grain running from beak to tail. I thought I’d try an experiment with this one. The grain runs vertically through the figure. It made things a little harder to carve and to sand, but all that end grain made for a much darker-looking bird. It’s difficult to see in these pictures, but there is a grain pattern. The wood isn’t quite black–just a very dark brown.

Black walnut is native to eastern North America, but grows as far west and south as central Texas. There are black walnut trees around here. I’ve been told that the Texas black walnut isn’t as good for carving as what you get up north. I know that’s true for several other types of wood (southern basswood, for example, is darker and more difficult to carve than northern basswood). At some point I’ll get some local walnut and give it a try.

Walnut is a very popular wood for turning, furniture making, flooring, and and even carving. Some say that it’s too hard to carve with a knife, but I rather enjoyed it. I carved Walter the Walnut Whale and this dolphin from black walnut, using just a knife. It’s a bit harder than what basswood carvers are accustomed to, but not as hard as apple or pear. The power carver, of course, had no trouble with this wood.

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