Walnut wood is one of the most exotic woods that you can find. It enjoys wide popularity for making furniture and flooring. A hardwood floor is as unique as the wood that makes it. Walnut is the preferred choice for hardwood floors.
Two of the most popular types of walnut are American black walnut and Peruvian walnut. They both come from the walnut family and the genus Juglans. But you will find a few unique differences between the two types of wood. They both are high-class woods, but you may find Peruvian walnut slightly ahead of American black walnut in some ways.
American Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
We also call American black walnut by the name Eastern black walnut or merely American walnut. This wood is much sought after for its intricate figuring and unique color variations. American walnut enjoys wide popularity as flooring.
It has a rich, dark color, but it can also fluctuate considerably depending on which part of the tree the lumber is cut from. The heartwood may range from light brown to a dark coffee color. American walnut may sometimes have a gray or purple tint. The sapwood is pale to yellowish-gray.
Due to the sharp contrast between the sapwood and heartwood, it is common to apply steam to the wood to maintain the uniformity of shades. The grain pattern of black walnut is thin and straight with occasional waviness. Mineral streaks are sometimes seen.
If you want a uniform look for your flooring, you may not find American walnut suitable. Several other options are available, including “character grade” walnut, lumber carefully selected for its rustic looks.
American black walnut is a moderately hard wood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf. Surprisingly, it is softer than many hardwoods like maple and oak. However, if you use it for flooring, you need to protect the surface in high-traffic areas.
The wood exhibits a moderate degree of resistance to warping and decay, making it suitable for use indoors and outdoors. In addition, American black walnut takes finish quite well.
Availability and Price
American black walnut grows primarily in the northern regions of the United States and Canada. It is a sustainable wood, but using it can be a costly affair due to high demand.
There have been some complaints from furniture makers regarding this wood. They say that the wood is not as easy to work with as other woods. Another issue is that the width of the boards is limited, and there tends to be an excess of sapwood and knots.
Woodworkers also feel that traders don’t grade the wood strictly enough, and the tree isn’t grown the way it should be.
Given the shortcomings of American black walnut, another type of walnut has gained popularity – Peruvian walnut.
Peruvian Walnut (Juglans peruviana)
The other names for Peruvian walnut are Nogal (Spanish for walnut) and tropical walnut. It also belongs to the genus Juglans, the same as American Black Walnut, and exhibits many similarities. Despite its name, you will actually find these trees growing in Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America.
If you are looking for wider planks and a more consistent variety of walnut wood, Peruvian walnut can meet those requirements.
Peruvian Walnut is darker than its sibling, American black walnut. It is more chocolate-colored rather than coffee-colored with a purplish tint. The grains are also straighter and consistent.
It has a slightly coarser texture, making it more porous than black walnut. Peruvian walnut has a glossy, natural sheen.
There is a slight difference in hardness between American black walnut and Peruvian walnut, the latter being a bit softer with a Janka hardness rating of 960 lbf. However, it is still fairly durable and resistant to warping and decay, so that you can use it outdoors as well.
You can apply finish to Peruvian walnut with satisfactory results. But you need to provide adequate protection to the surface of Peruvian walnut flooring in high-traffic areas.
Peruvian walnut is an easy wood to work with. You can work comfortably on this wood using hand or machine tools. It accepts nails and screws adequately, and it also stains well. In addition, the straight grain reduces the possibility of tearout while cutting or planing.
Availability and Price
Peruvian Walnut is easy to work with and looks great on finishing. Unfortunately, thanks to these two attributes, it has been overharvested, resulting in scarcity of this resource. Although efforts are being made to propagate it, Peruvian walnut is still limited and expensive.
There is a moratorium on the export of Peruvian walnut to the United States. Therefore, if you procure this variety of walnut, you would do well to check its legal status before using it.
Despite the positive attributes of Peruvian walnut and its scarcity, the price is still comparatively less than many other exotic wood species.
Peruvian walnut can take a long time to dry, sometimes up to three years. As a result, the wood is prone to cell collapse, but you can remedy this by planing the wood surface.
Of course, the other downside is the scarcity of this wood. So, you should plan a woodworking project using Peruvian walnut only after you have the wood at hand. Also, you may find an occasional silver streak in the wood grain, which you may have to blend into the wood by staining the affected area.
We use Peruvian walnut to make fine furniture, casework, trim work, musical instruments, carvings, and gunstocks.
American Black Walnut vs. Peruvian Walnut: A Brief Comparison
|Parameter||American walnut||Peruvian Walnut|
|Botanical name||Juglans nigra||Juglans peruviana|
|Durability||Highly durable||Highly durable|
|Hardness (Janka Scale)||1,010 lbf.||960 lbf.|
|Strength||Moderately strong||Moderately strong|
|Maintenance||Protection needed for flooring in high-traffic areas||Protection needed for flooring in high-traffic areas|
|Price||Expensive but cheaper than many other exotic woods||Expensive but cheaper than many other exotic woods|
|Suitable for outdoors||Yes||Yes|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Easy to work with|
|Smell||Faint, mild odor while being worked||Faint, mild odor while being worked|
|Availability||Readily available||Not easily available|
The difference between American black walnut and Peruvian walnut is more by the availability. You are more likely to get black walnut, but the latter is a bit more workable and less prone to have physical defects.
You may find both types of walnut in a lumber yard. Both are classic types of hardwood, and you do some great woodworking projects with either species. But we can conclude that the Peruvian variety has a slight edge over the American one. So use either and get some great results in your woodworking projects!