Rosewood vs Walnut

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The natural beauty of wood is undeniable. If managed properly, a forest can supply an unlimited supply of raw materials. Wood is the most environmentally friendly and long-lasting material that you can find. Further, the beautiful colors, hues, and grain patterns add attraction. Walnut and rosewood are two prime examples.

Walnut vs rosewood is a topic for discussion that will never lose its attraction. These two kinds of wood are popular choices for fine woods to work on and use. The straight, prominent grain of walnut with its deep brown color makes it a highly attractive wood. The beautiful, deep, reddish-brown color of rosewood competes effectively with walnut.

Walnut vs Rosewood

Any list of types of wood for fine furniture would be incomplete without mentioning walnut wood. This wood can add class to any furniture you make from it. You can also use it for paneling and flooring with equal satisfaction. Rosewood on the other hand has more delicate applications like musical instruments. However, you can also make exquisite antique-style furniture from this exotic wood from India and Southeast Asia.

Walnut: Background

Walnut wood surface - horizontal lines

You can find many different types of walnut wood, but you will find only a few that grow in the United States. The trees are tall, reaching heights of 100 feet with tree trunk diameters of up to five feet. The commonest form of walnut in America is the eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra), which we also call American walnut or American black walnut.

The fruit of the walnut tree is edible. The wood is sought after by woodworkers and furniture makers alike. The rich, deep brown color with lighter and darker striations makes it look good. Walnut is relatively harder than many other hardwoods, but you will find them easy to work with.

Walnut is a strong and durable hardwood. It exhibits considerable dimensional stability, meaning it doesn’t warp or twist easily. It takes stain and finishes quite well, but you need some experience to do a good job.

The fine qualities of walnut wood push up the price considerably. We get two grades of walnut wood, grade-A used for making fine furniture, and grade B, that we use in construction and to make slightly cheaper furniture.

Rosewood: Background

Texture of rosewood (high-detailed wood texture series)

Out of all the species of rosewood, East Indian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) is the most prominent. Also known as Indian Rosewood and Sonokeling, the trees grow in India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Today, some African countries like Kenya and Nigeria, South America, the Philippines, and Vietnam also cultivate Indian rosewood.

Other than East Indian rosewood, other varieties include Honduran rosewood, Brazilian rosewood, African rosewood, Burmese rosewood, Yucatan rosewood, Amazon rosewood, sissoo, Cocobolo, and tulipwood.

Rosewood is a hard and durable type of wood. The heartwood is a deep, reddish brown with darker, purplish streaks. The rich color, combined with the straight grain and lustrous texture and fragrance makes rosewood a much sought-after type of wood. It makes fine furniture, musical instruments, and even good veneer.

This wood is among the most expensive worldwide thanks to its durability and beauty. You should inquire about the wood’s source before buying any wood that a supplier sells you as East Indian rosewood. It will avoid getting into a legal hassle later.

Also, there are many cases of similar types of wood being sold in the name of rosewood. So, if you can procure this wood, ensure that you get the real deal.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Appearance

Although walnut wood is typically a deep, brown, wood, you will also find lighter shades. There tend to be traces of red, gray, or purple in the wood. The sapwood of walnut is extremely pale, almost white.

Walnut has a straight grain with occasional figuring such as curl, burl, or crotch. The wood has a smooth surface with a natural luster.

Rosewood comes in shades of red, pink, and purple. Like many other types of wood, it darkens with age. Rosewood has small, tight pores with occasional interlocking. It has a medium texture.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Durability

You cannot use walnut for outdoor applications. It finds use in a variety of indoor applications. You can’t let it get exposed to too much moisture, although it resists moisture and rot considerably. However, walnut wood cannot resist insect attack which is why we can’t use it outdoors.

You will find rosewood more durable in terms of resistance to termites and rot but you have to apply a suitable finish or sealer. But it is not an outdoor wood. Rosewood is an extremely hard type of wood, more than double the hardness of walnut which makes it long-lasting.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Maintenance

Man cleaning his electric guitar with red cloth

You need a bit of experience and skill to maintain walnut wood. General cleaning is easy enough, using a cloth and some soapy water. But when it comes to applying or reapplying a finish, you need to know how to do it for the best results. Oiling, polishing, and waxing walnut can enhance the life of the wood.

Maintaining rosewood is much like how you maintain teak. Rosewood can deteriorate rapidly under extreme weather conditions or excessive exposure to sunlight. Cleaning this wood is easy. All you need to do is rub a cloth dipped in warm water on the surface of the wood. Wax with a base of linseed oil and buffing will restore the luster of rosewood.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Workability and Uses

Solid wallnut cabinet doors. Solid wood chest of drawers. Furniture manufacture

Although walnut is easy to work with, you might find working with rosewood a bit challenging. The straight-grained parts of walnut respond well to machine and hand tools. You might find the areas where the grain interlocks a bit challenging to work on.

You will find walnut a bit challenging to stain and finish, but with some skill and experience, you should do just fine. The wood glues well. A transparent or semi-transparent finish is best to retain walnut wood’s natural beauty.

Walnut makes high-end furniture, some of the best in the world. It also makes good cabinets, kitchen counters, cutting boards, and flooring.

You might find rosewood challenging to work with due to its hardness, interlocked grain structure, and chalk deposits that occasionally occur, causing tools to become frequently blunt. Otherwise, rosewood takes glues and finishes well.

But due to the deep color of rosewood, it may leach into the surrounding areas. So, we need to seal the surface of the wood as a final touch, especially if you are building furniture.

We use rosewood for making high-end furniture, musical instruments (particularly guitar fretboards), veneer, and various turned wooden objects.

Set of electric guitars — Photo

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Price

Walnut is easily available all over the United States and it enjoys wide popularity among woodworkers. But the boards may not be sufficiently wide due to the limited width of the tree trunks.

You would perhaps do well to use alternatives to walnut wood like mahogany or teak if available. Despite their popularity, walnut is relatively more expensive than many other hardwoods.

Rosewood is a rare and expensive type of wood, even costlier than teak. But because it is on the endangered wood species list, you can expect to pay much more than you would for many other rare hardwoods.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Sustainability

Black walnut is expensive and not always easily available. But it grows in the United States and is not on any endangered wood species lists.

However, Rosewood is listed on the CITES appendix II and it also appears on the IUCN Red List. So it is an endangered species and not sustainable.

 Walnut vs. Rosewood: Any other characteristics

Walnut doesn’t have any special features. Rosewood is renowned as an excellent tonewood. Its fine acoustic properties make it the ideal choice for making musical instruments. It is especially used to make guitar fretboards. Perfumiers also use this wood to make perfumes taking advantage of its unique rose-like fragrance.

Walnut vs. Rosewood: Comparison Table

Parameter Walnut Rosewood
Botanical name Juglans nigra   Dalbergia latifolia
Color Chocolate to dark brown Golden to purplish brown
Durability Moderately durable Moderately durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,010 lbf. 2,440 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Extremely strong wood
Maintenance Low maintenance Needs regular maintenance
Price Medium to high-priced Highly-expensive
Suitability for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors
Suitability for wood carving Suitable for carving Suitable for carving
Workability Easy to work with Easy to work with
Smell Faint odor while cutting Rose-like aroma
Availability Easily available Rare wood
Special features if any No special features Makes excellent musical instruments, particularly guitar fretboards.

When we compare walnut and rosewood, each type of wood is unique in its own way. You can create some beautiful woodworking projects using either of them. Unfortunately, between the two kinds of wood, rosewood has become a rare commodity due to its heavy exploitation.

Using walnut for a woodworking project can bring some satisfactory results. You might even procure rosewood in small quantities, but you need to check two things – its authenticity and legal status. If you have a keen eye, you can even get rosewood from old buildings and wooden structures in reclaimed wood.