Walnut vs Acacia


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Walnut wood is one of the finest types of wood that you can find to use in woodworking projects. Another often underrated wood is Acacia. As much as walnut is revered, acacia comes in as a viable alternative.

Walnut and Acacia are two types of wood that you may find commonly used all across the United States. While walnut offers some great features in terms of good looks and durability, acacia is a lesser-known but yet good-looking substitute. It is worthwhile to know something about each of these woods to use in woodworking projects.

Walnut vs Acacia

Walnut and acacia are two types of wood that we use to make furniture. Knowing which one to use in preference to the other is a challenge frequently faced as a woodworker.

Both of these woods are popular with woodworkers and designers worldwide. Acacia, which we also call wattle or thorn tree comes from a group of over a thousand species. Walnut, on the other hand, has about 20 species.

Both types of wood produce some great-looking furniture. Although they both have many common features, some differences make each one unique from the other. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

Walnut: Background

The eastern American Black Walnut

Although you can find several varieties of walnut trees, only a few grow in the United States. The most prominent species and the one we discuss here is eastern black walnut, (Juglans nigra). We also call it American black walnut or just American walnut.

The nuts of the walnut tree are edible. The wood is sought after by woodworkers for its deep, rich, chocolaty color, and striking patterns. It is quite a hard type of wood but an easy one to work with. Walnut can range from quite expensive to highly expensive.

Acacia: Background

Large acacia koa tree growing in roof

Acacia is a reddish-brown wood that has some striking features. The trees come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the wood looks better than many popular hardwoods.

There is no standard classification for acacia which has over 1,000 species. Many of these species make fine indoor and outdoor furniture and various other outdoor applications.

Acacia is a fast-growing tree that generates timber rapidly. It is a wood popular since ancient times and was made to use coffins in ancient Egypt. The Ark of the Covenant, more popularly known as Noah’s Ark is believed to have been made of red acacia.

Acacia is native to western and northern Africa. In those regions, they burn the wood as incense to prevent fever and to cure joint pain.

Walnut vs Acacia: Appearance

Walnut is a dark chocolate brown, but you get it in lighter shades as well. It contains a bit of gray, purple, or reddish shades sometimes. Walnut’s sapwood is pale and almost white.

The wood grain is straight with occasional figuring like burl, crotch, or curl. The surface is smooth with a natural, smooth luster. We normally don’t stain walnut because of its natural dark-brown colors.

Acacia may exhibit straight or wavy grain patterns depending on the species. The wood takes polish well with a bit of mineral oil and finish. A popular use of acacia is for making butcher block countertops and cutting boards, taking advantage of its fine end grain pattern.

The alternating dark and light shades of acacia make furniture and flooring with checkered patterns. You can also get an abundant supply of acacia wood with golden highlights. It is a popular choice for use in dining room and living room furniture.

Walnut vs Acacia: Durability

Black walnut is a popular wood for use indoors. It has reasonable resistance to rot and moisture. However, it does not bear up against insects which makes it unsuitable for use outdoors.

Acacia, on the other hand, falls in the category of the strongest, toughest, and most durable woods in the world. It is well-known for its extreme resistance to decay. The bark of the acacia tree produces natural oil that protects the wood after being cut.

Acacia is relatively harder than walnut wood, which gives it an edge over walnut, especially in terms of mechanical strength. The wood has a significant resistance to moisture which makes it ideal for outdoor applications like decks and patios.

Walnut vs Acacia: Maintenance

Maintenance of walnut wood can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you aren’t experienced. You can do basic cleaning with a damp cloth and perhaps some soapy water yourself. But when a finish needs to be reapplied, you may need a bit of technical expertise. Frequent oiling and waxing of walnut furniture can enhance the appearance and extend the life of the wood.

It is easy to maintain acacia wood. It has an exotic but natural appearance. Acacia is highly durable and can last a lifetime. Its adequate resistance to scratches, abrasion, rot, and damage by moisture makes it suitable for numerous outdoor applications.

Walnut vs Acacia: Workability and Uses

Vintage Atwater Kent Lowboy Console Radio, Model 85, American Walnut Wood Cabinet, Made In USA, Circa 1931
Image Credit: Joe Haupt from USA via Creative Commons

Walnut and acacia share many properties when it comes to workability. You will find it easy to work both these woods with hand tools and machine tools. However, it can be challenging to cut sections where the wood grain interlocks.

Both walnut and acacia take the wood finish and glue quite well. However, it is common to apply a semi-transparent or transparent finish to preserve the natural beauty of the walnut wood grain.

Acacia is highly flexible when freshly cut. We can make intricately-shaped furniture thanks to the high flexibility of this wood. The moderate hardness of acacia makes it easy to cut and work with.

Acacia is a dimensionally stable wood which means that it does not expand, contract, warp, or crack easily. The shrinkage percentage is much lower than many other hardwoods. However, it is a good practice not to expose acacia wood to too much moisture.

Walnut vs Acacia: Price

Walnut is one of the most popular types of wood in the United States, and it is readily available. However, you will not find very broad boards because of the somewhat narrower trunks of walnut trees. It is relatively costlier than acacia.

You will find acacia growing in all corners of the world and throughout the United States. It is considered an invasive species in some countries like Australia. Acacia is much cheaper than many other hardwoods including walnut wood.

Walnut vs Acacia: Sustainability

Neither walnut nor acacia is a feature in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are both sustainable woods.

Walnut vs Acacia: Comparison Table

Parameter

Walnut

Acacia

Botanical name Juglans nigra  No standard classification
Color Chocolate to dark brown Medium to dark brown
Durability Moderately durable Highly Durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 1,010 lbf. 1,430 lbf. to 4,630 lbf.
Strength Strong wood Strong to extremely strong
Maintenance Low maintenance Low maintenance
Price Medium to high-priced Inexpensive
Suitability for outdoors Not suitable for outdoors Yes
Suitability for wood carving Suitable for carving Yes
Workability Easy to work with Good
Smell Faint odor while cutting Odorless
Availability Easily available Abundantly available
Special features if any No special features No special features

Conclusion

Acacia and walnut are two types of wood that you can use for indoor furniture. Walnut comes in darker shades and acacia is lighter but they both make great-looking furniture.

Both kinds of wood are durable and sturdy, but acacia tends to enjoy more popularity which we can attribute to the exotic patterns of the wood grain and the varying light and dark shades.

Acacia has a few advantages over walnut. It is lighter, so can blend into several different backgrounds. Acacia is tough and durable, therefore suitable in homes with children and pets. It does not fade the way walnut does.

Despite the advantages of acacia, walnut has a timeless beauty that few hardwoods can match. At the end of the day, you have to take a call, considering the various pros and cons of each type of wood.

With the information provided here, you can make an appropriate selection and know when and where to use either acacia or walnut. You will make some beautiful projects, with either of these golden greats!