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View Full Version : Any luthiers here interested in Black Walnut?



Preacher
12-03-2014, 06:39 PM
A couple of full disclosures up front: I am not a luthier and know absolutely NOTHING about the craft. I have no idea how Black Walnut would sound for a uke. I hope I'm not wasting your time.

My father-in-law has a large grove of Black Walnut trees that have to be removed. It seems an absolute waste to use them for fire wood, so I'm trying to find alternative uses. Before I contact some lumber yards and cabinet builders to see if they'd be interested, I thought I'd try all you music makers out there.

These would not be boards or thin sheets of wood, but simply logs that are freshly cut. We could cut the lengths to any specifications, but that would be about it as far as preparation of the wood goes. I have no idea on prices (though I'd gladly trade some wood for a custom built uke from one of you fine artists! :D ). The trees are located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so delivery would have to be figured out as well.

Given how thin the wood is on musical instruments, I'd imagine one could get a decent amount of useable wood out of just one tree. (But, again, I'm not a luthier so forgive me if I'm totally wrong on that.)

Let me know if you're at all interested. Or if you have any suggestions to make the wood more useful for uke-making. I'd hate to see it become nothing more than ashes.

Matt Clara
12-04-2014, 04:53 AM
I'd talk to some local sawyers, if I were you. Black walnut sells at a premium, particularly for large boards. Whatever you do, don't just burn it (except for small limbs, perhaps, but large limbs can be made into turning blocks).

EDIT: Luthiers traditionally use wood that is quarter sawn, although the different ways to saw up logs are given different names by different people in different parts of the world, but according to some definitions, quarter sawn wood yields the most stable wood, least prone to warping or shrinking.

73675
In the image above, rift sawn is actually the one least likely to warp or shrink. Other people define rift sawn differently (and plain sawn, too, but quarter sawn is almost always cut as shown above). The thing is, flat, or plain sawn, is the least wasteful, but the resultant boards are more likely to warp and shrink (except for that middle cut).

sequoia
12-04-2014, 04:05 PM
I believe that black walnut (a really beautiful wood) has been used for backs and sides. Not sure about it as a tone wood... What black walnut IS used for and is quite valuable for is for gun stocks. My father was an amateur gunsmith and he and his buddies would actually buy whole trees. There is big money in them as gun stocks if not for ukes. DO NOT burn this wood.

Philstix
12-04-2014, 05:05 PM
I have made several ukes out of Black Walnut, with both spruce and walnut tops. It works very well as a tonewood and looks great under finish.

Pete Howlett
12-04-2014, 11:49 PM
Get the stands surveyed and valued. It will be of value and interest to any serious woodworker standing, felled and in the round or converted into lumber.

Gyozu
12-05-2014, 06:27 AM
Another thing to ask around on is including the root ball. I will state right up front that they are a ton of extra work to process, but they yield some great grain patterns. If a dozer can be brought in to knock the whole tree over so that the root ball pops out it will help harvesting and cleaning. Not sure it would be good for instruments , but again, the grain can be spectacular.

FarmerBill
12-05-2014, 10:04 AM
I know of a guy that will buy a house or lot to get a large black walnut tree from the lot. They are worth real money.
I have made several ukuleles out of black walnut and they sound great.

Bill

sequoia
12-05-2014, 05:59 PM
I said earlier in a post that I didn't know what black walnut would do as a sound wood. Anyway, I have since remembered that I built an all walnut dulcimer exactly 26 years ago that has lived in a closet and forgotten ever since. Never liked it. I can report that working with it was a dream and I remember I built that thing tight. Maybe too tight. Here is what a BW sounds like to me: Dark, dark, tight with a kinda brittle treble on the higher end. Of course this is just one instrument and it is impossible to draw conclusions, but I do know that I never tried black walnut again... Pity since it such a beautiful wood to work with....

pritch
12-05-2014, 08:53 PM
Another thing to ask around on is including the root ball. I will state right up front that they are a ton of extra work to process, but they yield some great grain patterns. If a dozer can be brought in to knock the whole tree over so that the root ball pops out it will help harvesting and cleaning. Not sure it would be good for instruments , but again, the grain can be spectacular.

This is along the lines that I was thinking. Fancy walnut potentially commands seriously big money for gun stocks. If the trees are cut down as would normally be done though, that would destroy any fancy gun stock wood.

Expert advice needed methinks.

Matt Clara
12-06-2014, 05:20 AM
Another thing to ask around on is including the root ball. I will state right up front that they are a ton of extra work to process, but they yield some great grain patterns. If a dozer can be brought in to knock the whole tree over so that the root ball pops out it will help harvesting and cleaning. Not sure it would be good for instruments , but again, the grain can be spectacular.

I built one (sides and back) from the buttress root of a walnut tree that sounds great (redwood top). I've heard John Calkin refer to "floppy cardboard" wood, and that's a lot what it was like once thinned down to .1 and thinner.

jcalkin
12-06-2014, 06:16 AM
I've used black walnut for dulcimers, wooden head banjos, mandolins, electric guitars, and flattop guitars. It has never disappointed me.

Thanks for the reference, Matt. Walnut isn't on my list of floppy woods, but anything can happen when wood gets thin enough.

Matt Clara
12-07-2014, 04:39 AM
Thanks for the reference, Matt. Walnut isn't on my list of floppy woods, but anything can happen when wood gets thin enough.

I've used walnut before and not thought it floppy, so I don't know if it might be the fact that it actually was from the root of the tree, or possibly the intense figure running through it. I suppose it could be the thinness, but I didn't have it any thinner than I make any of my other sides... I suppose there's enough variance in wood from tree to tree it's impossible to say.

jcalkin
12-07-2014, 06:05 AM
I've used walnut before and not thought it floppy, so I don't know if it might be the fact that it actually was from the root of the tree, or possibly the intense figure running through it. I suppose it could be the thinness, but I didn't have it any thinner than I make any of my other sides... I suppose there's enough variance in wood from tree to tree it's impossible to say.

Agreed. Gunsmiths looking to do super quality work look for dense walnut so they can checker as fine as 30 lines per inch. Very soft walnut might tear out if they tried it at 16 lpi. But any of it will work for ukes without a lot of disparity in the sound quality.