Black walnut has long been prized by woodworkers for its dark brown hue, distinctive figuring, easy workability, and strength. Its tropical cousin, Peruvian walnut, is newer to the American woodworking scene. How do the two walnut species compare?

 

Defects

One of the main problems with black walnut is its abundance of knots and sapwood.  In fact, black walnut is so full of knots that hardwood grading standards are relaxed for this species, and it’s common for even FAS black walnut boards to contain a few knots. This is where Peruvian walnut really shines; it’s much clearer, and with few defects to work around, it yields more useable lumber per board foot. Boards of Select and Better Peruvian walnut compare favorably to even FAS black walnut boards.

Advantage: Peruvian Walnut

 

Board Width

The other common complaint woodworkers have about black walnut is that it’s only available in relatively narrow board widths. Black walnut just grows that way, with twisted grain and lots of branches. This is another area where Peruvian walnut outperforms its American cousin. Peruvian walnut is available in much wider boards, up to 20”, making it easier to use for larger projects, such as furniture.

Advantage: Peruvian Walnut

 

Appearance

Black walnut is generally deep brown, with characteristic color variation and abundant cream-colored sapwood. Peruvian walnut is a slightly darker brown, often with purplish hues and streaks of silver colored wood in the heartwood. Peruvian walnut has more color consistency, which is an attribute for many projects, although the occasional silver streaking in the heartwood bothers some woodworkers. On the other hand, some people seek out black walnut specifically for its distinctive color variation, which adds unique character.

Advantage: Tie

 

Workability

Both walnut species get high marks for workability. They work easily with machines and hand tools and accept nails and screws well. Black walnut is just slightly harder, with a Janka rating of 1010 compared to Peruvian walnut’s 960. Peruvian walnut has a straighter grain, more like mahogany, so tear-out is less likely.

Advantage: Peruvian Walnut, by a hair

 

Cost

Black walnut is a premium domestic hardwood and is priced accordingly. As a moderately priced exotic hardwood, Peruvian walnut is slightly more expensive than black walnut, but the two species are generally close enough in price to make the Peruvian walnut worth considering.

Advantage: Black Walnut, by a hair

 

Sustainability

Black walnut is a widely available domestic hardwood that is sustainably harvested. Some tropical species in the Juglans genus that go by the name Peruvian walnut are on the IUCN red list of threatened species, so be sure you know what you’re getting. It’s important to source Peruvian walnut from a reputable dealer. Our Peruvian Walnut is sustainably sourced.

Advantage: Black Walnut

 

Drying Time

Peruvian walnut takes considerably longer to dry than black walnut, with drying times starting at about a year and increasing with board thickness.

Advantage: Black Walnut

 

Both black walnut and Peruvian walnut are good choices for projects where looks are as important as strength, and they are priced similarly enough to make both worth considering.