All about Black American Walnut: A Worktop Express® Guide
With an exceptionally rich hue and beautiful grain, Black American Walnut is one of our favourite kitchen worktops. You may otherwise find this type of walnut referred to as black walnut, American walnut and eastern black walnut, but we prefer using the name black American walnut as it best describes the dark timber and its origin.
Here you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this popular worktop, including its origin, manufacture and history.
Our black American walnut (Juglans nigra) really is one of those timbers that radiates elegance. It’s heavy and strong, though slightly less dense than oak, and has a truly magnificent grain structure that brings an air of class to any kitchen situation.
American walnut worktops are considerably darker than their European counterparts, and will darken further over time to be almost black in parts – hence the name. If you are interested in seeing some of our bespoke black American walnut pieces – those that have been subject to alterations by our expert fabrication team – do take a look at the black American walnut gallery.
TYPE OF WOOD AND GRAIN STRUCTURE
Here at Worktop Express® we stock some of the finest quality hardwood worktops. In fact, Bamboo is the only material our worktops are manufactured from that isn’t classed as a wood – it’s a grass. All hardwoods have their own characteristic cell structure, and black American walnut is no exception, containing a long type of cell known as a ‘vessel element’ which isn’t existent in softwoods.
These cells run in a longitudinal formation and are much bigger than any other type of cell present; when quartersawn, small marks appear in the wood that are known as pores. American walnut has a beautifully straight, yet soft grain pattern that is created by the presence of these pores.
This deciduous wood has natural resistance to decay, and when alive secretes a toxic chemical from its roots called juglone that can kill other vegetation. For this reason you’ll often find them standing alone, and are planted approximately 20 metres from other trees; though not all plants are sensitive to juglone. Some trees, vines, shrubs, annuals and perennials will grow in close proximity to a walnut tree, though they don’t usually bear a fruit. But never fear: this wood is perfectly hygienic and food-friendly when in its worktop form!
SOURCE AND MANUFACTURE
Whilst all of our worktops are manufactured in Europe, the black American walnut timber we use comes from (you guessed it!) America. At Worktop Express® we go through great lengths to make sure that we only acquire the most resilient and attractive timber, and that used for an American black walnut worktop is no exception. We purchase it from one of the largest mills in the United States and we’re very confident of minimal environmental impact during its sourcing and manufacture.
Although exempt from FSC certification due to its origin, like all American timbers it is protected by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This organisation is dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management and high ecological, social and ethical standards, which we always ensure are upheld by our suppliers. Take a look at our Environmental page for further information on our environmental policies.
Since the establishment of Worktop Express® we’ve been responsible for delivering over 200,000 solid wood worktops. We are extremely confident in our policy to deal directly with manufacturers rather than using any third-parties, which means we can guarantee that tight controls are always in place to fulfil our high standards.
You can rest assured that we have minimal wastage in our fabrication facility, as we have established effective and exact practices to ensure that any excess materials are recycled or put to use in some way or other. Head over to our ‘Sourcing and Manufacture’ information guide if you’d like to know more.
All our black American walnut worktops are made up of sections of timber known as ‘staves’. These staves are then high-pressure bonded and finger jointed to create a larger wooden board appropriate for worktop manufacture.
Finger joints are created by cutting a set of corresponding groves and ‘fingers’ in to the two pieces of wood so that the staves fit together like clasped fingers of a human hand – where the name comes from. Not only is the finger joint the most aesthetically pleasing of joints, but it ensures that the staves remain durable, and with the addition of a small amount of glue is considerably stronger than alternative joints.
We offer black American walnut in a standard configuration of 40mm staves as well as a stunning full stave alternative that is constructed from 90mm wide staves that run the full length of the worktop. Whichever option you decide to choose, you can be sure that the staves are chosen to ensure aesthetic consistency, whilst keeping the character of the wood in place. Black American walnut has particularly beautiful grain patterns that are fully appreciated in the extra wide staves of the full stave variant.
To find out more about the construction of our solid wood worktops, visit our ‘Construction Types Explained’ information guide.
- Tree Size: 30-40m tall, up to 1 m trunk diameter
- Density: 660 kg/m3
- Average Dried Weight: 610 kg/m3
- Janka Hardness: (4,490 N)
- Modulus of Rupture (bending strength): 100.7 MPa
- Elastic Modulus (‘stiffness’ of wood): 11.59 GPa
Black American walnut grows mainly in the Eastern and Central United states, but can be found across most of the middle and northern regions of the U.S. The tree and its nuts have been enjoyed in America long before European settlers arrived, with the Native Americans using the walnut tree sap in food preparation, as well as making dye from the nut husks. Archaeological surveys undertaken in the Great Lakes region suggest that walnuts were a regular food source back until at least 2000 BC.
As well as making some beautiful worktops, black American walnut trees provides a variety of other products to industries, including use of the hard shells in plastics, glues, sand-blast cleaners and metal polishers. The powdered form of walnut shells has even been used by NASA as thermal insulation in rocket booster nose cones as the powder can withstand extremes in temperatures without burning.
American walnut has been a staple component of many other items for a long time, thanks to its defect-free nature. Over the years it has been used as timbers for barns and other larger structures, made in to hay racks, and even some boat-building purposes, all because this species is so resistant to rotting.
Since the wood became so popular for decorative use by the 1970’s, the price was forced up, promoting furniture and cabinet makers to use other species. With the mid-90’s trends leaning more towards lighter woods such as Pine and Maple, black walnut became less popular.
Today, black walnut is used for high-end furniture, gunstocks, and a variety of speciality or custom-made items such as our beautiful bespoke worktops.
Over the last 5 years we’ve gone through great lengths to implement efficient processes and we purchase in high-volume to be able to bring hardwood worktops to the UK at incredible prices. We hold over 5,000 worktops in stock at our various warehouses throughout the UK, which enables us to deliver directly to the public and trade with great efficiency.
Our specialist stock-ordering systems ensure that there is a minimal amount of wastage, and we have various ways of reusing and recycling our products to make sure that we always make the most of this precious natural product. Take our warehouse, for example; the space is heated by a biomass boiler that is fuelled by offcuts and pallets that cannot be used in any other capacity.
With these efficient practises and our ‘direct-to-public’ online e-tailing model, we’ve been able to significantly shrink overheads, allowing us to market the latest products at lower rates than any other online wooden worktop retailer.
No matter how busy we get, we always make time to visit our suppliers (these visits are carried out at least every three months). We make regular checks to ensure our standards are maintained, and that our ethos of providing solid wood products at the most competitive prices, whilst staying true to our environmental roots, is tightly observed. This expertise has enabled us to become the largest importer of solid wood worktops in the UK, and we aim to expand further in to European markets throughout 2014.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see our worktops in person we highly recommend a visit to our showroom. We’re open 7 days a week and have a variety of our worktops and other solid wood products on show. Alternatively why not order a sample (or two)? Our samples are manufactured from actual worktop stock and unwanted offcuts that are sanded and oiled to give you a true indication of the finished product. Head over to our sample ordering page to pick up some for yourself.
Available from £255 for a 2m worktop.
With its dark, warming tones, black American walnut is a timber that adds a beautiful finish to any kitchen. Try contrasting it with bright whites for a stunningly sleek finish, or pair with earthy greens, chocolate browns and metallic blacks for a contemporary look.
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