Black Walnut: Quite A Tree, Outside Of The Garden
black walnut tree was, at one time, very common, but has grown
increasingly rare because of its appeal to furniture makers. It is
easily identified - partly because its fruit scattered plentifully
around the base of the trunk. The foliage consists of alternately
pinnate leaves, the bark is furrowed, and the shoot possesses a
chambered pith (examination of the pith is a sure way to differentiate
walnut from its close relative, hickory).
It is no surprise that Robin Wade Furniture loves working with walnut – sustainable walnut. The timber is hard, dense, tight-grained and attractive, polishing to a fine finish with colors ranging from creamy-white to dark chocolate. The palette extends further as Robin Wade stacks and air-dries his natural-edge wood slabs for several years, which yields a rich purplish-brown hue, before sending them to the kiln for their final cure. The eventual form of each piece is then individually imagined by the artist, resulting in a truly unique collaboration between man and nature.
Burls (outgrowths caused by stress and filled with small knots from dormant buds) are common on walnut trees, both above and below ground. Highly figured, highly prized, the wildly styled grain of burls can be sliced into striking veneers and crafted into strong bowls and mallets.
While the timber is exceedingly beautiful, the living tree does not play well with others, releasing a natural chemical defense through its leaves and roots that can kill nearby competing vegetation and is poisonous to horses. So, if you have a black walnut in the vicinity of a stand of birch trees, an apple orchard, a horse pasture, or a garden, you may want to have it removed. When you do, be sure not to overlook the value of the timber...and all of those pricey burls on the root system that will have to come out, too.