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Testing Some Beautiful Black Walnut

The chilly January wind has the big door banging a steady rhythm against the barn. The resident red squirrel just scurried off in a panic to his cozy bed in the insulation just above my woodshop. I’m in my storage space, picking out a few pieces of black walnut wood to test for dryness. The last time I cut into a sample from this batch, it was still wet enough that it would be a crack risk if I’d attempt to sculpt it into anything useful. 

walnut billets

This batch of walnut was harvested from a friend’s backyard just south of downtown Crawfordsville. Someone had already spoken for the trunk of the tree before I saw the FB post, but there were a few decent branches waiting to be claimed. I was excited to get my hands on some walnut because all of the walnut trees in our woods are healthy, and I prefer to work with wood from dead or storm-damaged trees. The truck bed full that I picked up on that day in October should be enough for several dozen spoons and maybe a few charcuterie boards. 

walnut spoon and spatula

Everyone loves the stark contrast between the brown heartwood and ivory-white sapwood on utensils made from these mid-sized branches. As the branch grows thicker over the years, that contrast becomes less and less pronounced. On the biggest logs from seriously old trunks, it’s hard to spot where the heartwood leaves off and the sapwood begins. The few pieces I’ve had from old-growth logs were exceptionally deep, dark brown. I think I prefer the stark contrasting tones of the younger wood, but I suppose I say that now only because I’m not fortunate enough to have any of the darker stuff on hand.