December 8, 2021

Carving Walnut Wood: Tips, Techniques, and Inspiration

Carving Walnut Wood

If you’re a woodworking enthusiast, you’re probably familiar with the beauty and versatility of walnut wood. This hardwood is known for its rich, warm hues, durability and excellent workability. Whether you’re an experienced woodcarver or a beginner, carving walnut wood can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. However, you should know a few things before getting the best results. In this blog post, you’ll learn everything you need about walnut wood carving, from choosing the right tools and materials to shaping and finishing your project. Whether you want to make a decorative sculpture, furniture, or a functional kitchen utensil, read more about this timeless and elegant material.

Types of walnut wood

English Walnut Wood

English walnut wood comes from the same tree where edible walnuts come from. Do not be surprised when one calls it walnut, Circassian walnut, European walnut, and French walnut. This walnut wood is a native of the United Kingdom and is popular in Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

The English walnut tree grows up to 120 feet tall, with a diameter of 2 feet. The walnut in the forest is often taller than cultivated trees. Cultivated ones are the source of timber.

Its Heartwood color ranges from pale brown to dark chocolate brown, and its sapwood is yellowish to white. It is lighter in color, and the color differs depending on the drying method used. It is less durable since it is prone to insect attacks. It makes furniture, fine veneers, carvings, and decorative objects. Its large slabs make kitchen counters, tabletops, shelves, and bar tops.

Black Walnut Wood

Black walnut wood is strong, resistant to shock, stable, and versatile. Its heartwood makes it durable, like cedars and chestnuts. It is a native tree in the United States and popular on the eastern coast of the United States.

It ranges from dark chocolate brown to pale yellow. The sapwood, meanwhile, is a pale yellow to white. Its demand increases or decreases depending on public demand and consumption. Black walnut makes better cabinets due to its durability, workability, and appearance.
It performs well with hand tools and machines and polishes to a high finish. Its workability makes it ideal for carving and steam bending. It glues well.

Claro Walnut Wood

It is also called the California Black walnut and comes from the Juglans hindsii tree. It grows in California, up to 18 meters tall and 1.5 meters wide. It is closely related to the Black walnut. Its heartwood ranges from light pale brown to dark chocolate brown with dark brown streaks, and the color has some purple, gray, or reddish cast. The sapwood is clear or white and features grain patterns like burl, crotch, and curly.

It is susceptible to insect attacks, although it remains durable. It is resistant to decay. Check out if the grain is straight and regular so that it becomes easy to work with. An irregular grain causes a planer tear-out. Claro walnut wood also stains, finishes well, and has a faint and mild odor.

White Walnut Wood

White walnut wood is also known as Spanish walnut or butternut. It belongs to the Jungians cinereal and has a light brown color and is lightweight. It is a hardwood that is easy to work on. It works on carvings, furniture, veneer, boxes, crates, and interior trims.
It is a native of the United States and related to the black walnut. It is less dense and durable. The rot resistance wood comes with open pores. It is susceptible to insect damage, shock resistance and excellent dimensional ability. Its availability does not compromise affordability.

It has a pale and gold-like tone in its sapwood and heartwood. That is why it makes beautiful decorative items. It makes cabinets, furniture, turned items, and interior paneling.

Bastogne Walnut

It is a hybrid product of cross-pollination of claro walnut and the English walnut. It makes furniture, gunstock, veneer, and musical instruments like guitars, turned objects, and knife handles.

It is also called the Paradox walnut because it grows faster than English and claro walnuts. Bastogne walnut comes with beautiful characteristics such as a regular grain. The tree grows between 50 and 100 feet tall, with a trunk diameter between three and five feet.

Its heartwood colors vary from light gold to reddish-brown. Sometimes, dark brown to black streaks are found in the central wood. The sapwood is paler than the heartwood. You may notice some rippled grain in some parts of the wood. It is easy to work with if its grain is regular and strained. It also stains, glues, and finishes well.

Peruvian Walnut Wood

Peruvian walnut wood has a darker color and coarser grain, unlike other walnut wood types. It is a rich and dark chocolate color and makes furniture and cabinets. The tree is grown in Central America and the northern regions of South America.

It grows up to 60 feet tall, and the trunk has an average diameter of 3 feet. The wood is easy to work on, glues and stains well. Its shock resistance qualities are exceptional. That is why it is for gunstock. Its dark color makes it a better choice for interior trim. It is a bit soft for flooring. It makes high-end furniture, musical instruments, and cabinets.


Although walnut wood is popular among carvers, it is available in local lumberyards and online shops. That gives you more room to compare prices and conditions to pack the best.

Safety First

The carving comes with a higher chance of injuring yourself. That is why you should take all the safety measures to prevent that. Below are safety measures to follow.

  • Understand the grain
  • Know your tools
  • Make a sketch first
  • Sharpen your tools
  • Wear Gloves
  • Wear thumb guards
  • Wear masks

Choosing your Carving tools

When choosing wood carving tools, look at the carving you intend. Buy the tools you need when you need them rather than trying to buy them all at once. Start with basic carving knives and palm carving tools for a start. Add a tool here and there to your collection as you need them.

How to carve walnut

  1. Keep your tools very sharp.
  2. Avoid any knotholes
  3. Start carving.
  4. After carving, sand your wood.
  5. Do not wipe the wood with a damp cloth, it raises the grain.
  6. Run final sanding and an oil finish.

Carving techniques

  • Cut along the grain.
  • Keep your tools sharp.
  • Look for standard tools and add other carving tools during the process.

Jammu and Kashmir Walnut Wood Carving

Kashmir walnut wood carving is wood carving work created in Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is under the geographical indication (GI) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

Will black walnut dull my carving tools?

Due to its density and hardness, black walnut can dull carving tools. To prevent this, it’s important to use sharp tools and a mallet when working with black walnut and to sharpen your tools frequently. Despite this challenge, many woodworkers and carvers appreciate the rich color and grain of black walnut and enjoy working with it.

Finishes for walnut wood

Lacquer can be the best choice for finishing walnut if you want it to dry fast. You need two coats to seal and protect, and it’s user-friendly. You can choose airless or pressurized spray equipment to apply lacquer.

Tung oil is a combo of varnishes and Tung oil. It gives a beautiful finish to walnut. It removes dust, dirt, watermarks, and blemishes and lets you finish a large surface.

David D. Hughes

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