Why Is Walnut So Popular?

If you are an avid DIY enthusiast or a woodworker, then you may have noticed an ever-increasing trend of walnut being the go-to wood for many DIY projects. From furniture to art pieces, walnut wood is making a splash in the DIY world. The beautiful grain patterns, durability, and unique color make it a popular choice. However, many still wonder whether or not it’s worth the cost.

Walnut is a popular hardwood because it offers an aesthetic value that surpasses many other types of wood. The unique grain patterns and natural look make this wood ideal for fine furniture pieces that need to provide both function and beauty. Beyond looks, walnut is high density, which means it is stronger and more durable than many other kinds of wood.

Raw walnut lumber stacked

The downside?

It is rather expensive when compared to other types of wood available, yet DIYers are willing to go the extra mile to acquire it. In this article, we will explore, in detail, the reasons behind walnut wood’s popularity and why so many DIYers are incorporating it into their woodworking projects. We’ll also look at some of the downsides that make it less attractive to some.

What is Walnut Wood and Where Does it Come From?

Walnut wood is a type of fine hardwood, known for its rich, dark color and attractive grain patterns. It comes from the wood of the walnut tree. The wood is commonly used in high-quality furniture, cabinetry, and flooring.

There are a few different types of Walnut wood but the primary one you’ll find on the market is Black Walnut. Black Walnut has a dark brown to purplish-black color with beautiful graining that can range from straight grain and plain to wavy and highly figured. It comes from the Black walnut tree. The image below shows the typical grain and look that you can usually expect.

Walnut lumber close up

Other common names and types of the walnut family of tree species include:

  • Eastern Black Walnut
  • American Walnut
  • American Black Walnut
  • English Walnut
  • European Walnut
  • Eastern Walnut

Walnut is a deciduous tree, making it a hardwood. They are the trees that produce the healthy nuts that we love. Black walnut trees provide me with part of my morning breakfast and I always eat a handful of black walnuts as a healthy part of my diet.

Green walnuts on a tree

The walnut heartwood is a rich brown color, while the sapwood, or the outer portion of the tree, is much lighter. You may also find other color variations such as reddish tints. It generally boasts a consistent grain pattern making it easy to work with. It’s great for all kinds of woodworking projects and works well for laser engraving and laser cutting.

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of elegance to your home with walnut furniture or searching for the perfect hardwood for your latest DIY project, walnut wood is an excellent choice.

Best Uses For Walnut

1. Furniture

Walnut wood is often used to create high-end furniture, such as chairs, tables, and cabinets. It is loved by furniture makers, cabinet makers, and all kinds of other woodworkers. The wood has a beautiful grain pattern that can add a touch of elegance to any piece of furniture. Additionally, walnut is a very strong and durable wood, so it can withstand years of use.

You’ll often find people trying to emulate the beautiful dark chocolate color of walnut by using stains on more affordable wood such as pine. This is a popular way of achieving a walnut look without actually using walnut wood. You may also find furniture made with walnut veneer rather than solid wood.

It’s hard to beat the look and durability of solid walnut furniture. A walnut coffee table, for example, provides a striking centerpiece for any living room.

2. Flooring

Walnut wood makes a beautiful floor that provides an attractive look along with the strength to withstand years of use. The dark color of the wood gives it an elegant look that can transform any room into a luxurious space. The wood is hard and dense, so it can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Additionally, the dark color of the wood can help to hide dirt and scratches.

Due to its high price, walnut floors are often used in higher-end homes or commercial buildings.

3. Small Crafts

Walnut wood is a popular choice for making smaller items such as boxes, shelves, toys, and other sit-around or useful items. This beautiful wood is perfect for the hobbyist looking for dark wood without having to use stains. Besides using walnut itself, it can also be combined with other hardwoods to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Walnut, cherry, and maple complement each other well and are often combined to create a contrasting look.

4. Musical Instruments

Walnut wood is often used in musical instruments, such as guitars, mandolins, and violins. The wood has a rich, warm tone that makes it ideal for creating musical instruments.

Gibson J15 back and side view

The Gibson J-15 guitar is an example of an acoustic guitar that uses American walnut. The walnut is used on the back and sides of the guitar body and produces an amazing sound. The J-15 is a beloved instrument that I happen to own. It has received lots of praise and has a strong following, making it a highly sought-after instrument.

5. Carving

Walnut wood is also popular for carving due to its smooth texture and fine-grain pattern. Woodcarvers love to use this species of wood as it is fairly easy to work with and the end result provides a beautiful carving. The dark color of the wood helps to highlight the details of the carving, making it even more impressive.

8 Benefits of Using Walnut Wood for Your DIY Projects

Let’s look at some of the benefits of using Walnut on your projects.

1. It Is Strong and Durable

Walnut wood is a hardwood and is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to wear and tear. It can withstand heavy use and is less likely to crack or warp over time. Because of this, it is a popular choice for furniture, kitchenware, and cutting boards since it can withstand daily use.

2. It’s Easy to Work With

Despite its hardness and density, walnut wood is relatively easy to work with. It is easy to cut, glue, sand, and finish. The wood has a smooth grain structure that makes it easy to sand and doesn’t require extensive preparation before finishing. Walnut wood also holds screws and nails well, making it ideal for furniture and cabinetry projects.

3. It’s Easy to Finish With a High Sheen

Walnut wood finishes beautifully with natural oil finishes and nearly any other type of topcoat. I love to use natural oils to help darken and bring out the natural beauty even more. With proper sanding, natural oils, such as Odie’s Oil, brings out a lustrous sheen that is hard to beat with any other wood and finish combination.

4. It Has a Beautiful Grain Pattern

One of the most striking features of walnut is its unique color and grain patterns. Walnut wood is brown with darker brown/black grain lines, giving it a distinct look. The color can vary depending on the age and location of the tree. The grain lines are a result of the tree’s growth patterns and give it a distinctive texture. These unique features make it an excellent choice for decorative and artistic pieces.

The color variation that you will often find adds interest and character to pieces making them even more beautiful.

5. Sustainability

Walnut trees are native American trees and are plentiful in North America. They also grow in other countries including South America, Europe, and Asia. They grow at a medium rate and are usually sustainably harvested. These harvesting methods ensure that the tree population remains healthy. Many woodworkers, including myself, prefer using sustainable wood, and walnut is an ideal choice as it’s renewable and eco-friendly.

6. Timeless Appeal

Walnut wood has been used for centuries and has stood the test of time. Its classic beauty and durability have made it the material of choice in furniture, cabinetry, and decorative items. Walnut wood can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any project and will continue to look beautiful even after years of use.

7. Stability

Walnut has excellent stability, meaning it doesn’t shrink or warp like other types of wood when exposed to temperature and humidity changes. This stability makes it an ideal choice for kitchen and bathroom furniture, where it is exposed to moisture and temperature changes on a daily basis.

8. Longevity

Walnut is a reliable wood, that can stand the test of time. It is known to last for decades, if not centuries, making it a long-term investment for DIYers and woodworkers. Its longevity is attributed to its resistance to rot and decay, which is why it is often used in outdoor furniture as well.

5 Downsides to Using Walnut

1. Cost

The main drawback to using walnut lumber is its price. It is one of the more expensive wood types on the market, and this factor can be a significant disadvantage for people working on a budget. This is particularly true if you’re making large furniture pieces or home renovations since you’ll need a sizable quantity of wood to complete the project.

However, for the small project warrior, or those who are selling their crafts, this cost can be minimal. If you purchase rough lumber and plane and surface it yourself, the cost becomes less of an issue. Many online lumber yards as well as local lumber suppliers can offer walnut for comparable prices to other hardwoods.

2. Availability

Walnut wood is not as readily available as other woods like pine, red oak, or poplar. It can also be challenging to source. If you live in an area where the supply is limited, you may have to search more extensively or pay extra to order it from an online supplier.

3. Dark Color

While the walnut’s defining color is stunning, it can be too dark for some people’s taste. With the varieties of grains and cuts, you’ll find colors from pale yellow to light brown to near black. The good part is that you can have this dark color without having to use chemical stains.

If you prefer lighter wood colors, then using walnut lumber may not be the best choice for you. You’ll want to seek out other hardwoods, such as white oak, maple, cherry, or hickory.

4. Hardness

While hardness is both a pro and con, I have found more pros through my experience of using it. The hardness makes it less likely to get damaged while working with it. If you’ve ever worked with softer wood like pine, you know that the least little bump can cause a dent or scratch in the wood.

You don’t have this problem with walnut. However, you do have the challenge of cutting and shaping the harder wood versus that of a softer nature.

5. Color Variations

The rich brown color of walnut lumber is one of its main attractions for many people. However, as with any natural material, there are color variations that may occur in different parts of the wood, even on the same board. This means that if you’re looking for a consistent color or pattern throughout your project, using walnut lumber might not be the most suitable option.

For example, the images below show a beautiful cut of walnut wood on the left side but a less-than-stellar cut of it on the right side. Some may like the high-character look of the picture on the right but if you are looking for consistency, that board just won’t work.

Comparison of two cuts of walnut lumber

Many people order lumber online and never know what they will get so this could be a reality for some orders. As a hobbyist myself who often orders lumber, this is an actual cut of wood that I received and wasn’t able to use for my project.

Color variations are a common problem with other types of wood as well so it isn’t unheard of if you are already using a different type of wood.

Why Is Walnut So Expensive?

One of the main concerns of using walnut is the cost associated with it. In general, surfaced walnut is going to be substantially more expensive than other readily available woods.

Many factors are at play when considering the cost of walnut. It is a hardwood so it takes longer to cut, plane, and surface than softer woods. It also tends to be harvested from fewer sources which adds additional costs in transporting it to market. Also, its popularity has increased over the years driving up demand and prices as well.

The chart below shows a comparison of some of the most popular hardwoods on the market along with their average board foot price. These numbers where gathered from multiple sources where I generally purchase my lumber and are only averages of what I would pay.

Average board/ft for 4/4 hardwood select or better lumber (updated April, 2023)
White Oak (flat sawn)$8
Hard Maple$7
Red Oak$5

My Experience Using Walnut in My DIY Projects

Walnut and Cherry are my two favorite kinds of wood to work with when creating products that I sell. Both of these are easy to work with and the colors provide me with a dark and lighter option without having to use stains. I used to work solely with pine since it was locally available at an affordable price.

Like many, I would use this softer wood and then use a walnut stain on it to achieve the look I wanted. This is fine on larger pieces but on smaller projects, it just makes sense to use a darker wood from the get-go.

The picture below shows what my nose glasses holder looks like created in walnut. You can download the scroll saw pattern and give it a try yourself.

Glasses holder built using walnut wood

Now I prefer to use walnut to avoid the inconvenience of staining. Besides the inconvenience, you also have to deal with the toxicity and cleanup of these chemicals. Why not just choose wood that already looks the color you want? Walnut, Cherry, and Oak are great examples of popular wood species that could be used to avoid using stains.


Walnut has become a trendy wood for DIY projects due to its unique beauty, strength, versatility, stability, and longevity. Its high price and limited availability do not deter enthusiasts from using it and making it a staple choice for their furniture pieces.

Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional woodworker, walnut is definitely worth considering for your next project. Its durability and timeless beauty make it a worthwhile investment that you will cherish for years to come.