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Thread: California Black Walnut?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
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    NorCal
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    12

    California Black Walnut?

    I lucked into 10,000# of California black walnut last week. I have a Lucas swing arm mill, two solar kilns, each currently drying ~2,000bf of redwood, and plenty of Doug Fir, redwood, and white oak in the mill-and-dry queue ahead of this new find. I have specific cut lists I'm targeting for the Doug Fir (timberframe) and redwood, less so for the white oak, and now black walnut. I also have a 60" slabbing attachment for the mill, and we've had fun this fall slabbing some 3" redwood and 3" white oak slabs. Slabs are stickered and banded, air drying under tarp cover with ends open. With only ~4,000bf of total kiln capacity, and about 50,000bf currently in log form across the four species, I'm torn what to do near term with the black walnut. Paint ends and leave as logs for a while? Slab some, mill some into 4/4 and 8/4 and air dry until kiln space opens up? I don't have plans to make furniture anytime soon, but like what I see in limited research since the black walnut landed in my lap. The wood was free, though I tipped the team that felled it, kept it long lengths for me, and helped load it in my trailer. Total cost to date is ~20 cents/bf. Same guys have some red oak (90' tall, straight) and a 48" DBH tall redwood coming down this winter. Similar deal: tips the guys doing the heavy lifting and wood costs very little if anything. Problem is growing inventory. I have several acres for log laydown, slab air dry stacks, etc, but really need to finish milling and baking and get on to rebuilding my shop (440sf) lost in the CZU fire a year ago, and a new cottage (1,200sf) with the Doug Fir and redwood. I have a skid steer for log manipulation, material handling, kiln load/unload, etc., but am trying to be efficient about site planning and material movement overall. Open to any advice, particularly on the CA black walnut, which I have no prior experience with.

    CA black walnut 29dec21.jpg
    Last edited by Kelly Foster; 01-06-2022 at 2:30 AM.

  2. #2
    I don't want to be negative but a lot of that looks like firewood. I would concentrate on sorting out, end-sealing, milling and stickering the highest quality logs. The sooner the log ends are sealed the better, and if they are already checking it may be worth cutting back a few inches before sealing with Anchorseal or dilute yellow glue. Don't bother using paint. The walnut heartwood is quite decay resistant so will not rot in log form but will dry at a glacial rate and will develop end checks unless sawn up. You will have a lot more than $.20/ft in it by the time you have usable lumber so think triage.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    WNY
    Posts
    8,117
    Some of that walnut may not be furniture quality but it's all money. Slab enthusiasts love character, the more the better. I you have a market for slabs in your area then I'd slab the narly logs. The clear logs I'd either sit on or cut into 8/4 lumber if I didn't know what I was going to use it for. Sealing the ends is helpful immediately after cutting, but is not of much value after 3 days unless you cut back to fresh wood. I've milled unsealed walnut after several months of sitting around and lost very little to checking. Not always the case, but often so. White oak, on the other hand, loves to check just looking at it.

    Another option would be to sell the logs. Clear walnut logs bring $1500 - 2000/1000 bf around me, veneer quality up to $5000. I helped take down a 36" walnut last spring that the owner sold the butt log for that much.

    John

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
    Location
    NorCal
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    Here's another shot of the load. There are two straight trunk sections, about 40" in diameter. Pretty sure those are money, and agree with John there is slab potential in the rest. If nothing else, it's my first at-bat with black walnut, and almost certainly not the last such tree I encounter.


    20211229_115854.jpg

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    WNY
    Posts
    8,117
    As one of my friends says, "Black walnut is America's noble wood.". It's easy to mill, dries pretty easily, a joy to work with as long as you aren't allergic to it, and looks gorgeous when finished.

    40" diameter clear logs would be worth serious money. Or mill it into lumber and dry it. Typical retail prices around me are $10 - 12/bf for 4/4 and $14+ for 8/4. Stuff over 12" wide is priced even higher.

    John

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
    Location
    NorCal
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    Thanks John. Very helpful. Excited to run some of these logs through the mill, planer, etc.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Carlsbad, CA
    Posts
    2,037
    AS a 40 year handtool woodworker in the hardwood desert of So. Cal., I’m incredibly jealous of your BW find! One of my absolute favorite woos! I have no knowledge of saw milling- I lurk here as a vouyer who can only imagine the potential of the lumber you’r Sawing- even the small <4’ logs just look like gold to me. Keep the good work of making logs into fine lumber WW’ers like me live for!!

    I need to move somewhere that has trees! Cheers, Mike

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