Carving Walnut

Walnut is a very common wood among woodworkers and for those who want to know the experience of carving walnut, you have come to the right place. Walnut wood is dark, tight-grained and It is a very good wood to carve, the color gives a good dark shade.

Walnut is the only wood with dark-brown lumber native to North America and for this reason, it is in high demand.

The dark hue is only found in the heartwood(The inner part of the tree) and the sapwood(The outer part of the tree) is yellow giving a lot of color variety. The wood heartwood can alternate from a deep chocolate brown to dark greyish hazel to a lighter color and the sapwood is pale yellow.

For the ones not for that much color difference in wood, the factory steam the lumber and manual color sorting after, to reduce the difference.

Walnut lumber is steamed in a chamber the size of a 2-car garage where they inject steam. The lumber inside the chamber is always freshly sawn and then closely tightened in stacks. The injected steam is around 200 degrees causing the lumber to naturally oxidize and this process makes the lumber a little bit darker.

The steam forces the water inside the freshly sawn lumber and gives the surface a darker shade because the wood’s water is dark. Although it does not entirely turn the sapwood, it darkens it reducing the contrast between the heartwood part and sapwood.

Methods For Carving Walnut

Walnuts can be carved using different methods of carving. One of the methods you can use with carving is whittling. When I talk about whittling, I exclude the beginners because you will have to be a little experience in carving. The Janka hardness is 1010 lbs and comparing it to basswood .that has a Janka hardness of 410, it will not be the best option to start off carving walnut as a beginner.

The other method is the use of power carving tools. Power tools will save you time and give you better details. Power carving can come in two forms; electricity charge of battery charge.

The third method is chainsaw carving. The chainsaw does not limit you on the size you want your carving. Chainsaw is therapeutic because of the ease you carve your wood. Chainsaw carving walnut is a good method because of its tight grain.

Depending on any method above to carve walnut, applying a finish is the last step to protect your carving from a change in climate condition.

Tips For Finishing Walnut

For a Walnut carving to have a more beautiful look, it is important to note that you should use a wood grain filler. The wood grain filler makes the grain pop with contrast.

One of my best suggestions for giving walnut a good finish is using WATCO Danish oil. The color is dark and when it is applied to a walnut carving, it compliments the carving.

WATCO Danish oil

It is a wipe wipe-off procedure and it also helps in adding color to the pale carving. After the first coat, it will give a matt finish and it will be your choice if you would want to stop at that coat or continue.

If you want to add another coat, first let the first coat dry, and then you can add a clear finish whether it is water-based or oil-based to give it a brighter sheen. An example of a top coat is the general finish high-performance water-based topcoat.

Tung oil varnish

Tung oil varnish is another very good finish I would recommend on walnut. Oil-based finishes tend to give walnut a good aesthetic appearance by improving the contrast of the grain and giving warmth to your carving making look better. If you have a Tung oil and a varnish, you don’t need to buy the Tung oil varnish.

All you have to do is to mix the two and you will get the same solution. Because there is varnish in the solution, you can build multiple coats to build a nice hard film on it and buff it to any sheen you want.


Walnut is a very beautiful wood to carve and the above-mentioned finishes slow the rate of reaction from the climatic condition of the region you are in. Remember no finish or amount of finish can 100% protect your carving from external conditions and with time you will notice some changes may be in color or it will have some small cracks.

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