April 11, 2015
Walnut wood, primarily harvested from the northern mid-west region of the United States, makes for some of the most unique, beautiful furniture available. Just as its appearance is unique, the way walnut lumber is processed is also unique.
Freshly sawn Walnut is a greenish-brown color heartwood with nearly white sapwood. This is a stark contrast for many who desire the appearance of all heartwood. The removal of the sapwood can be costly as the perimeter of the log contains the clearer, and hence more valuable lumber.
To ensure more use of the log, walnut lumber sawn in a commercial sawmill is steamed before it is kiln dried. The steaming of Walnut changes the color of the sapwood to a color closer to the brown heartwood color. Freshly sawn Walnut lumber is loaded into a specially constructed aluminum chamber. Then the Walnut is steamed by running steam through vats of water in the floor that emit a fully saturated steam as it heats the chamber. The steaming process causes a chemical reaction in the sapwood that causes it to darken. The process of steaming takes about 3-4 days.
Once steamed, the Walnut is lowered to a safe handling temperature. It is then put onto kiln stickers that allow airflow all around before being put into a dry kiln. The kiln drying process takes about 14-18 days to dry the wood to the proper moisture content.
Being that this process is long and involves these special added steps, many manufacturers choose not to use walnut in their offering because of the costs associated with it. But have you ever seen the warmth of American made, walnut solid wood furniture? It's unlike any other and Hale still makes it, 107 years later!
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