Why Walnut Is Graded to Slightly Looser Standards
When you find out that Walnut is graded according to standards different from other species, maybe you get that frustrating feeling in the pit of your stomach — you know, the one you got when you found out your younger brother got away with not making his bed as neatly as you had to. Parents aren’t perfect, but just like your brother’s broken arm might make sense of the seeming favoritism, the unique grading allowances for Walnut have their reasons.
Domestic lumber species are generally graded according to National Hardwood Lumber Association guidelines; however, Walnut gets some special treatment. When you understand the distinctive characteristics of this beautiful tree, you’ll understand the reasons for variant grading and achieve a greater ability to intelligently place your order.
Back to our opening illustration, it’s not like your mom didn’t require your brother to make his bed at all; that analogy relates to how Walnut is treated within the grading system. It’s not getting a free pass, where anything qualifies for FAS. The requirements for Walnut to meet the various grades aren’t really that far from other species.
For instance, FAS lumber generally has to be a minimum size of 6 inches wide by 8 feet long, whereas FAS Walnut has to be only 5 inches wide by 6 feet long, provided that 4 out of 5 boards in each pack yields 8 feet or longer.
Typically, FAS boards are required to be 83.3% free from defects, on both faces, with a minimum clear cutting of 3 inches by 7 feet or 4 inches by 5 feet. FAS Walnut that is 5 inches by 6-7 feet are allowed some wane along the edges. In addition, pieces 8 inches wide are allowed 2 defects.
If your arm was broken, that would prevent you from being able to use it to effectively make your bed, whereas if your toe was broken, you wouldn’t have as much of an excuse. In the same way, the accommodations to the grading system allow more Walnut into the higher categories, simply because even the best Walnut available fails to meet the requirements that are reasonable for other species.
Unlike our illustrations, Walnut does not benefit. Who does? The customer. The grading system, as altered for Walnut, better accomplishes the aim of the grading system for Walnut customers.
Walnut trees generally produce more branches, in turn causing more knots as well as twists and turns in its grain. Its sapwood and heartwood provide added visual interest in the form of drastic color distinction. Steaming can lessen the color distinction, but a uniform look is out of reach.
As a result of what many appreciate about this unusual species, clear boards are difficult to find. Walnut is ideal for use in cabinetry, flooring, and millwork. Ideally, it is used for projects that utilize shorter, narrower boards or smaller clear cuttings. If it weren’t such an in-demand species, the grading alterations would never have been made.