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Is walnut getting scarce in your area? My search...

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Forum topic by Tennessee posted 06-13-2015 09:05 PM 1026 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2410 posts in 1975 days


06-13-2015 09:05 PM

A few weeks ago we had a forum topic by lumberyardguy on the view of a lumber mill from the owner side. It was great, and I personally learned a lot.
In that topic, it was asked how their walnut was looking, and could it be scarce?
I believe lumberyardguy responded that they get most of their walnut from Missouri and surrounding areas, but it seems to be smaller with more sapwood in it than ever before. I think he also mentioned that it was hard to get those wide, clear planks that the cabinet boys love so much.

I think I actually responded that my area was OK, and that I had a mill close to me that always had nice walnut and it seemed to pop up often enough with the local bandsaw guys.
But I was WAY off base, and didn’t know it since I had not bought walnut in the last 6-8 months. I was just wrong.

Ironically, I started to run out of walnut about a week after that posting, so I started to look around.
My favorite mill in North Georgia, W.D. Cline lumber said they had nice walnut in stock for about $4 a board foot, less if I took 100 board feet or more, so I went down on a weekday.
Unfortunately for me, the customer in front of me in the main barn walked the barn, picking out every last plank of walnut, over 500 board feet, and bought it on the spot. I ended up with some great white oak and nice maple, but no walnut. Since then, every time I call, they say they are out of walnut, but I have heard they are saving it for their regular cabinet boys, and the public walk-ins like me are out of luck.

So I turned to my secondary source, Chattanooga Hardwoods. They were happy to sell me walnut, kiln dried in two grades, for $9.50 and $11.50 a bd. ft. What? Those are Woodcraft prices.

So in desperation, I started looking at the bandsaw folks around me who cut the green logs. With the Great Smokies right on my doorstep, there are a LOT of these guys around. After a week, I found exactly one that had walnut, buried in the Smokies, about an hour from my house. He wanted $2.50 green off the log, and had exactly two walnut logs. I bit. Good thing I did. I get out there today, and he has the two logs, which are about 14” each. One was only 7 foot long, the other was about 15 feet long. But he had just burned his last blade on a dirty log since he didn’t have a debarker, and although he tried to cut the short log, the blade walked too much to be of any use. Apologies all around, since he knew I had driven at least an hour.

Then he tells me he has walnut and maple ricked on a set of racks behind his shop, ten years off the log, and he would sell me whatever I wanted for $2.50 a bd. ft. Maybe he felt bad, but I think I was his first customer in quite a while. WAY out in the boonies, old saw, old house, run down everything. I think he needed the money.

But when we got to the lumber, I ended up with 58 bd. ft. of walnut that I would take, rough cut 4/4, most of it not split or cracked, and another 75 bd. ft. of really nice maple, and just one board of cherry that was beautiful but only 7 bd. ft. I also found a wonderful 8 foot long piece of 10” wide 8/4 planed to 7/4 AAA flame maple, a little over 12 board feet, which I obviously threw in the mix. All in all, I bought 141 bd. ft. of walnut, maple and a tiny bit of cherry for $300 and considered myself very lucky.

He also told me a strange story that I do not know if I believe. He said some of his fellows that cut in the Smokies have heard about people taking up helicopters, identifying walnut trees, especially the big ones. Then, a few days later, the trees are gone.
Apparently, they lock in a GPS coordinate while hovering over the tree, and later send in a small team of cutters to lay down the tree, use a small skid steer to get it out in sections, put it in a pickup truck with a trailer and go, one tree at a time. They take mainly the trunk and maybe a decent branch or two.
I might believe it, knowing how many gunstock makers we have around here who covet old growth walnut. If walnut is getting that scarce, that is scary…

So the burning question is: Is walnut spiking in price where you live? Because I think I got really lucky today and it might be the last time I ever see walnut at that price.

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com


11 replies so far

View bosum3919's profile

bosum3919

338 posts in 1080 days


#1 posted 06-13-2015 09:24 PM

I have a very good hardwood mill in my area. While they specialize in cypress they do quite a bit of native hardwoods. Two weeks ago, I made a run and bought walnut, hickory, maple and cherry. My supplier has a huge inventory, but the walnut now contains a lot of sapwood that it used to not have. Price was $4.00 a BF. Higher that it was a few years ago when I last bought some. My old home place has a walnut that I know is well over 90 years old because my mother remembers it when she was a little girl. It sits right inside the property line next to timber company land. I can’t remember all of the times my family has had to protect that tree from the loggers. Several times it got very close to physical violence. Luckily, they always backed down, because my dad would not have. My younger brother is the caretaker of that tree now. I had never heard the story of tagging trees with a helicopter, but I can believe that it is being done.

-- Bob

View BoardSMITH's profile

BoardSMITH

121 posts in 1724 days


#2 posted 06-13-2015 09:34 PM

The last walnut I purchased was non-steamed at $7.50/bd ft. They said it was FAS but looked closer to #1 common.

BTW Good and walnut in the same sentence is an oxymoron. They just don’t belong together anymore.

-- David www.TheBoardSMITH.com

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

3550 posts in 2022 days


#3 posted 06-13-2015 10:03 PM

We have 100 acres of Black Walnut and are saving it to sell when most of it gets to 36” diameter which should be 8 years or so.

We also have a lot of new growth that the squirrels planet the nuts and it then grows. We have several hundred of them growing from new to 8” thick.

-- Please help me help other Vets click..> http://www.gofundme.com/m1abko.....It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

7698 posts in 2303 days


#4 posted 06-13-2015 11:48 PM

I spoke with Thomas Hucker furniture designer/builder. He was telling me that he travels to or gets walnut from a supplier in PA. He is in Hoboken NJ. 25 dollars a linear foot.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View WDHLT15's profile

WDHLT15

1572 posts in 1937 days


#5 posted 06-14-2015 02:04 AM

Down here in Central GA, the answer is “yes”. Increasingly harder and harder to get logs.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln. hamsleyhardwood.com

View Dabcan's profile

Dabcan

252 posts in 2132 days


#6 posted 06-14-2015 02:20 AM

I can get it without much trouble but the price has almost doubled in the last year

-- @craftcollectif , http://www.craftcollective.ca, https://www.etsy.com/shop/craftcollective?

View splatman's profile

splatman

557 posts in 860 days


#7 posted 06-14-2015 03:28 AM

Everyone going nuts for walnut? Was there an invasion of walnut-killing bugs a few years ago, like there is with the emerald ash borer now? I think I’ve read of something like it, here at LJ, maybe that was something that happened in a small area, IDK. Or just a surge in demand?

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

693 posts in 685 days


#8 posted 06-14-2015 03:47 AM



Everyone going nuts for walnut? Was there an invasion of walnut-killing bugs a few years ago, like there is with the emerald ash borer now? I think I ve read of something like it, here at LJ, maybe that was something that happened in a small area, IDK. Or just a surge in demand?

- splatman

A lot of walnut is being exported to China now. From what I understand, they are buying containers of not just trunks, but branches and anything that can be squeezed into the container.

That’s pretty much the reason the price is going up. Just not as much supply for local markets.

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1077 posts in 3003 days


#9 posted 06-14-2015 05:07 AM

Back in the late 90’s we were using a lot clear and better and premium white pine then it stopped for a couple of years. We needed 500 brd feet for a project in the early 2000’s so I called the vendor and gave him the order for 500 brd ft of premium.

When the truck delivered it I told the driver you guys must have gotten our order mixed up. He asked me why and I told him that looks like number 2 not premium and that’s not what I ordered. He started laughing and said look here and sure enough it had premium stamped on it.

I told him whoever graded that must have been stoned on pot so I tuned the order down. I called my vendor and asked him about it and his exact words are..Bruce the grading system has most likely changed and I asked him why. He told me that most all of our clear and better and premium woods are being bought up by the Asian market at much higher prices and was being shipped overseas so the grading system has probably changed for us. No doubt this tanked my butt big time and I had to tell him to send me clear and better then. He then told me that clear and better now can have x number of 25 cent size knots in them.

I had not paid much attention to pine because I was using very little of it. One day recently I was in a big box here and walked down the isle that had the pine standing up. I stopped and it said premium and was well over $2.00 a linear foot for a 1×12x12. I just said ouchy and shook my head and kept going. The boards looked awful in my eyes for premium grade wood.

A few months ago I bought 10 premium white pine boards to make thee prototype pieces of unfinished furniture for a store down in Atlanta. I picked the boards out of the bundle and paid $1.12 a brd ft for it and it was nothing to brag about.

And yes, walnut is getting difficult to find here in these mountains at the mills.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2410 posts in 1975 days


#10 posted 06-14-2015 11:33 AM

AZWoody and bruc101 your comments make a lot of sense.

When I was in China for Catnapper furniture back in 2007, we were in a “pecan/mahogany/cherry phase of furniture color. We were bringing in so much cheap mahogany from all over the Asian rim it was senseless. That stuff that they call rubberwood. We also bought up tons, literally, of pecan, cherry, poplar that could be stained, etc.

We all know that furniture styles tend to cycle, and your story Bruce about the pine coming up short back in the early 2000’s makes sense, since back then we were all looking at oak kitchen cabinets, light colored wood furniture, etc.

Now, it does seem that when I visit any furniture store, it is all dark again, mainly dark stained mahogany and walnut colors. It would make sense that the Asian factories and markets, which are the largest consumer of wood for furniture on the planet, would need all the walnut they could get their hands on. When I worked at Catnapper just outside of Shanghai, we shipped as much West into Europe as we did to North America.

Arlin, you’ve never had a tree poached? Your land must be really remote, or very well protected. 100 acres is a lot to keep an eye on, especially when it is all standing growth. Hope it stays that way, and make a fortune!

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

View WoodNSawdust's profile

WoodNSawdust

1417 posts in 637 days


#11 posted 06-14-2015 11:49 AM



He also told me a strange story that I do not know if I believe. He said some of his fellows that cut in the Smokies have heard about people taking up helicopters, identifying walnut trees, especially the big ones. Then, a few days later, the trees are gone.
Apparently, they lock in a GPS coordinate while hovering over the tree, and later send in a small team of cutters to lay down the tree, use a small skid steer to get it out in sections, put it in a pickup truck with a trailer and go, one tree at a time. They take mainly the trunk and maybe a decent branch or two.
I might believe it, knowing how many gunstock makers we have around here who covet old growth walnut. If walnut is getting that scarce, that is scary…

- Tennessee


Here in Missouri there was a news story a few weeks ago about illegal logging. It seems like drug addicts are stealing trees to sell for drug money. I think they mentioned Walnut as one of the spices.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

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