Black Walnut and Boxelder and Lilac: What are each primarily used for and why?

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Forum topic by FlowersAndTrees posted 03-22-2013 05:51 PM 1549 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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23 posts in 3416 days

03-22-2013 05:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question black walnut boxelder lilac

I have all three types of wood that were cut down last summer. The black walnut was 2-3 years old, so is very small in circumfrence. The boxelder was older and blew over in a windstorm. Can’t put my arms around the base of the trunk. I have lilac bushes in varying stages of life: new sprouts each year, beautiful blossoms, and been dead awhile.
I prefer to use non-electric tools but dont mind using electric ones when needed.
When it comes to working with wood, I’m about as green as it gets… Any advice is welcome!!
(Hope I can add pictures later in the thread)

-- Think of the solution, not the problem.

8 replies so far

View darinS's profile


709 posts in 2831 days

#1 posted 03-22-2013 06:25 PM

Think link may help a little.

It may not tell you the “why” but it will give you an idea of what they are used for.

-- They say many people die because of alcohol. They never realized how many of them are born because of it.

View rum's profile


148 posts in 2550 days

#2 posted 03-22-2013 06:35 PM

I use lilac, when I can get it, for carving and small pieces where you want crisp definition. The grain on lilac is very very fine and interlocked so it carves beautifully, almost like a plastic. Its also quite strong, I made a broach and took it to ~1/16” thickness on a 1/4” wide piece and it was still plenty sturdy.

Finding pieces large enough to be useful is always a challenge (I have a few pieces stashed for special projects). It also has a really nice red colored heart wood and almost pure white sap wood. The other gotcha with lilac is that when drying it will twist and split like no tomorrow (at least I haven’t found a way to stop it.. many other woods no problem but lilac…), but seems pretty stable once its dried sufficiently.

The boxelder is pretty and often has interesting red streaks. Turners tend to favor it (and I’ve seen some really cool bowls from boxelder). Its a rather weak and brittle wood though so its not super useful for furniture or anything like that. If you need something with some cool show grain it can be interesting otherwise its ok firewood.

I’m not sure you’ll get much other than firewood out of a walnut that size.

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23 posts in 3416 days

#3 posted 03-22-2013 06:59 PM

Thanks darinS, I’ll try that link. Thanks rum, lots of firewood and compost materiall from all the woods. (separate compost for the black walnut) Good to know about the twisting from lilac. I’m sue some idea will come up with the small black walnut pieces…

-- Think of the solution, not the problem.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2152 days

#4 posted 03-23-2013 12:21 AM

Avoid branch wood for anything where stability is important, such as in furniture. Branch wood is full of stress and will do all sorts of nasty things.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2325 days

#5 posted 03-23-2013 12:28 AM

Why don’t you create something out of them and share your response? We’d love to hear your experience.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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23 posts in 3416 days

#6 posted 03-23-2013 05:46 PM

MonteCristo, thanks. No branch wood where stability is wanted…check. By nasty things, do yo mean warping and twisting and cracking/splitting?
Clint Searl, just spotted some guitar picks on the projects page. That might be all I get from the small pieces of walnut, or quite possibly a small wooden mallet.
Almost all of the wood is outside, half in the snow, with bark on. How long should I wait to work with it? Or is the moisture content what determines that answer?
Thank you all for your responses.

-- Think of the solution, not the problem.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2922 days

#7 posted 03-26-2013 04:29 PM

The walnut is likely all sapwood, and most woodworkers hate it; I’d deem it less that worth the effort to deal with. The Box elder, a tree of the maple group, now that’s a different story. Lovely stuff, and one that big is hard to find. Likely to be well figured in the sapwood, which, unlike black walnut, is the wood most people prefer. It is unusual to see one that big in my area, don’t know about yours; I’d love a shot at a tree like that. Turners love it. No experience with the Lilac.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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23 posts in 3416 days

#8 posted 03-28-2013 04:00 AM

If I remember correctly, I think that boxelder had a rotten center and it was also a multi-trunk tree. But still plenty of large firewood chunks. (Well, that’s what the neighbors wanted to do with it.) I have no lathe, so that idea is out.
Going to try to make a small mallet with the black walnut. Maybe it will end up as a toy for the nephew.
Diameter of black walnut is about an inch and one eighth.

-- Think of the solution, not the problem.

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