Back to Blog

Black Walnut vs. English Walnut: A Comparative Guide to Their Differences

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

Black Walnut vs English Walnut: A Comparative Guide to Their Differences

The choice of wood can make all the difference in the final product when it comes to woodworking. 

Black walnut and English walnut are highly popular due to their attractive appearance and excellent workability. While they bear some similarities, it’s important to understand their unique characteristics to make an informed decision. 

This article explores the differences between black walnut and English walnut, helping you choose the right wood for your woodworking projects.



Woodworking enthusiasts and professionals alike are well-acquainted with the beauty and versatility of black walnut and English walnut. These two species offer distinct qualities that make them stand out in the woodworking industry. But understanding their differences is essential for choosing the perfect wood for your next project.


Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra)

Black walnut, scientifically known as Juglans Nigra, is highly valued for its rich, dark brown colour and stunning grain patterns. Native to North America, it’s a hardwood with exceptional stability and durability. 



Black walnut's deep, chocolate-brown colour is often interspersed with lighter streaks, creating a captivating contrast. Its grain patterns range from straight to wavy, with occasional knots and mineral streaks. These variations contribute to the unique and rustic charm of black walnut.



One of the notable characteristics of black walnut is its natural resistance to decay, making it an ideal choice for outdoor projects such as decking or garden furniture. 

Additionally, it’s highly workable, allowing for easy shaping, carving, and sanding. On top of that, its relatively low shrinkage and dimensional stability further enhance its furniture-making suitability.


English Walnut (Juglans Regia)

English walnut, scientifically known as Juglans Regia, is one of the most popular fine furniture and cabinetry choices. Although its name suggests an English origin, it’s native to regions of Central Asia and the Middle East.



English walnut is known for its light to medium brown colour, often tinged with pink or purple hues. And its grain patterns can vary from straight to moderately wavy, with occasional burled or figured growth, adding to its elegance and character.



English walnut boasts excellent workability, making it a favourite among artisans. As an advantage, its fine texture and consistent grain allow easy cutting, shaping, and finishing. 

While not as hard as black walnut, English walnut is still considered a hardwood and offers good durability.


Comparing Black Walnut and English Walnut

Colour and Grain Patterns

The most noticeable difference between the two kinds of wood is their colour. Black walnut has a darker, chocolate brown hue, while English walnut showcases a lighter, more golden brown shade. 

Further, black walnut also tends to have more pronounced grain patterns, contributing to its distinctive look, while English walnut displays a more understated elegance.


Hardness and Durability

Black walnut is generally harder and more durable than English walnut. Its dense composition gives it a higher resistance to knocks and scratches, making it ideal for high-traffic areas or applications that demand superior strength and longevity. While still durable, English walnut may require extra care to protect its surface from wear and tear.



Both black walnut and English walnut offer excellent workability, but black walnut is often favoured for its slightly better stability and ease of use. It’s less prone to warping, twisting, or splitting during drying, making it a more forgiving wood for intricate woodworking projects.


Adaptability to Finishes

Another crucial aspect to consider when comparing black walnut and English walnut is their adaptability to finishes. Both types of wood take stains, varnishes and finishes nicely. However, their unique characteristics influence the final look.

With its dark and dramatic grain, black walnut can look more vibrant when applied with a high-gloss finish. This highlights its grain pattern and deepens its rich colour, making it an ideal choice for projects with a more dramatic, bold appearance.

In contrast, with its lighter and more subtly varied grain, English walnut can benefit from various finishes. A satin finish, for instance, can enhance its natural elegance without overwhelming its delicate grain patterns. It also responds well to oil finishes, which can bring out its unique colour variations and create a more rustic look.


Acoustic Properties

For those interested in musical instrument construction, the acoustic properties of these woods are worth considering. Both black and English walnut are used to craft various instruments, but they produce different tonal qualities.

The guitar often uses black walnut for its balanced tone and good sustain. This is because it provides a clear, warm sound that many musicians find appealing. 

English walnut, though not as commonly used, can produce a softer, mellower sound due to its lower density. It's ideal for those seeking a unique tonal character in their instruments.


Choosing the Right Wood for Your Project

When deciding between black walnut and English walnut, consider the nature of your project and your personal preferences. 

Fundamentally, black walnut excels in applications that require exceptional durability and resistance to outdoor conditions. It’s an excellent choice for furniture, flooring, or projects requiring robust woodwork. On the other hand, English walnut is ideal for indoor furniture, cabinetry, and decorative pieces, thanks to its elegant appearance and ease of working.


Woodshop Direct: #1 Supplier of Walnut Wood Products

Black walnut and English walnut are both highly esteemed choices in the woodworking world. 

While black walnut excels in durability and outdoor applications, English walnut boasts a refined elegance that shines in indoor furniture and decorative projects. 

Ultimately, black walnut and English walnut have unique characteristics that make them suitable for various applications. Whether you're aiming for a specific finish look, or crafting a musical instrument, knowing these additional aspects can assist in making an informed choice for your next project.

So, if you want to bring your woodworking pieces to life, browse our website for our wide range of high-quality black walnut and English walnut products. Our dedicated team of experts is ready to assist you in finding the perfect wood for your project.