Walnut-wood-furniture

Walnut is a chocolate brown wood

We extend our thanks to journalist and woodworker, Jo-Ann Kaiser who featured Vermont Woods Studios Walnut Furniture in Woodworking Network magazine, a respected source of "information and inspiration for professional woodworkers".  Jo-Ann's article titled, "American Black Walnut: A Bold & Beautiful Furniture Species" talked not only about the beauty of walnut wood and it's growing popularity but also discussed the danger that walnut trees have been facing over the last 10 years. 

 

It's called "1000 Canker's disease" and it typically kills walnut trees within three years of infection.  Similar to other tree-attacking diseases that wiped out the American Chestnut and Elm trees, the spread of this one is fueled by people moving logs, walnuts and any part of the tree from infested areas into disease-free areas.  It's spreading from the West to East and has already been found in Pennsylvania

The situation is alarming and I mention it here in hopes that you will pass this on to anyone who may have walnut trees on their property or who uses walnut for firewood, nuts or lumber.  People should contact their state department of agriculture for more information.

It would be a shame to see another beautiful (and valuable) tree species slip into extinction.  Perhaps there is something we can do to avoid that.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Fine-wood-furnitureSimilar to the term American Made Furniture, there's no standard definition for "fine furniture".  But a customer brought this up yesterday so I thought I'd take a shot at it.  At Vermont Woods Studios we specialize in fine wood furniture, rather than upholstered furniture so I'll keep the discussion confined to that. 

This may seem odd, but I'm going to put style aside for another subject because I think each creative woodworker has his or her own ideas about style.  Naturally there has to be a strategic blending of form and function, but making a judgement about that is personal and subjective– you could write a library of books about it and still not reach a conclusion.  I'm not sure style belongs in a definition for fine furniture.

So for now I'll stick to tangible perameters like craftsmanship, uniqueness, joinery, type of wood, type of finish, sustainability and durability– plus one intangible which I'll call karma.  Today let's look at the type of wood a piece of furniture is made with first– then we can consider the other characteristics in the next few posts.

Fine-wood-custom-furnitureFine wood furniture starts with hardwood (like cherry, maple, walnut and oak) as opposed to soft wood (like pine and other coniferous woods).  Furthermore, in today's world (by my definition anyway) those hardwoods are grown sustainably in America as opposed to imported woods that are clear cut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests (like ipe, rubberwood, mahogany, jatoba and teak–this ties into a karma discussion).  You can learn more about American hardwood species here:  cherry wood, maple wood, walnut wood, oak wood.

It's not just the wood species that sets fine wood furniture apart.  Once a species is selected, fine woodworkers go to greath lengths to carefully select each board that goes into a piece of furniture, depending on where the board is being placed (like in a drawer front, part of a table top, an accent piece or part of the frame). 

Woodworkers select boards based on things like grain, color, texture, shape, character and whether it's part of the tree's heartwood (inner circles of the tree and dark in color) or sapwood (outer circles of the tree and light in color).  There are different levels of attention to detail in wood selection and they are reflected in the price of a piece of furniture. Many of our woodworkers in Vermont are aligned with the philosophy of George Nakishima who felt that wood selection is an almost sacred art that honors The Soul of a Tree. Others are more practical but both philosophies on wood selection can be the foundation of a great piece of "fine furniture" depending on what the customer is looking for.

Later we'll talk about how craftsmanship, origin and sustainability add to the definition of fine furniture.

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Custom-walnut-slab-table Our friend David Allard and the talented furniture makers at Lyndon Furniture are always coming up with some new, exciting wood furniture design project.  Check out this huge custom walnut slab table they recently finished.  It's 13.5' long and the two planks in the top are made of 1 ¾" thick solid black walnut.

The legs are made of welded steel tubes that thread through the walnut slab top like through-tenons.  On the top, Dave left a gap between the 2 walnut slabs to allow for wood movement.  Believe it or not, even kiln-dried wood (like these walnut slabs) expands and contracts quite a bit with changes in humidity and temperature.

Such a simple elegant design, isn't it?  But as any amateur woodworker could attest, it's not one to try at home unless you've got the hand of a trained professional.  And a crane :)

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Walnut-wood-slab Walnut wood is one of our customers' favorite woods at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture.   It's a strong, durable, dark chocolate-colored wood with fascinating grain– like swirls, curls and burls. 

 

Recently the most popular designs for walnut furniture have been with natural, organic solid walnut slabs that are huge, heavy and thick.  They make incredible dining and conference tables that are showstoppers when you walk into a room. 

 

Our friend, artisan Greg Goodman made this custom live edge walnut slab table out of a one of the slabs to the left.  I've not seen anything like it. I love the curved base– it gives it a modern contemporary look, don't you think?

 We filmed Greg working on a similar slab table.  If you're interested in these live edge works of art, you have to watch Greg's part in this video about Vermont Woods Studios craftsmen. 

 

 

 

 

Walnut-tableIf you're pricing walnut furniture, you can count on spending about 25% more than for other woods.  Sadly, walnut is becoming rare due to lack of forest management and disease.  In fact a recent blight of something called "thousand cankers disease" is causing great concern about walnut trees all across the country.  It seems walnut wood may not be available much longer.   Same for the beloved walnut– a nut that reportedly boosts your brain power and provides powerful anti-oxidants.

 

 

The walnut trees we're using for live edge slab tables are harvested sustainably, with preservation of the species in mind.  The trees are usually victims of urban development– once they were grand old sentinels along tree lined boulevards but age, concrete and road salt have taken their toll. 

It's nice to see their beauty being preserved forever under the skilled and artful hands of craftsmen like Greg Goodman.

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Hardwood-cherry

Wondering how to select the right hardwood for your furniture?  For most of our customers, wood color is the first priority when selecting a hardwood, followed by strength and durability.  At Vermont Woods Studios we offer exclusively American hardwoods that are harvested responsibly from well managed forests. 

Our favorite woods are black cherry, sugar maple, white oak and red oak, and black walnut.  We've assembled lots of information about each wood to help you make your decision.

One of the characteristics that customers are often surprised about is that some woods change colors over time, as they are exposed to light.  Black cherry is the most notable of these woods.  It can start out almost as light as maple wood, but over time it will mature and ripen to a deep, rich reddish brown color.

Have any questions about furniture hardwoods?   Give us a call!  We'll look forward to hearing from you.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.