Black Walnut April 01 2014
This is the second post on various woods that Coyle uses for custom helmets. The first one covered Big Leaf Maple and this one is all about Black Walnut. For people who are not familiar with wood species this wood appears as a great option for its exceptionally dark color. Few woods finish as dark as walnut.
Black walnut is a native species of North America that has been propogated in Europe now for centuries because of its commercial value. The wood is used commonly in furniture, cabinetry and gunstocks and the nuts are a popular food. The wood is strong but not as dense as oak. It is the hardest wood that Coyle commonly makes helmets from (though we have made helmets from a few other harder woods on occasion). The waste wood (chips) suppress plant growth and people come pick up barrels of black walnut chips left over from helmets to put down on garden paths they want weed free. The walnut nut husks also have been used to make a dye (but not by us.)
rare black walnut burl
Black Walnut trees can grow very large in width if they are in an open space with no or little competition from other trees. Coyle gets most of its black walnut from word of mouth or craigslist ads for trees that have been taken down on a farm or yard. The wood is very valuable and so we have to take any and all opportunities to source it when they come up. Once here at the shop we seal the ends of sawn blocks with paint to control the drying process and stop/reduce checking (cracking).
When machining the blocks there is a sweet smell that becomes very familiar. This wood is a little harder on the machinery and tools because of its hardness. It ends up making a more durable helmet shell because of this.
walnut helmet being machined, notice chips in background
Finally, it is pretty rare to get pieces of black walnut that have a lot of figure (burl, curly etc.) but we have just sourced a couple of cool pieces that we will be doing a picture story about. Look for that on facebook and in the blog soon.