Butternut Projects

In last week’s eZine editorial, Rob wondered whether other woodworkers had had the opportunity to work with butternut wood (aka “white walnut”) and, if so, what you did with it.

It seems that several of you have, indeed, had such opportunity. – Editor


“I am attaching a segmented hollow form bowl I made using butternut, aka white walnut.  The wood came from a tree growing along the side of country road about 50 miles north of Sacramento. The bowl is about 8 inches tall and 8 inches in diameter.  I also turned the beads and the thong is leather, which is very lightly glued to the bowl’s neck to keep if from sliding around. I like the way the wood responds to a bowl gouge.” – Pete Passof

“Years ago, a friend asked me to make her a serving cart for her dinner parties. I happened to have some butternut given to me by a cabinetmaker who was moving. I knew nothing of this wood except its rich golden color. I made the top shelf and compartment doors out of it and boy, was it pretty! What I recall about the wood is how light and soft it was; really easy to work and maybe too easy to dent (probably shouldn’t have made the serving surface out of it), and the way the wood fibers fuzzed up whenever I tried to sand it smooth: loved the color, hated the fuzz. I ended up using a very sharp plane and when I applied a clear finish, the grain just popped! Wish I had some more; and if I did, I’d share with you just to see what you made out of it.” – Phil Gilstrap


“A few years ago, I bought the entire store of wood from a woodworker’s estate. My attention had been attracted by several wide boards, 16 to 17 feet in length, leaning up against one wall. I thought then, and still do, that I had never seen a grain so beautiful. I used some smaller boards to face three drawers for the workbench I made. I have not used the larger boards as I have not yet found a project worthy of the wood. One of the truly most beautiful American hardwoods.” –
Ralph Brearey

“I purchased a whole roughsawn butternut tree  from a farmer and used it to build custom cabinets for a washroom renovation. I also made some end tables from the rest. It was great to be able to book-match all the pieces.” – Bob Nixon

“Just wanted to show you a picture of one of the plates I turned using wood I believe to be butternut combined here with walnut , clear maple and spalted maple.  The wood was wonderful for turning and, as you said, is very similar to walnut, which I used for the center of this plate.  You can see the difference in the color as the walnut is darker brown.” – Mike Mallory

“A friend had a tree in his backyard that he thought was walnut; turned out to be butternut.  It blew down in a storm. I had it sawed and dried and built a dining room table and bench for my son.  Also built a TV cabinet for myself.”- Dennis Huntsinger

And some have been waiting to hear what others shared, to find their own butternut inspiration. – Editor

“I’ve had three large 12/4 planks of butternut going on three decades. I’ve been waiting for the perfect project to use them on.  Obviously it hasn’t appeared yet, or I’ve set the bar too high and have become too intimidated to cut into them.  Looking forward to seeing the responses, and maybe get some ideas. Thanks!” -Tony Burdick

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