Claro Walnut

Geographic Distribution

The wood most commonly known as Claro Walnut is known to botanists as Juglans hindsiiJ. hindsii is historically native to a range from the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley to the Inner Northern California Coast Ranges and San Francisco Bay Area, in northern California.  The tree grows in riparian woodlands, either in mono-species stands, or mixed with California oak species (Quercus spp.) and Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) trees.

To add a layer of confusion, there is an additional walnut tree native to California, and there is debate as to whether there are two separate species or simply varieties of a single species.  This second California native walnut tree is known to botanists as Juglans californicaJ. californica is generally found in the southern California Coast Ranges, Transverse Ranges, and Peninsular Ranges, and the Central Valley. It grows as part of mixed woodlands, and also on slopes and in valleys wherever conditions are favorable. Some native stands remain in urban Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains and Hollywood Hills. J. californica grows in riparian woodlands, either in single species stands or mixed with California’s oaks (Quercus spp.) and cottonwoods (P. fremontii).

Most, if not all, Claro Walnut found for sale will be J. hindsii due to its common use as a nursery graft stock for the commercial growth of English Walnuts (Juglans regia) in northern California.

For the sake of simplicity I will refer to J. hindsii and J. californica from here forward simply as Claro Walnut.

General Characteristics

Claro Walnut heartwood shows a range of colors from a light pale brown to a very dark chocolate brown with even darker, almost black, streaks.  Color variations and casts can include gray, purple, and/or red.  In contrast, the sapwood of Claro Walnut is almost white and it clearly demarcated.

Wood obtained from orchard trees that have been grafted with J. regia, or English Walnut for nut production, have a highly colorful and heavily figured section with streaks of color near the graft.  These graft junctions are highly sought after by wood workers of all types, especially for gun stocks, and is sometimes referred to as “marbled Claro Walnut.”

Claro Walnut can also display figure such as curls, crotch, and burl even when not harvested from the graft line.

The grain on a piece of Claro Walnut will generally be straight but there can be irregularities on occasion.  Claro Walnut features a medium texture and moderate natural luster.

Claro Walnut is very resistant to rot but it is susceptible to attack by insects.

Working Characteristics

Claro Walnut is usually very easy to work with both hand and motor powered tools, assuming that the grain is straight and regular.  However, irregular and/or figured grain may lead to tearout during planing.

Claro Walnut glues well.  While Claro Walnut is almost never stained because of the intensity of the natural color, Claro Walnut will stain well if so desired.  Claro Walnut also takes a nice finish.

There is a faint but distinct odor to Claro Walnut that isn’t unpleasant but instead mildly sweet and spicy.

Pricing and Availability

If you are seeking plain and unfigured Claro Walnut you shouldn’t expect to pay a great deal more than for eastern Black Walnut (J. nigra).  If, however, you are seeking curly, marbled, crotch, or burl figured wood you should expect the wood to be VERY expensive.  Figured Claro Walnut is highly sought after by woodworkers for making gunstocks and turned items.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence.  These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.