OT: drying walnut branch for wood

I know it is somewhat off topic, but I guess there might be some people have the knowledge on the forum.

I have a small walnut tree and have cut down a branch this spring, there are several feet of branch wider than 3 inch in diameter. Now I am thinking, is it possible to keep the wood in a dry place to let it dry and shrink, will I be able to make some small wooden utilities out of the resulting wood? Say some grafting knife handles, or a billiards cue extension handle? Have no experience in woodcrafting, just curious.

The branch is about 4 years old.

It is better to process it into blanks when it is still green, lumber takes about a year per inch to dry naturally and when left round is more likely to crack and attract bugs. If you want to carve anything it will be easier to do most of the work when it is still green and then finish it up after it has dried.

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A three inch diameter black walnut is probably useless…there would be very very little dark heartwood.


I was thinking the same thing but it would be a free learning experience anyway.


Yes, do make something out of your branch! We’ve made small spoons out of smaller wood than that. It will be a lighter wood (color and density) than a larger piece with a lot of heartwood but it will still make something usable. Green wood is easier to carve than dry but it needs a bit of care so it doesn’t split when drying (fine for a spoon you’d be getting thin soon). Dried is better for anything that will have more thickness (like a tool handle) . Walnut is nice wood to carve. If you want to let it dry first then leave the piece as long in length as you can (it will likely split in from the ends), bark on, out of the sun, maybe paint the ends with something if it’s a small piece, and just let it dry naturally for a year or two. Then split it in half and make something out of those pieces (avoiding the center pith). A tool handle or simple shallow spoon or stirrer maybe. If you don’t want to wait, make a spoon out of the green wood (many good books and articles around about spoon making). It’ll have meaning when you use it and so give double joy!

We’ve carved spoons for forty years and used all types of wood, including basswood, poplar, pine and autumn olive. These aren’t first choices, of course (we’ve used mostly hardwood) but they’ve made good, long lasting spoons. Your walnut will work just fine. Sue

PS - As an aside, for interested carvers looking for ideas, you might check out Norman Stevens “A Gathering of Spoons” - an amazing collection of what different folks can do with a humble small piece of wood and a ‘simple’ spoon!


Walnut has a habit of checking quite badly unless you cut the sap wood from the heart wood. The different woods dry at different rates and it pulls apart the wood. Smaller chunks aren’t really that great since there’s a large amount of sap wood and the dark heart wood doesn’t really start until at least 2-4 inches in.

Pear, Apple, Plum, Cherry, Apricot, etc make much better woods for saving as they don’t have the same issues with cracking. The woods are usually harder, less porous, and what I would describe as “buttery smooth” to cut and work with.

I have some nice size pieces of apple that I’m drying for turning blanks.


spoons are a great idea, thanks a lot.

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From what I saw on the cross-section, the branch has only whitish sapwood and a very narrow pith hole. I guess I will have to wait a year and see what’s left of it.

Thanks for all your comments, I’ve learn a lot from them and the extended readings.

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