What the Heck is "Honduran Black Walnut"?

Woodweb pros discuss the opportunities, risks, and unknowns inherent in buying lumber from foreign sources at arm's length. September 7, 2013

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I have access to some Honduran black walnut and I am going to build a new home shortly. I am going to do the interior cabinets and millwork with Honduran mahogany. Will the Honduran black walnut look okay with Honduran mahogany furniture or flooring? I haven't seen the wood yet.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From Contributor O:
I assume you know that Honduran black walnut is far from a common name. It could include several species, and/or be loosely applied to anything brown and near Honduras. That alone does not make the wood a valuable or useful wood. It is always to the buyer's benefit to know and understand what species it is that they are buying. Sometimes the seller prefers to use names that make the wood sound like more than it is and prefers to not state the species. This is especially true with imports - buyer beware.

As to looking okay - that is a very subjective question. I would be much more concerned about the species, its principal uses, moisture content, potential for stress, and simply whether it will work for its intended use. Not all woods will work for all uses.

From contributor L:
Honduran mahogany is in very limited supply due to export controls. We've switched to Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum.) There are a lot of things being sold as mahogany these days. Get the botanical name so you can look up the properties. Not that the wood you will get will necessarily match the name provided.

On the other hand if you like what you get it really doesn't matter what it really is. Know what grade you are supposed to get and a guarantee that it will meet grade. You will need to know what you are looking at. Grading rules can be looked up on the web. Lots of import wood is sold basically ungraded or to grades you can't find accurately given. If you are buying from a reputable supplier you can use U.S. hardwood grading rules and modify them anyway you want in your purchase order. I'd ask for no tension wood since it is only good for pallets. Is sap wood ok? Real walnut goes by different rules in the U.S. Figure if the supplier has to sort for you it will cost more but itís usually worth it for a one time project.

From Contributor O:

Contributor L touches on a point I meant to make. The only way you know a wood is that wood is by your own direct experience and the seller's integrity. Actually, the entire chain of sales relies on integrity - often in short supply.

I buy a lot of pattern grade Honduras mahogany. I buy from a company that has dealt in it for over 100 years. I have worked their mahogany for 40 years. I could be sold some lesser species that is mahogany-like and perhaps not catch it. It is the integrity of my vendor and his vendors that preserves the value of the species as well as our relationship. This way I can confidently state that I am using the correct wood for my projects. With old line lumber guys in the U.S. accuracy of species is a point taken very seriously and with no latitude. As a professional, I stay away from all deals and just-like species. My liability and credibility is too valuable to risk by saving a few bucks.

From contributor C:
I agree with everything above. The lumber might be Juglans Neotropica, which goes by the names Nogal and Peruvian Walnut; certainly possible that the range includes Honduras, hence Honduran walnut. I've only seen a bit of the lumber and it was darker brown than Juglans Nigra, the Eastern black walnut that we harvest in the USA.

From the original questioner:
Just found out the wood is black walnut from the U.S. The wood was shipped to Honduras to be used in a door plant. The plant closed and the wood was shipped back to the U.S. I think I'm going to buy some for flooring and furniture because it's a good price.

From the original questioner:
I just picked up several units. The wood is called Nogal or Peruvian walnut. Itís a nice brown color with no white sapwood. It sure took a while to get the correct answers for what the wood species was.