Woods of the World » Wenge vs. Peruvian Walnut

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Wenge vs. Peruvian Walnut


Wenge, Melletia laurentii, is one of the most sought after species of hardwood in the world today. Available in 4/4 and 8/4 thick nesses woodworkers of all walks prize this dark black/brown species with very close, fine almost black veins. Cabinet manufactures, flooring contractors and the marquetry industry all appreciate the dark appearance of this wood. Used by flooring manufactures for its dark rich color and its demonstrative inlay characteristics, Wenge is also used for its high natural resistance to abrasion and wear in floor applications.

Wenge is a heavy density wood with a high bending strength and high resistance to shock loads. Care must be taken in kiln drying as this species seasons very slowly and requires much care to reduce surface checking. This material is extremely durable and resistant to termite attack.
Wenge works fairly well with hand and machine tools but has a moderate blunting effect on cutting edges. It requires pre-boring for nailing applications. There are resin cells in the wood structure that can interfere with gluing and polishing. Filling will help in obtaining a very good finish. Wenge is very stable in service, with very little movement in most applications.

Wenge comes mostly from Zaire, Cameroon and Gabon. One reason that Wenge is so sought after is caused by the availability. With some of the civil unrest in the part of the world where this species comes from it has become almost impossible for the lumber concerns to export most lumber items. With pressure from world governments and economic concerns to arrange a working peace in that region we hope to see the market open up again soon. Just when that may happen is anyone’s guess.

Peruvian Walnut, Juglans neotropica, is another dark wood that is related to the other Walnuts of the world. Sometimes referred to as South American Walnut, this species grows from Argentina north through Peru, Columbia, Venezuela and up into Mexico.

This species has always been used where dark to black color is desirable. The trees are quite large for walnut, reaching a height of 60 feet and sometimes free of branches for 30 feet, but usually clear for at least 15’.

Peruvian Walnut dries well, but very slowly. Care must be taken to allow enough time to air dry or pre dry to avoid twisting. A medium amount of movement in service should be anticipated. However if a period of time can be programmed to allow the material to acclimate before final installation greater success can be obtained.

The heartwood is a chocolate brown with a slight dark red cast, usually noticeable in the rough. Peruvian Walnut is considerably darker than its American cousin, Juglans nigra. This material, especially the sapwood, is liable to powder post beetle attack. The material is resistant to preservative treatment and biodegradation. However the sapwood is permeable. This species works extremely well with both hand and machine tools. Peruvian Walnut will take an excellent finish and will obtain a high luster. Unlike Wenge, Peruvian Walnut slices and peels readily for veneers, but once again will dry very slowly. Peruvian Walnut does, however, glue, nail and screw well.

Peruvian walnut has been used for furniture, cabinet, architectural and flooring applications. It is desired by flooring companies mostly for its dark, almost black appearance. We have noticed recently an increase in demand for this species, primarily because of the lack of availability of Wenge.

This is a good species to know about and use where a dark to black color is desired. The only drawback appears to be a shortage of thicker sizes. 4/4 and 5/4 are readily cut but less 6/4 and very little 8/4 are cut due to the difficulty in drying.

Both of the above species are good to know about and use.

Most woodworkers who have used both tend to use them again and again, primarily due to the stark contrast created when utilized with a lighter colored species in any application. Both of these species, Wenge and Peruvian Walnut is a real asset to the woodworker and should be included in many design specifications.

Their richness and beauty make both extremely desirable and prized by the consumer.


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Posted in Wood Comparisons 5 years, 3 months ago at 12:10 pm.

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