Brazilian walnut is a very hard and dense wood. As stated on the MacDonald Hardwoods website, it is not actually related to Walnut trees but has a rich, deep brown colour like wood from the Walnut tree. It comes mainly from South and Central America and has been used for flooring and decking because of it’s durability. My neighbour picked up a couple of scraps for me on his travels and the first thing I noticed was the weight. Because of the density and hardness it can be difficult to carve.
Always up for a challenge, I started working with one of the pieces I was given. It does work well and maintains a sharp edge. I use a band saw to cut out the profile, then small cuts at a shallow angle with a sharp chisel. The wood sands with resistance and responds well to rotary cutting tools and files. Due to the hardness a light touch and constant movement is required when using power tools or burning could result. I try to minimize the tool marks on stylized carvings because it takes a long time to sand them out. The results can be stunning.
Finishing is another problem. Because of the natural oils it does not take urethane finishes well. This is also discussed on the MacDonald Hardwood website linked above. I wish I had read it first, however I learned this the hard way after applying a fast drying spray urethane product on a finished carving. It looks great, but the 10 minute drying time turned into 6 days and it is still sticky. I will be removing it and applying a natural oil finish as suggested. The oil turns the wood a very deep rich brown colour.
I will be working more with this wood, and completed projects will appear in the Gallery.