Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

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Den Boone
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:09 pm

Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Den Boone »

I am considering using Black Walnut for the back and sides of a Weissenborn.
I know that Koa is one of the preferred woods for this instrument. However, since I already have a lot of Black Walnut boards on hand that are 1 in. thick, I thought that I might try to save some money. These boards have been in my shop for about 17 years and thus are dry and stable. Is Black Walnut stable enough for a stringed musical instrument?
I know that it is considerably softer than Koa. And I am planning to use sitka spruce for the top.
If this is a very bad idea, please let me know. :o
Thanks in advance!

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1477
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Den,
Walnut should work fine. It is used for backs and sides of dulcimers, which are kind of a second cousin of weissenborns. Many people use it for guitars with good results.

Den Boone
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:09 pm

Re: Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Den Boone »

Hi Clay. I am a guitar player but have never encountered a Black Walnut acoustic guitar so I wasn't sure about the structual and tonal implications of using that species on a Weissenborn.
Also, this will be my first attempt at building a Weissenborn, so I didn't want to invest the time if Black Walnut had a "bad reputation".
Thanks for your response. It is helpful.

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1477
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

You will find black walnut to be very easy to bend compared to most woods, so you can leave it a bit thicker (.100 -.090) for the sides. You can go thinner if you are doing sharp bends, but on a weissenborn may not need to. It also sands and takes a finish very well. Tonally I would guess it to be between mahogany and Koa, both of which have been used for weissenborns. Taylor is one of the guitars makers using walnut for backs and sides, and I'm sure there are several others.

Alan Carruth
Posts: 985
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Alan Carruth »

I've used a lot of walnut over the past forty odd years, in dulcimers, of course, but also guitars and fiddles, and other things such as hammered dulcimers, and harps. Walnut is a great wood for guitars. As has been said, it's one of the easier woods to bend, and very stable if well quartered. It glues well, and can be found with very attractive figure. It's not as hard or dense as a rosewood; more in the 'mahogany' group in that respect, as koa is. You might want to leave the back and sides a little thicker than you would rosewood.

Den Boone
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:09 pm

Re: Black Walnut for a Weissenborn Back and Sides?

Post by Den Boone »

Since I'm a "newbie" on MIMF I'm not sure if this post goes to both Clay and Alan. So I thank you both for your input. I have not built a stringed instrument since the late 70's and have only built 2 guitars. One mahogany classical, and one steel string with Indian rosewood sides and a Brazilian rosewood back. So, I will be dusting off my old skills to pull off this project.
It is very helpful to know that walnut bends relatively easily.
Thanks again.

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