Juglans hindsii| Tonewood Profile | ”Claro Walnut”
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Claro Walnut technically refers to the species J. hindsi. There are many varieties and hybrids f walnut and to start with, I’ll just run through a few of the scientific and common names for the various walnuts. My research has indicated that Claro Walnut is J.Hinsii although some folks refer to English Walnut grafted onto Claro root stock as Claro Walnut.
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Juglans regia— common walnut, Persian, English, Carpathian walnut
- J. californica S.Wats. — California Black Walnut
- J. hindsii — Hinds’ Black Walnut- most commonly called Claro walnut
- J. nigra L. — Eastern Black Walnut
Scientific name: Juglans hindsii
Trade names: Claro Walnut
Janka: approx 1,000 lbs
Uses: Back & sides, drop tops, veneer
RIYL: Earthy, wood tone.
Bling factor: color variation and curl not uncommon
Availability: Well managed
CITES status: Not listed. No restrictions
Claro walnut is the trade name for Juglans hindsii. The species was first discovered by the English Botanist Richard B. Hinds growing in California in the Sacramento Valley. In fact, the first large stands of Claro Walnut were found in the following 3 locations:
The valley of Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County,
The banks of the Sacramento River,
The Wooden Valley east of Napa.
This tree attains heights of 30 to 60 feet and is commonly found in northern and central California where it is often found with a single erect trunk. Although commonly branchless for 10-40 feet, it has an impressive crown which can be wider than the tree is tall. Equally impressive is the diameter, with lengths of 5-6 feet regularly attained.
There is confusion about Claro walnut due to the widespread use of Juglans hindsii as the rootstock of orchard trees. With Claro walnut wood below the original graft and lighter-colored English walnut above, some woodworkers have featured this dramatic change in color of their work.
Although commercially important as a rootstock for English walnut orchards throughout the world, several sources claim that Juglans hindsii is endangered, with few native stands remaining. Outside of horticulture, it is used mainly for high-quality furniture, gunstocks and guitars!
Claro Walnut is beautiful timber. It’s colour varies from black and orange contrasts to the usual chocolate walnut tones. It frequently has prominent curly figure which occurs in conjunction with colour variation. A a timber, Claro Walnut is a pleasure to work with as it works well with both hand & power tools, has good strength and bending properties, and takes finishes well.
It has a Janka rating of approximately 1,000 lbs force and a specific gravity of 0.56.
As a tonewood…
As a tonewood, guitars built from claro walnut retain the wood’s natural color, figure and has the bonus of being stable in service. Many luthiers and factories offer Claro Walnut as an option. A testiment to it’s beauty, wood working properties and sustainability.
Stephen Kinnaird is a big fan and says:
“Claro walnut is one of our favorites. First of all, there is the undeniable beauty of the material. Few North American species can trump Claro visually. Some of the wilder maples have more to offer in the swimsuit competition, but not everyone likes a blonde guitar. Claro’s rich chocolate color helps–for those who listen with their eyes.
Second, the workability is a dream. This stuff should be offered to every apprentice when they attempt their first side-bending. It bends itself.
Third, the sound. Unfortunately, Claro has gotten the meaningless reputation for sounding “woody”. Every species sounds like wood, and that’s precisely why we like guitars! (Ok, some species sound woodier than others, but that’s a different discussion.) Let me say this: Claro walnut sounds spicy. I think it sounds like it smells, and it smells great.”
[Check out an interview with Stephen Kinnaird here]
I would classify this wood as warm and earthy with the overtone depth of rosewood and clarity comparable to mahogany guitars. It also tends to impart less colour to the bass and treble.
Similar woods/ Alternatives
Bastogne walnut and Eastern Black Walnut are good alternatives.
Fine woodworking: encyclopedia of wood
Stephen Kinnaird: Check out an interview with him here and his website here.
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