Black Walnut Log: Guitar Tone Wood

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Guitar Repairs Upgrades

Many of my readers know that I am getting ready to build a guitar. This is where I will start. It is a piece of an American Walnut, also known as Black Walnut log. It measures about 14″ to 19″ in diameter and is about 30″ long. A very cool thing about this log is that it is over 50 years old, which means it has done the bulk of drying. Before you can actually use the wood, and after it has been cut into planks, it must dry to a moisture level of 10% or less. After 50 years I expect it to be very dry.

The dark beautiful color of Walnut is very alluring to most people, whether using an oil based finish or a nice clear finish the beauty of the grain and coloring is magnetizing. This is an open grained wood. Walnut is a fairly heavy weight wood compared to Alder wood, with a warm to bright sound that sounds excellent through the whole range of tones. Bass guitars are often made of Walnut.

I choose the Walnut because of the beauty of the wood. The article on a Hand Built Walnut Stratocaster built by my buddy Allan has the standard Stratocaster pick-guard setup, which covers a good portion of the wood. My choice is to use the Lollar P-90’s, which I will buy locally from whoever has the best prices.

Anyway, by using the P-90’s I will not use a pick-guard, therefore leaving the entire front of the guitar free of anything to block the beauty of the wood. I will more than likely coat it in a clear finish of which type has yet to be determined.

I can’t say much more about my build a guitar project yet. Although, it will probably have a reverse headstock ala Jimi Hendrix made out of AAA Flamed Maple with a soft V neck. First I have to find a sawmill or cabinet maker who can cut this into rough boards, which is proving to be hard to find. If you know anyone who can help me, please leave a comment.

Stay tuned to GuitarPlayersCenter to see the project come to life. Don’t hold your breath, it will take a while. In the meantime enjoy some of our other related posts such as “Hey Sweety, I’m building a guitar, I’ll keep it on a…

Related Post: See what has been done on our build a guitar project on Saturday 7/10/10.

5 Responses to Black Walnut Log: Guitar Tone Wood

  1. The photos are so cool! can’t wait to see that wood morph into a guitar!

  2. Nice wood. The log is cool too. Good luck on getting that thing sliced up.

  3. That is one of the most interesting projects once could start, in my opinion, building a guitar from scratch is like a secret of life 😉 No kidding, for me is something I would love to do once in a life time…

  4. John Callaghan

    I’m planning on building a walnut guitar with the assistance of a couple neighbors. Fortunately they are both woodworkers. When you say the wood is 50 years old, do you mean the TREE was 50 years old when you cut it down, or it’s been sitting around for 50 years after being cut? I cut down a nice big walnut two winters ago and had it milled last summer. My guess is I’ll have about 50% of the planks of good enough quality to actually use. Wood has pretty much a mind of it’s own. From the top view picture it looks like you have a few nasty splits. Good luck.

  5. Jerry Kinley

    Hi im from pennsylvania , and im 18 and have built 2 solid body electric guitars out of american blackwalnut. It was cut down in 2002 and was sitting in our woods. it dried on its own and finally last year i slabbed a few pieces up. The wood is amazing to work with and provided one of the best tones ive heard in all the guitars and woods that i have worked with. If you have any questions about the wood while in the shaping or building process ,feel free to contact me at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *