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The craftsman
Vol. XXIV, Number 3 (June 1913)

The uses and marvels of Circassian walnut,   p. 342 PDF (428.9 KB)

Page 342

IRCASSIAN walnut (Juglans regia
       Linn.) yields one of the best known
       and most expensive cabinet woods
       on the American and European mar-
kets. Botanically, Circassian walnut is the
same as the so-called English walnut, the
latter name being used almost exclusively by
those who grow the tree for its nuts; while
the former is the one generally applied to
it by manufacturers and other consumers of
the wood. Of all the common names given
it, English walnut is the least appropriate,
because the tree is not a native of England,
but was brought there long ago from Asia
and cultivated. Obviously, the most appro-
priate name for the tree is Circassian wal-
nut, since this indicates at once its true
origin and natural range. Other common
names applied to it are royal walnut, Italian
walnut, European walnut, French walnut,
Persian walnut, Austrian walnut, Turkish
walnut and Russian walnut. In Italy the
tree is called ancona auvergne; in Persia,
jaoz, charmagz and akrot; in Greece, carua,
caryon, Persicon and basilikon  (kingly
tree) ; in France, noyer; in Germany, eng-
lische Wallnuss and gemeine (common)
Wallnuss; in Spain and Cuba, nogal; in
South America, nogal, nogal America, and
nogal comun.
   Probably no other wood has served so
 many purposes as Circassian walnut. Long
 before the discovery of America it was the
 most popular of all woods for furniture and
 interior finish, while throughout southern
 Europe the wood is still used locally for all
 grades of furniture. Its present high cost,
 however, prohibits its use in this country
 for any but the very finest furniture and
 cabinetwork. When more abundant, its use
 abroad also included coach-making, turnerv,
 toys, press screws, joinery, carved work and
 wooden shoes. During the wars of the
 eighteenth century Circassian walnut was
 used so extensively for gunstocks that even
 at that early date the supply was seriously
   The wood of old trees is especially valuai-
 ble on account of its dark color and beauti-
 ful veining, strength, lightness and elas-
 ticity. When particularly well marked it is
 one of the most attractive and valuable of
 veneer woods, particularly for furniture.
 The best grades often bring a higher price
 than mahogany, especially in the United
States. Adapted to a wide range of soils
and climatic conditions, Circassian walnut
is one of the most widely distributed of
commercial timber trees. It is native to the
eastern slopes of the Caucasus, and extends
eastward along the valleys and slopes of the
Hindoo Koosh to the southern foothills of
the Himalaya Mountains, where it is said
to form large, pure forests. From there it
extends southward to northern India, and
to the mountains of upper Burma. Some
authorities claim that it stretches across the
continent to Japan.
   Sir Dietrich Brandis describes trees from
the region northwest of the Himalayas as
being 28 feet in circumference and from
100 to 120 feet in height. It is probable
that the species reaches its best development
in the Caucasus Mountains. In the Sikkim
Himalaya, according to Dr. Joseph Hooker,
an English botanist, Circassian walnut in-
habits mountain slopes between elevations
of 4,ooo and 5,000 feet, while in northern
India it is found at elevations of from 3,500
to ii,ooo feet, being most abundant in
Kashmir. It grows also to some extent in
the arid valleys.
   In northeastern India (Darjeeling) Cir-
cassian walnut is planted extensively for its
fruit. It has been widely planted in Eu-
rope, having been grown successfully as far
north as Warsaw in Russia, and as far
south as Italy and the Mediterranean
  According  to  Pliny  it was   intro-
  duced into Italy from Persia. This must
  have happened at an early date, since it is
  mentioned as existing in Italy by Varro,
  who was born 116 B. C. There is no au-
thentic record as to when Circassian walnut
was brought into the United States. Here
it has been planted from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, the greatest attention having been
given to it on the Pacific coast, where it is
grown for its nuts. Since wherever it is
grown in the United States it is for this
purpose, the wood produced is of little im-
   No other timber tree has been exploited
 more than Circassian walnut, and the de-
 mand for it has always been greater than
 the available supply. Much of the Circas-
 sian walnut now used in various parts of
 the world comes from the shores of the
 Black Sea, and from other regions as far as
 Persia. Large shipments come from India
 to England, whence some is shipped to the
 United States.

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