I am looking at getting a walnut butcher block table for an office because the dark color will work well with the existing color scheme. The maker offers a choice of "natural oil finish" and "varnique semi-gloss" whatever that means.

However, I have never used walnut before. Are there are any gotchas I should know about with walnut? (like odor or allergic reactions)

I currently have an oak butcher block desk and the only problem I have had with it is that where my arms rest on the edges of the desk there are dark spots that appeared after about 6 or 7 years of use.

3 Answers 3


Much beautiful furniture has been made of Walnut over the past centuries. I see no reason why it wouldn't be an excellent choice for your table.


Walnut trees produce juglone, which can poison nearby plants. It's not generally a problem with the lumber since walnut's a bit pricey for making window boxes. It can be an issue if you compost it and poison your garden. Juglone also can cause foot problems in livestock bedded on walnut, so I'd avoid that entirely.

Walnut will also lighten rather than darken with age. You'll need to brighten up that color scheme in a couple hundred years. It's also soft enough that you probably want to avoid writing directly on it, the same as any wooden desk.


I imagine you could check with the maker, but walnut oil is dark and you can stain your hands or clothes working with walnut. So whatever you finish your walnut with, I think you'd want it sealed.

If the maker's "natural oil finish" uses a hardening oil like tung oil, that would probably keep the transfer to a minimum, but I bet you still pick up a little of the dark oil if you rub a white cloth on it.

If the finish is sealed with wax, varnish, shellac, or polyurethane, etc., it would prevent that. I don't know what "varnique" is but I bet it's a semi gloss sealant, probably someone trying to make polyurethane sound more like varnish.

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