CIRCASSIAN / ENGLISH WALNUT
Hd 1200-SR 9.8- Wt 40 / ( ) - VS ( )%-St 1320
This mythical king of gunstock woods is a variety of the Persian walnut that grows in Turkey and the area at the southeast part of the Black Sea, which is now Russian Georgia, where the walnut most likely got its name. It is the parent of all European walnuts via Italy and England. These trees are huge, due to age, and produce some exceptionally fine blanks. Many Circassian stock woods marketed today are most likely some form of English walnut grown in California. A rare genuine Circassian blank is encountered now and then that has found its way to the U.S. from Russia, Turkey, or it may have been cut right on the border of Iran. Just after World War II, one wood vendor extolled the merits of his Circassian walnut as being “The World renowned Circassian… the very finest of all stock woods. Every blank features the rich color and tight grain found exclusively in beautiful Circassian walnut. One of the few stock woods that will hold a sharp 32 lines to-the-inch checkering.” An exhibition blank was described as “The rare and very finest grade available. Beautifully colored with deep rich dark smoky grain running the full length of the stock.”
This wood has a rich brown color with a distinct figure and color pattern which is used as a basis for calling some California English blanks ’Circassian. ’Like all Juglans regia this wood ranks at the top of the list for use by the custom stock maker. This fine and firm wood checkers well and is one of the top woods in this respect. See the section on Juglans regia for more information on this wood as adapted to gunstock usage. Figure 13 shows a high-grade Circassian blank before the custom stock maker started and then the completed stock installed on a Ruger #1 rifle.
A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds.
A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus. Most burls grow beneath the ground, attached to the roots as a type of malignancy that is generally not discovered until the tree dies or falls over. Such burls sometimes appear as groups of bulbous protrusions connected by a system of rope-like roots. Almost all burl wood is covered by bark, even if it is underground. Insect infestation and certain types of mold infestation are the most common causes of this condition.
Burls yield a very peculiar and highly figured wood, prized for its beauty and rarity. It is sought after by furniture makers, artists, and wood sculptors. There are a number of well-known types of burls (each from a particular species); these are highly valued and sliced into veneers for furniture, inlay in doors, picture frames, household objects, automobile interior paneling and trim, musical instruments, and wood turning. The famous birdseye maple of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) superficially resembles the wood of a burl but is something else entirely. Burl wood is very hard to work with hand tools or on a lathe because its grain is twisted and interlocked, causing it to chip and shatter unpredictably. This "wild grain" makes burl wood extremely dense and resistant to splitting, which made it valued for bowls, mallets, mauls and "beetles" or "beadles" for hammering chisels and driving wooden pegs.
Burls are harvested with saws or axes for smaller specimens and timber felling chainsaws and tractors for massive ones.
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