Walnut, in so many words

by Dana Spessert, NHLA Chief Inspector


As Chief Inspector for NHLA, I have heard a lot of conclusions, opinions, and theories that just don’t match up with reality, specifically about the NHLA Grading Rules. In this month’s Rules Corner, I want to relay a lumber grading situation involving 2 Common Walnut.

As I was inspecting what a buyer had rejected from a load of lumber, I was reminded of a saying that I have heard many times throughout my career . . . “Anything that holds together will make 2 Common Walnut!”

As we look at this situation, I want you to remember two things: 1) The load of lumber being evaluated was 2 Common, which includes 2A Common and 2B Common and 2) this is Walnut which is graded somewhat differently.

For example, 2B Common has a requirement of 50% Sound Cut-tings. These cuttings are unlimited in the number allowed and the cutting is smaller than the Standard Grade of 2 Common and is defined as 2” and wider and containing 72 sq. inches. In other words, if a cutting is 2” wide it must be at least 3 feet long (2” x 36” = 72 sq. inches). Another example is a 3” wide cutting would need to be 2’ long (3” x 24” = = 72 sq. inches). As you can see, there is still a limitation on the cutting size, it is just calculated differently.

The reason this is important to note is explained in the Sound Cutting definition below:

“A cutting free from rot, pith, shake and wane. Texture is not considered. It will admit sound knots, bird pecks, stain, streaks or their equivalent, season checks not materially impairing the strength of a cutting, pin, shot and spot worm holes. Other holes 1/4” or larger are admitted but shall be limited as follows: one 1/4” in average diameter in each cutting of less than 12 units; two 1/4” or one 1/2” to each 12 units and on one side only of a cutting.”

The 2019 NHLA Rules for the Measurement & Inspection of Hard-wood and Cypress, on page 10, paragraph 31, under the heading of Sound Cutting, it states:

In the definition of a Sound Cutting it clearly states what is allowed and what is not allowed. The area that I believe to be overlooked is the allowance of the ¼” or ½” holes (unsound knot) in the Sound Cutting. As stated in the above definition, any Sound Cutting of less than 12 units is only allowed one, ¼” hole. If the cutting is allowed one ½” it must contain 12 or more units. For example, a Walnut 2 Common Cutting would need to be 4” wide x 3’ long in order to have a ½” hole, or it would not be a Sound Cutting.

The other item that is also overlooked are the last eight words of the definition, “and on one side only of a cutting.” Any time the hole goes all the way through, the Cutting it is no longer allowed to be part of the Cutting.


Send your questions to me by email at [email protected] or call 901-399-7551, and be sure to join me on February 20th at 4 PM CST for Live with the Chief on the NHLA Facebook page!