“Butternut”: is it a tree, a squash, a toffee or a ski resort?

Pete Kaup brought a bunch of “butternut” to our February meeting, and it was wood from the butternut tree, not the same-named butternut squash, toffee or Massachusetts ski resort.

The butternut tree is also commonly called ‘white walnut,’ and it is a close relative of the black walnut. Both are mildly toxic to other plants, and have compound leaves of 15 to 19 leaflets, with butternut having a full-sized terminal leaflet at the end. (Black walnut leaves usually have a very small terminal leaflet.) Butternuts are increasingly rare trees, being afflicted with a fungal infection.

Highly figured butternut wood after rough-cut, before final cut and finishing.

Some of the wood was punky, and I experienced tear-out on the end grain, but was able to minimize that problem by treating the tear-out areas with alcohol-thinned epoxy. After curing, those areas cut much more cleanly. Here’s the same piece, being epoxy-coated on a rotator. The punky areas absorbed a lot of epoxy on the first finish coat.

Second coat of epoxy being applied, nearly done.