Suar Wood vs South American Walnut vs American Walnut – What’s the difference?

Many of our discerning customers have pointed out that our South American Walnut slabs look very similar to Suar wood. They are right to point out so, as these trees are actually of the same species. However, just as dogs are technically of the same species but look very different, not all trees in the same species are made equal. Many are also confused about the difference between American Black Walnut and South American Walnut, a phenomenon no doubt attributable to misrepresentation by certain Singaporean retailers. This article aims to clear all doubts about the similarities and differences between Suar wood, South American Walnut and American Walnut.

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American Black Walnut is similar in terms of hardness and colour to South American Walnut, but is more expensive due to logging restrictions in the US. It is however less prone to warping and cracking. Many Singaporean retailers masquerade South American Walnut as American Walnut to unsuspecting consumers.

Suar wood and South American Walnut are of the same species; Albizia Saman. The only differences are the place of origin, colour and density. South American Walnut is typically harder, denser and darker in colour, as is as such a more expensive wood.

American Black Walnut

We have observed a worrying trend of Singaporean retailers masquerading Albizia Saman as American Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra). These are two completely different species of wood. Refer to pictures for the difference in grain.

South American Walnut (left) vs American Black Walnut (Right)

American Black Walnut is a more expensive wood, mostly because of logging restrictions and high labour costs in America.

It is similar to South American Walnut in terms of colour, density and hardness.

Data from wood database

Type Density Hardness
Albizia Saman 600kg/m3 900lbf
American Black Walnut 610kg/m3 1010lbf

Suar and South America Walnut – A Brief History

The scientific name for both of these trees is Albizia Saman. In different parts of the world, they can also be called Monkeypod, Rain tree or Acacia Koa. The tree is native to South America (Peru, Panama, Venezuela and Brazil), but was introduced to Southeast Asia by Spanish Colonists in the mid 1900s. It was introduced for shade (Albizia Saman has a very wide canopy) and soil improvement (increasing the nitrogen content in soil).

So.. Are they exactly the same?

Albizia Saman evolved to suit South American climates and soil conditions, so the wood from South America tend to be of higher density and hardness. It also tends to have a darker colour. One of our competitors sell both South American Walnut and Suar Wood, and their pricing reflects the differences in quality of the wood.

Some Suar wood is so unstable that it is necessary to stabilise it with metal rods. You might have seen this circular hole at the edges of Suar wood tables used to stabilise the wood.

Suar Wood often needs to be stabilised with metal rods.

Another way you can tell Suar from South American Walnut is the thickness of the slab. Suar wood is more prone to warping, so manufacturers tend to cut the slabs thicker so as to reduce the warping tendency.

That being said, as with all things in nature, wood characteristics follow a normal distribution. There are pieces of Suar wood that is darker and denser than pieces from South America. It is only the average that is different.

South American Walnut is on average darker, denser and harder.

Conclusion

Many Singaporeans want a beautiful live edge table in their homes. However, we urge everyone to find out more and get the facts right before committing a significant sum to purchase a slab, and avoid paying Black Walnut prices for South American Walnut. At Grey and Sanders, we have a wide selection of South American Walnut wood slabs with completely customisable legs. Drop by 72 Eunos Ave 7 #04-10 to check us out!