Butternut works more easily than black walnut with hand and power tools because the wood ranks lower in all strength properties than its cousin. That's a plus, but also a caution. Butternut's softness makes it more susceptible to nicks and dents as you work the wood. And there's more to keep in mind:
- Although black walnut dust can irritate the eyes, butternut doesn't have that tendency. But as with all woods -especially hardwoods-wear a dust mask when doing fine sanding.
- The wood's coarse grain requires care when jointing or planing to avoid tearout. Make several shallow cuts to remove wood in stead of one deep one.
- Attach a backing board to the miter fence to act as a chip breaker when crosscutting.
- Butternut, due to its softness, shouldn't burn when routed, but shallow passes eliminate any possible tearout or chipping.
- You won't have any problem gluing butternut-its coarse texture draws in adhesives, ensuring a strong bond.
- Butternut accepts all types of stains (you can even stain it to pass for black walnut) without filling first. But the rich tan wood may look best with a more natural clear finish.
- Although oil finishes prove popular on butternut carvings, you can improve the wood's natural luster by first burnishing it (rubbing the wood with the back of a spoon, gouge, or glass bottle to compact the surface of the fibers for more sheen).
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