Saturday, April 25, 2015

Black Walnut, the wood

Some of the crazy stuff auto manufactures do.  Story and image found HERE
Somebody is logging out nearly every standing stick of Black Walnut for timber in this part of Michigan.

Five years can go by without seeing a Black Walnut log on a logging truck in this part of Michigan.  Now they are everywhere.

Driving about the countryside I see Black Walnut logs stacked up beside the roads.  Many of them are short  knotty and crooked.  They are not going to get very big pieces of lumber out of those.  Quite the mystery of why anybody would harvest those.

Many other logs are coming out of fence rows between fields.  Sawmills HATE those logs.  They often have staples, nails, fence wire and tree-stand pegs buried in them.

Obviously, somebody has a massive contract to harvest Black Walnut.

Contracts and content

Automotive companies often offer leather upholstery as an upscale option. 

It is pretty normal to jazz up the sales appeal a design that is getting long-in-the-tooth by offering those kinds of options.

The first Toyota Camrys were not highly appointed cars.  Reliable: Yes.  Luxurious: No.
There is also a natural evolution in the marketplace for automobiles  marques to become upwardly mobile.  They become ever more luxurious, and profitable over time.  The executives rationalize it by saying the customer who bought a bare-bones Camry or Accord in 1984 is now far more affluent and has different expectations than where they were fresh out of school.

In fact, it is simpler than that.  The executives are being prudent businessmen.  They are following the money.   There is a butt-load more profit in a $47,000 Camry than there is in a $20,000 Camry.

In the case of leather seats, the corporate go-ahead occurs 24 months before the first leather-seated vehicle hits the showroom floor.  Requests-for-quote are release the next day. 

Ford F-150 leather interior.  The ironic thing is that the leather is covered with vinyl to improve ease of cleaning and to match colors.  Leather is a natural product and the color moves around.  Look at a shelf of baseball mitts to see the range of color.  Leather gives smell and tear resistance.  Leather seats do not "breath".  They can't.  They are really vinyl-on-a-leather substrate seats.
The amount of leather required to make  leather seats a Regular Production Option (with an anticipated penetration of 20%) on a Camry or a Ford F-150 is a non-trivial percentage of the world's leather production.  That heavy a "pull" for a single application makes the supply chain vulnerable to disruptions and can play hob with the prices...and profit margins.  Consequently, requests-for-quotes are released concurrently for hides (usually placed in South America) to secure the logistical pipeline supplying those leather seats.

Hides for cattle that are not yet born

A typical "beeve" is 18-to-20 months old.  The first vehicle hits the dealership in 24 months.  The production run will be for a couple of years....ending 48 months in the future.

Back to Black Walnut

Somebody has a burning need for an incredible amount of Black Walnut lumber and they are not very fussy about the size of the pieces.

Lots of applications for small pieces of lumber here.  A factoid from the furniture trade:  Teak and other top end hardwoods are bleached and then stained to achieve color match.  Image from HERE

My guess is that in a year or two one of the automakers will come out with "real walnut trim" as an RPO on a line of high volume vehicles.  Either that or somebody found an anti-cancer drug in the heartwood of Black Walnut.

My hope is that any Black Walnut accents is complemented with "blued steel" trim.  But that is just me.


  1. Yep, either that or lots of it is going to England and Germany for their high end vehicles...

  2. Yep, either that or lots of it is going to England and Germany for their high end vehicles...