It was last December when David Berry first contacted me. He said he’d stumbled upon my post about Kenneth Roper’s handy dandy Black Walnut Cracker and wanted to see if I’d be interested in trying out his invention-a Black Walnut Saw. I said “SURE!”
Here is the story behind David’s saw:
“Years ago when I was a boy, I used to crack Black Walnuts for my mother. She used these for making pies and brownies. I especially remember the pies which were similar to Pecan Pies except the Black Walnuts were used in place of the pecans. These were delicious – I remember Mom using the recipe that was on the back of a Karo Syrup bottle. I believe the recipe is still on their Syrup bottles today.
The larger the kernels of nutmeat, the more attractive Mom’s pies were. I would always strive to crack the walnuts in order to yield the largest kernels possible. Also, I had to compete with a pet bantam chicken (I called her Banty) who was constantly in my way and was quick to peck up any small kernel-pieces that went flying when I was cracking the nuts.
I would spend at least 1 hour of hard work to crack out one cup of kernels. I had a large rock between the house and barn I could sit on and also use to crack the Black Walnuts. Black Walnuts have a thick and tough shell and do not give up the kernels easily. In order to get the best results, the nuts would be held carefully, with one of the pointed ends up, with one hand and you had to hit it rather hard with a hammer with the other hand. The combination of the rather rounded shape, balanced on end, held with thumb and finger, along with the slick hammer-head surface gave rise to frequent mishits and mashed fingers. If you tried to crack the nut by hitting it on its side, the kernels or nutmeat mostly end up smashed into mush. The absolute best you could do with a hammer was 5 pieces of kernels from one nut and this was rare – usually, 6 to 10 kernel-pieces per nut was the yield.
After, an engineering career in the OEM Automotive industry, I retired and moved back home to Northern Arkansas where I have a shop and time to “fiddle” with different projects of my choosing. One of the projects I decided to work on was an easier way to get large kernels from Black Walnuts. After 4 developmental prototypes, I believe I have now a good way for anyone to be able to get large kernels from black walnuts with ease.”
It was February before David had his Walnut Saw production line up and running, and by the time I got the saw in the mail my black walnuts had mostly been cracked and eaten. The Deer Hunter and I couldn’t wait to try the saw and we rounded up some old black walnuts we’d stored by the wood stove in the basement. We never got the saw to cut the black walnuts in the manner needed to pop them in half like David’s video shows.
A few email exchanges with David left me thinking my walnuts were too old to use. Skip ahead to this fall.
As I worked up my black walnuts in October I couldn’t wait to give David’s saw another try. This go around, The Deer Hunter quickly realized it was easier to achieve good results on smaller nuts. After sawing and prying open all the small black walnuts he had the hang of how it all worked enough to move on to the larger black walnuts. On average black walnuts in this area are the size of hen eggs, at least the ones I have access to are.
I emailed David and told him we had achieved success with the saw and that using the smaller walnuts taught us how to move on to the larger walnuts. This was David’s reply:
“I have also learned a few things about the size of nuts that come from different geographical areas. I have sold these units from the Atlantic to Utah and from Alabama to Quebec, Canada. I find the nuts vary quite a lot in size based on the geographical area and I am now asking my customers to measure the height (distance from grain end-point to the opposite end-point). Based on this measurement I can calibrate each saw for each customer.
Nuts from Utah are smaller than a Ping Pong ball and those from the Shenandoah Valley, VA are larger that a hen’s egg.
In approx. 1/3 of the time, I send an extra spacer (at no additional cost) to accommodate the different nut sizes. In these cases. the safety guard is removed, the alternate spacer is changed out for sawing the larger nuts. These different spacers are the same thickness; however, the diameter is different. A smaller diameter spacer allows the sawing blades to cut deeper.
Once you get the hang of how the sawing and the prying open processes work, you really can get the nuts out in very large pieces if not entirely whole. And since the saw cuts the walnut instead of cracking it, there are none of those annoying little pieces of shell to get mixed in with your walnuts.
The Deer Hunter and I are really impressed with David’s Walnut Saw. I couldn’t believe how fast we were able to crack out the box of black walnuts I’ve had drying by the stove for the last several weeks. I wanted to go get Granny’s and impress her with the easy to pick out sliced open black walnuts, but when I called she said she’d already cracked all of hers.
I think being handy with saws and tools in general would make the operation of the walnut saw much easier. Lucky for me I have The Deer Hunter, someone who never met a tool he didn’t love. The saw has a guard on it and the manner in which you use it ensures you keep your hands and fingers away from the blade. David’s directions and video are excellent in their instructions, but even better than that is David’s willingness to answer any question you may have.