Walnut burl is quite nice and is probably the most useful for handles, where you need a dense figure in a small area. I have made sayas out of walnut burl and the stuff is great (and very dense too you barely see any pores). However, for kitchen knives handles, you want it stabilized and that is when you might have to put up with some dullness.
Walnut is a fantastic wood, one of my favorites. I have my desk made out of walnut as well as some other office furniture. There are more application for walnut than cutting boards.
Black walnut is gorgeous! My mom's old house had a 100+ year old Black Walnut tree and I almost begged her to let me cut it down. I wonder how many thousands of dollars that thing was worth. In retrospect, I'm glad it's still serving as a house for countless squirrels and chipmunks. It was a damn nice tree!
I love walnut, It makes a KILLER looking tables, or heck, whatever!! I have seen some of the finest pieces of furniture and boxes and cabinets etc..etc.
That said, I have had the same issues with it as a knife handle. Natural or stabilized its a bugger to get that highly finished, figure popping looks we love so much.. So I often steer away from it, Unless its something extra special!! Like flaming crotch figure or WILD figured burl. Just takes alot of time and work to really get it looking awesome! But its worth it!! IMO.
I just finished a knife with a walnut burl handle It was "stabilized". This piece sucked up the true oil like a sponge. But after 4 soaks in true oil and 3 more applications of tung oil. and 2 coats of hard wax. It shines OK.. lol Guess its just one of them woods you have to work a little extra to get it to POP!
Inspired by God, Forged by Fire, Tempered by Water, Grounded by Earth, Guided by the spirit.. Randy Haas
LINK to Limited run of AEB-L Stainless 240mm Gyuto/Chef PRE BUY