Where Does Reclaimed Chestnut Come From?
Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber is American Chestnut wood from disassembled barns. It has been kiln dried (to kill any insects), de-nailed, and scanned for metal.
Working with Chestnut Wood
Chestnut wood is easily worked by hand or machine and it stains, glues, and finishes well. The heartwood is coarse-grained and susceptible to splitting. Care must be taken if you are nailing it. It is not a first choice for turning because of the coarse grain.
What Happened to the American Chestnut Trees?
American Chestnut has been functionally extinct for decades. It used to have a range that stretched from Maine to Michigan and south to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. A blight was inadvertently introduced in the early 1900’s and in about 50 years the entire species was wiped out.
American Chestnut is “functionally extinct” because the blight can’t destroy the root systems. You may see young American Chestnut trees growing from old stumps. As soon as the saplings reach the size of a small tree, the blight kills them. This usually happens within 5 yrs. The tallest the tree will grow is about 20 feet.
The Economic Impact of the Loss of the American Chestnut Tree
The loss of the American Chestnut Tree was devastating to many, but hit Appalachia incredibly hard. Chestnut forest flourished in Appalachia and much of the finest lumber came from this region. Apart from that, the copious amount of chestnuts produced by the trees provided a main food source not only for bears, deer, birds, and other wildlife, but was also a major food source for pigs and cattle. People gathered the nuts and sold them, often as their only source of cash for the year.
The devastation of the Appalachian Chestnut forests took away two of the main income sources for small farmers: pork and chestnuts.
Chestnut wood is straight grained, light in weight, strong, and as rot resistant as cedar and redwood. It was the preferred wood for log cabins, particularly at the base of the walls where rot resistance was most important.
The reason that Chestnut is so rot resistance is because it contains extremely high levels of tannin, which is also used in leather tanning. So the Chestnut provided food for animals and people, its wood was used for buildings, furniture, fences, musical instruments, shingles, and telephone poles, and its bark was cut from the logs, dried, and sold to tanneries. The loss of the Chestnut Tree was a devastating blow to our economy and livelihood.
What Did the American Chestnut Tree Look Like?
American Chestnut trees were massive. The average trees grew 4-7 feet in diameter and 100-110 feet tall. There were reports of trees that grew as large as 13 feet in diameter and 130 feet tall. The trees could live for 400-600 years. They are also incredibly fast growing, reaching maturity even faster than poplar trees.
SUNY College of Environmental Sciences: https://www.esf.edu/chestnut/background.htm
The American Chestnut Foundation: https://acf.org/the-american-chestnut/history-american-chestnut/