Latin Name: Castanea dentata.
Origin: Native to Eastern North America.
Common Names: American Chestnut, at times it has been referred to as the Redwood of the East.
The Tree (characteristics): The American Chestnut tree can grow to heights ranging from 100 to 120 feet tall with a trunk that is 5 to 7 feet in diameter. Due to the Chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this stature exist. The leaves are long and canoe-shaped with a prominent lance-shaped tip. On the edge of each leaf are forward hooked teeth with a texture that is dull or matte rather than shiny or waxy.
Appearance of Wood: The heartwood of American Chestnut ranges in color from light to medium brown. As the wood ages, it will darken to a more reddish-brown color. The sapwood ranges in color from a pale white to a light brown. The name Wormy Chestnut refers to American Chestnut wood after it has been damaged by insects.
Density: American Chestnut is considered light, durable, and stable when dry. Average reported specific gravity ranges from .40 to .48 with an air-dried weight of 30 pounds per cubic foot. Janka Hardness is 540 pounds of force.
Drying and Shrinkage: Average reported shrinkage values are 3.4% radial, 6.7% tangential, 11.6% volumetric.
Working Properties: American Chestnut is very easy to work with hand or machine tools. Caution should be taken when nailing or screwing the wood as it can split. The wood stains and glues extremely well and can be polished to a smooth surface. American Chestnut has a high tannin content and may cause staining when in contact with ferrous materials.
Durability: American Chestnut is naturally rot-resistant. The heartwood is considered durable while the sapwood can be prone to infestation.
Uses: American Chestnut was formerly used widely for home construction, cabinetry, furniture, utility poles, railroad ties, and musical instruments. This was when the trees were plentiful. Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut (American Chestnut damaged by insects) is used to build rustic furniture, flooring, shingles, and reclaimed lumber.
Availability: Due to the blight in the early 1900s wiping out billions of American Chestnut trees, the lumber is both rare and valuable. Wormy Chestnut when it is reclaimed from old barns and wooden structures.