Wormy Chestnut

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Blog entry by HighRockWoodworking posted 06-02-2010 02:33 AM 2320 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

American chestnut

My wife and I were visiting our families up in North Carolina. As usual I tried to spend a little time out in the shop and while out behind the shop I ran into a stack of lumber that I had almost forgotten about. About two years ago we had to demo my Great Grandmother’s old house as the state was building a new four-lane and the old house turned out to be a casualty of progress. After removing the old plaster we realized that about 90% of the framing in the house was chestnut or what we call wormy chestnut.

It is estimated that before the 1900’s 25% of trees in the Appalachian mountains were American chestnut, I have read that the mountains looked snow covered in the spring when the chestnuts were in bloom. Today they are gone due to a chestnut blight that hit in the early 1900’s, with only a few mature trees are know to exist in the Appalachian mountains. What we call wormy chestnut is actually trees that were damaged by the blight but were cut to be used as timber for houses and barns rather than to lay and rot.

Wormy chestnut was a popular wood for local woodworkers at the time when I grew up and honestly I have always thought of it as a bit old fashioned and rustic. But standing there looking at the stack of lumber I realized that it was part of my heritage and that I should try and incorporate it into the style of work I build.

Wormy Chestnut

I decided that since the wood is so durable and perfect for the outdoors, that the first project I am going to work on is building a bench to go outside the front door of my home. The challenge is building a bench that is somewhat contemporary but using a wood that is definitely on the rustic side. Some of the challenges in working with this type of wood is that a lot of the boards are split or deteriorated from exposer to weather and insects, this must be taking into account when planning to ensure you have enough material. Another major concern is that because the wood has been used in framing there tends to be nails in it. A visual inspection will not always find all of the nails because some have rusted until there is nothing on the surface, a metal detector is the best way to make sure all the nails have been removed.

I look forward to getting started on this project and will post more soon!

The picture of the board is an actual piece that I am working with, and although I took this picture because there were a lot of holes in it, it is a pretty true representation of the wood. Also, the picture below is a gun cabinet that my father built before I was born so it means a lot to me.

Gun Cabinet

-- Chris Adkins,

6 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117113 posts in 3598 days

#1 posted 06-02-2010 02:37 AM

Good luck on your project

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View HighRockWoodworking's profile


182 posts in 3001 days

#2 posted 06-02-2010 02:46 AM

Thank Jim!

-- Chris Adkins,

View mike85215's profile


127 posts in 3166 days

#3 posted 06-02-2010 03:32 AM

Nice looking wood….wish I had some to work with. Yes, a lot of the furniture from the early 1900’s was built using chestnut.

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4422 days

#4 posted 06-02-2010 03:57 AM

Good luck on making great use of the new found materials.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Bob Kollman's profile (online now)

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3212 days

#5 posted 06-02-2010 06:31 AM

Chestnut, is worth it’s weight in gold…use sparingly!!!! Your a very lucky wood worker.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View HighRockWoodworking's profile


182 posts in 3001 days

#6 posted 06-02-2010 05:53 PM

Thanks Bob….I will post a picture of the stack of wood….it is huge! I must say that I grew up around it but have never built anything from it. I am looking forward to seeing what I can come up with.

-- Chris Adkins,

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