Kitchen Island of Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut

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Project by Cubby posted 04-03-2012 04:28 PM 7398 views 8 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Justin and Emily moved into their new home, an old farmhouse on the plateau of the flight 93 crash site. The old barn was decrepit and had to be demolished. It was built in the 1920’s, and is entirely of wormy chestnut. Justin found a reclaim contractor who salvaged the wood and cleared the site, all at no cost.
They needed a kitchen island, the contractor provided some choice planks, and I built the island. The shelf on the bottom is white pine reclaimed from a 100 year old horse barn (I ran out of the chestnut). Drawers are poplar. Finish is shellac and tung oil. The top is solid granite which extends on one side to accomodate stools.

-- Ron Baird, Pennsylvania, "WORK HARD, BE GOOD, HAVE FUN"

13 comments so far

View ChrisK's profile


2014 posts in 3283 days

#1 posted 04-03-2012 04:44 PM

Really nice work.

-- Chris K

View a1Jim's profile


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#2 posted 04-03-2012 04:44 PM

Very cool this piece has a rustic elegance to it .well done.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View bevins587's profile


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#3 posted 04-03-2012 05:03 PM

Some beautiful wood.

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 3145 days

#4 posted 04-03-2012 09:09 PM

That is a sturdy and massive island !! Nobody will ever dare to move it.

What about the legs? Are they hollow?

Well done.

-- Back home. Fernando

View ZED's profile


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#5 posted 04-04-2012 05:06 AM

Very nice, beautiful.

-- A good craftsman is able to make it work with the tools he has, I still need more tools

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2680 days

#6 posted 04-04-2012 05:48 AM

those beams are amazing I need a few like that for my workbench legs nice project I would like to know more about the barn builders I just got a nice batch from a barn in the cat skills and had it shipped to california I must be insane oh ya 5 out of 5 stars on the Island it is timeless

Edit I thought the chestnut blight was earlier than it was but it said the trees were gone in 1940 in only 40 years billions of trees died and these were awesome trees not just junk wood and it was so plentyful making up 25% of trees in Appalachia here is what Wikipedia had to say


The chestnut blight was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900, either through imported chestnut lumber or through imported chestnut trees. In 1905, American mycologist William Murrill studied the disease, isolated and described the fungus responsible (which he named Diaporthe parasitica), and demonstrated by inoculation into healthy plants that the fungus caused the disease.[1] By 1940, mature American chestnut trees were virtually wiped out by the disease.

Infection of Asian chestnut trees with the chestnut blight fungus was discovered on Long Island in 1904. The blight appears to have been introduced from either China or Japan.[citation needed] Japanese and some Chinese chestnut trees show some resistance to infection by C. parasitica: they may be infected, but the fungus does not usually kill them. Within 40 years the near-4 billion-strong American chestnut population in Northern America was devastated2 – only a few clumps of trees remained in California and the Pacific northwest. Because of the disease, American Chestnut wood almost disappeared from the market for decades, although American chestnut wood can still be obtained as reclaimed lumber.[3] The root collar and root system of the chestnut tree are fairly resistant to the fungal infection, so a large number of small American chestnut trees still exist as shoots from existing root bases. However, the shoots are seldom able to grow enough to reproduce before the blight attacks them.[4] So they only survive as living stumps, or “stools”, with only a few growing enough shoots to produce seeds shortly before dying. This is just enough to preserve the genetic material used to engineer an American chestnut tree with the minimal necessary genetic input from any of the disease-immune Asiatic species. Efforts started in the 1930s and are still ongoing to repopulate the country with these trees, in Massachusetts5 and many other places in the United States.[2]

In some places such as the Appalachian Mountains, it is estimated that one in every four hardwoods was an American chestnut. Mature trees often grew straight and branch-free for 50 feet (sometimes up to one hundred feet), and could grow up to 200 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 14 feet at a few feet above ground level. For three centuries most barns and homes east of the Mississippi were made from American chestnut.[6] The chestnut blight caused by C. parasitica has destroyed about 4 billion American chestnut trees,[2] and dramatically reduced the tree population throughout the East Coast. The American Chinquapin (Chinkapin) chestnut trees are also very susceptible to chestnut blight. The European chestnut and the West Asian species are susceptible but less so than the American species. The resistant species (particularly Japanese chestnut and Chinese chestnut but also Seguin’s chestnut and Henry’s chestnut) have been used in breeding programs in the US to create hybrids with the American chestnut that are disease-resistant.[7]

The fungus is spread by wind-borne ascospores and, over a shorter distance, conidia distributed by rain-splash action.[citation needed] Infection is local in range, so some isolated American chestnuts survive where there is no other tree within 10 km. Also, there are at least two viral pathogens that weaken the fungus (hypovirulence) and help trees to survive.

Surviving chestnut trees are being bred for resistance to the blight, notably by The American Chestnut Foundation, which aims to reintroduce a blight-resistant American chestnut to its original forest range within the early decades of the 21st century.

A small stand of surviving American chestnuts was found in F. D. Roosevelt State Park near Warm Springs, Georgia on April 22, 2006 by Nathan Klaus of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.[8][9]
[edit] Symptoms

The fungus makes its entry at wounds and grows in and beneath the bark which eventually kills the cambium all the way round the twig, branch or trunk.[10] The first symptom is a small orange-brown area on the bark of a twig or branch. A sunken canker then forms as the mycelial fan spreads under the bark. As the hyphae spread they produce several toxic compounds, the most notable of which is oxalic acid. This acid lowers the pH of the infected tissue from around the normal 5.5 to approximately 2.8, which is toxic to plant cells. The canker eventually girdles the tree, killing everything above it. Distinctive yellow tendrils (cirrhi) of conidia can be seen extruding from the stroma in wet weather.[11]
[edit] Conservation efforts

There are approximately 2,500 chestnut trees growing on 60 acres near West Salem, Wisconsin which is the world’s largest remaining stand of American chestnut. These trees are the descendants of those planted by Martin Hicks, an early settler in the area. In the late 1800s Hicks planted less than a dozen chestnuts. Planted outside the natural range of chestnut, these trees escaped the initial onslaught of chestnut blight, but in 1987, scientists found blight in the stand. Scientists are working to try to save the trees. There is a desire to bring American chestnut back to the Eastern forest and funded by the American Chestnut Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, University of West Virginia, Michigan State University, and Cornell University.[12]

Removing blighted trees was first attempted when the blight was discovered, but this proved to be an ineffective solution. The scientists then set out to introduce a hypovirus into the chestnut blight. The treated chestnut responded immediately. Trees began to heal over their cankers. However, the virus was so efficient at killing the fungus that it prevented itself from moving from one tree to the next. Only the treated trees recovered. Scientific opinion regarding the future of the stand varies.[12]
[edit] Hybrid chestnut trees

In the years since the chestnut blight, many scientists and botanists have worked to create a resistant hybrid chestnut tree that retains the main characteristics of the American chestnut tree. In the early 1950s, James Carpenter discovered a large living American chestnut in a grove of dead and dying trees in Salem, Ohio that showed no evidence of blight infection. Carpenter sent budwood to Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, a plant breeder in Greensboro, North Carolina. Dunstan grafted the scions onto chestnut rootstock and the trees grew well. He cross-pollinated one with a mixture of 3 Chinese chestnut selections: “Kuling”, “Meiling”, and “Nanking”. The resulting fruit-producing hybrid was named the Dunstan Chestnut.[13] The trade off for resistance to the chestnut blight is that the Dunstan hybrid to a height of only twenty-five feet or 7.6 meters.

Current efforts are under way by the Forest Health Initiative to use modern breeding techniques and genetic engineering to create resistant strains, with contributions from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Penn State, UGA, and the US Forest Service. One of the most successful methods of breeding is to create a back cross of a resistant strain (such as one from China or Japan) and American Chestnut. The two species are first bred to create a 50/50 hybrid. After 3 back crosses with American Chestnut, the remaining genome is approximate 1/16 that of the resistant tree, and 15/16 American. The hope is that the resistant genes will be preserved through the back crossing, while the more wild-type traits of American Chestnut will be the dominant phenotype of the plants. In other words, the newly bred chestnut trees will tower like the original American Chestnut instead of being dwarfish as the oriental hybrids are. Research is also being done at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry using Agrobacterium tumefaciens to insert plasmids containing genes of interest from resistant trees. The genes chosen are present only in the resistant strain, and not in the American Chestnut, and are examined for the potential to produce a blight-resistant tree. Currently, SUNY ESF has over 100 individual events being tested, with more than 400 slated to be in the field or in the lab for various assay tests in the next several years.
[edit] References

^ Rogerson CT, Samuels GJ. (1996). Mycology at the New York Botanical Garden, 1985-1995. Brittonia 48(3):389-98
^ a b c The American Chestnut Foundation – Mission & History.
^ Trees, Woods and Man. By H.L. Edlin. New Naturalist. 1970. ISBN 00-213230-3.
^ [1] History of the American Chestnut
^ The American Chestnut Returns. By Fred Thys, for WBUR news. July 18, 2008.
^ American Chestnut Restoration. Salem Board & Beam.
^ New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. By A. Huxley ed. 1992. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
^ Rare American Chestnut Trees Discovered (Washington Post 2006-05-19)
^ Anagnostakis SL (2000) Revitalization of the Majestic Chestnut: Chestnut Blight Disease.
^ Crop Protection Compendium 2005 Edition. Cryphonectria parasitica (blight of chestnut). CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
^ a b Chestnut’s Last Stand

[edit] External links

American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation – Blight Fungus
Don’t Move Firewood – Gallery of Pests: Chestnut Blight
SUNY ESF Chestnut Restoration Project
Forest Health Initiative
The American Chestnut Foundation

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View thedude50's profile


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#7 posted 04-04-2012 08:45 AM

I am curious as to what wood you used as your secondary for the drawer boxes ?

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View Cubby's profile


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#8 posted 04-04-2012 01:00 PM


Thanks for including the historical summary. I grew up in this area. In my early 20’s, I was a roofer. At that time we frequently saw roof sheathing, rafters, joists and other building framework that were Chestnut. In fact, most of the buildings built between 1900 and 1940 were composed, in total or in part, of Chestnut.

At this time (1900-1940), the industry of this area of Southwest Pennsylvania included mining. The large seams of bituminous, or soft, coal found here were needed to feed the furnaces of Andrew Mellon’s steel facilities in Pittsburgh, about 60 miles to the west. These coal fields were one of the primary reasons why Mr. Mellon envisioned Pittsburgh as the heart of the and steel industry of America. Indeed, were it not for the features unique to this area, I would not exist. My grandfather, heeding the call for workers from the mines of Scotland, came to the area in the early 1900’s and went to work in a mine in Jenners, PA.
So just imagine yourself as a building contractor during this time, with Chestnut trees of great girth dying, many already fallen to the ground, and ready for harvest to become the raw material for the homes, barns and other structures needed to support the economy of the area,... like pennies from heaven.
My knowledge of the term WORMY Chestnut, I must preface, comes from the mouth of my grandfather on my mother’s side and from no other source. Apparently, once the Chestnut trees fell, and mother nature began her reclamation of them, part of this work was completed by worms. I suppose they were larvae of some sort. Thus, if one came upon Chestnut that was wormy, this was proof of a tree that not only succumbed from the blithe, but also was fallen and, for a time laid to rest in the forest. Chestnut without the worm holes were those harvested while still upright.
Thanks again, and thanks to all for the kind comments. By the way, the piece is not as heavy as it looks. Chestnut is fairly soft for a hard wood and individual boards are quite light. Additionally, those legs are hollow.

...and Dude, the drawers are common Poplar.

-- Ron Baird, Pennsylvania, "WORK HARD, BE GOOD, HAVE FUN"

View GrandpaLen's profile


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#9 posted 04-04-2012 03:32 PM

Very nice fit and finish, and a Great addition to any well furnished kitchen.

Thanks for the history of Chestnut ‘blight’ post, am glad to hear that they may be coming back.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3015 days

#10 posted 04-04-2012 04:03 PM

That is a neat project! Man, that chesnut has loads of character. I love it.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View deborelli's profile


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#11 posted 05-11-2012 09:13 PM

very beautiful!!!

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Tim Scoville

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#12 posted 01-25-2013 12:12 AM

Love the distinctive look of wormy chestnut. Had a chance years ago to get a wall clock made from it and wished I had. Very nice work.

-- Tim S, WA

View Jayp413's profile


69 posts in 3212 days

#13 posted 05-17-2013 01:02 AM

Great looking piece!

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