I'm a furniture maker who works in sustainable wood, green wood products from reclaimed wood.
Origins of the American Chestnut Tree
What was once known as the queen of Eastern America—the American chestnut tree—is now nearly extinct.
The American chestnut dates back to 1800 and was an economic staple of the original homesteaders in the Appalachian Mountains. The wood was lightweight, weather-resistant, and very easy to chop and hand mill. Homesteaders used the trees for not only their homes, but for fencing, railings, and the nut they produced. Trees were known to grow up to 26 feet in diameter, and if your farm had many American Chestnut trees, you were considered to be a very wealthy farmer.
It is believed that in 1904, a forester from the Bronx Zoo brought in Asian chestnut trees to decorate his homestead. It was in these trees that a blight called Endothia parasitica was born. The fungus, which was unintentionally brought into America, quickly spread to the native chestnuts. In less than 10 years, the American Chestnut was all but extinct. The root bases below the disease were still alive, but the saplings produced did not live long. Researchers have spent the past 100 years trying to revive the species to no avail. It is believed that only five chestnut trees have ever survived this blight.
The Worm Holes in Reclaimed Chestnut
The wormholes you see when you look at reclaimed chestnuts were created by a beetle that bored into the deadwood, finding it a great source of nutrition. These beetles quickly mass-produced and soon infected not only the American Chestnut, but much of the oak, pine, and black walnut trees in the Appalachians. It was then that wormy chestnut was born. The trees had such great strength that they remained standing, and the wood was still harvested to build many homes and barns here in the mountains.
American Chestnut Now Extinct
Today there is a law against cutting down the chestnut trees, but it may be too late. Although researchers are still working to revive this amazing tree, they now believe it is not likely to happen.
Removing Nails From Reclaimed Chestnut
We spend many hours carefully removing old nails and bullets from centuries-old wood. We take pride in saving as much of the rich history in the boards as we can—and passing that history onto our customers.
These huge beams were the main supports of an 1820 barn in Eastern Tennessee. The wood was then used to build a farm table that we call "Grace."
Saving the American Chestnut
Pat and I are dedicated to saving not only the history of the wood, but the wood itself. The American chestnut tree may never be seen again in all its mass or beauty, but it can live on through generational rustic furniture. It is so sad to see all these wonderful old homes, and barns being torn down daily. There is little regard for the history these centuries-old homes, and barns have. Please remember the American chestnut and look into buying a generational piece of history for your home. Sadly there is so much mass production that custom furniture is going by the wayside. It should not be only the rich that can afford to own such a unique piece of American history.
Why American "Wormy" Chestnut?
Remember that "wormy" chestnut is a defective grade of wood that has insect/beetle damage, having been sawn from long-dead blight-killed trees. This "wormy" wood has since become fashionable for its rustic character. Consider building your next custom piece of rustic furniture from this amazing wood. It will not be around for many more years and owning a true generational farm table or bench would be a great way to save the great history of the American chestnut.
Jo on June 30, 2020:
I bought a 1950's raised ranch it is full of wormy chestnut. From the staircase going up with wormy chestnut paneling with large imperfections from the beetles and worms to the vaulted living room, dining room and kitchen which is all paneled in chestnut, to the kitchen cabinets which are chestnut, to the walk-in basement which is finished with chestnut to the shower doors and a very unique kitchen cabinetry in the walk-in basement kitchen. The kitchen cabinets are pretty worn so I sanded the doors, and am working on either trying to restore them or to have them made into a dining room table and barn doors for a set of chestnut shelves in the kitchen. I just love the wood but my other half wanted to have it torn out!
Erin on June 15, 2020:
I inherited a full wormy chestnut set from my great grand parents from the early 1900s. I have a couch, with cool store areas on the sides, 2 side chairs, coffee table, high end table, a lamp and the dining room set with table, hutch and chairs...beautiful wood...
Chrisr on November 30, 2019:
We bought a house that was built in 1830 i found out today that the entire banister and stair case is wormy chestnut now it is off to educate myself on this wood so that i can give jt the glory it deserves and get it from under the 10 coats of paint and to see what else here is of the same wood
Chuck Yale, Michigan on July 16, 2018:
I turn bowls for a hobby and I have come across some pieces of wormy Chestnut. They really turn out beautiful bowls.
Jim Ramos on March 25, 2018:
If I'm not mistaken, there are some beautiful thriving Chestnut trees in Buffalo,NY.
Kim F. on July 02, 2017:
We just bought a home and there isn't a gigantic built in mantle/bookshelf made out of wormy chestnut. We didn't know the history behind this wood until our chimney inspector, of all people, told us about the wood. We were going to paint it but now we are just going to enjoy its natural beauty!! I'm so glad I know we own a piece of history and didn't ruin it!
Sydney mccone on January 02, 2014:
My papa in 1908 was a house made out of chestnut wood and my papa and his friends helped cut the house down in 2012 and game me some of that wood for a chest to make so I have extinct wood
pkwoodworksstore (author) from 480 Fruit Tree Lane Burnsville, NC 28714 on May 20, 2011:
That is amazing Rochelle. It is so sad people cannot see what lies underneath. Everything is based on beauty with no desire to look deeper. Thank you for your comments and props to your husband. He has a great eye, and is very talented I am sure.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on May 19, 2011:
My husband carves duck decoys. Some of the first ones he did were in a faux antique style. He searched the scrap bins at a lumber yard and asked how much the pieces with the worm holes were-- The clerk said, "That's no good, you can take it."
The pieces turned out to be very attractive and full of character.
Your tables are beautiful.