I have had a number of reclaimed wormy chestnut beams stored away for several months now. They were salvaged in southwest Virginia from a structure being demolished. My intention had been to make a steamer trunk from the wood. The beams appeared to have lots of character, with the typical nail holes, worm holes, gouges, discoloration, rough sawmill marks, etc. When I began to re-saw the beams into thinner lumber, I was able to get pieces nearly an inch thick from a couple of the beams. I had no intention of making a table, but these pieces of chestnut talked me into making a small table top from a portion of the lumber. The finished piece measures about 14 1/2″ x 24″ x 28″ tall. The legs are made from part of the chestnut timber as well, and have a slight taper.
The top begins with 3 pieces of chestnut which are glued up with tongue and groove joinery. The two “breadboard” ends are also attached with a tongue and groove joint,but I was reluctant to glue these pieces at a 90 degree angle, fearing that the joint could pull apart with expansion and contraction over the years. My solution was to add a “butterfly” to the configuration, and only the butterfly is glued in. This allows movement during expansion and contraction, but the butterfly and the tongue and groove should hold it tight.
Since I was using reclaimed, old lumber for the table, I decided to make the butterfly from some reclaimed, old lumber as well. The history of the chestnut and the pieces of teak used for the butterfly could not be more different. The chestnut likely came from a tree which grew in southeast Virginia. It was milled there and used in construction of a building, which probably was part of a rural farming operation. The teak most likely came from a tree in southeast Asia. From there, it was cut, milled and transported to a shipyard where it became part of a ship’s deck. That ship, the USS North Carolina, saw action in every major naval operation in the South Pacific during World War II. When a new deck was installed on the battleship recently, I was able to buy a small piece of the original deck.
Both pieces of wood have had long, full lives in very different circumstances. I hope they will have equally long and full lives in their new role together as a top to this table.