Posts Tagged With: Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber

Reclaimed Chestnut Box


Chestnut Box, approx 7″ x 7″ x 5″

I have had a small piece of reclaimed wormy chestnut set aside for awhile, waiting for the right project to come along. My idea was to use it to make something for some friends of ours. They have been making things out of found and reclaimed stuff, and this old barn board seemed to fit right in with that.

chestnut-box03I was able to keep quite a bit of the character of the old surface while still getting the board straight and flat enough to use. The oil finish brought out that texture and the deep, weathered colors of the wood.

The box actually has two compartments – the lid lifts off to reveal the main one, and the bottom “secret” compartment is held together with magnets. The box therefore has 2 bottom panels, each made of reclaimed spruce salvaged from a discarded piano. The knob on top is walnut, and is the only part not made of reclaimed wood.chestnut-box02

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Reclaimed Chestnut Table (with a little Reclaimed Teak)

Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut Table

Reclaimed Wormy Chestnut Table

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.

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Reclaimed Chestnut Quilt Rack

First Quilt Rack

First Quilt Rack

I built a quilt rack for my sister-in-law not too long ago. I designed it to be built from reclaimed wormy chestnut which I had gotten in Southwest Virginia. The design incorporated an inlay piece featuring a quilt square of maple and padouk woods. The overall look was a nod to the Arts and Crafts style. I was happy with that original piece, and have just put the finishing touches on a second quilt rack, which carries forward most of the design elements. This piece, too, is made from reclaimed wormy chestnut from the same supplier.

Second Quilt Rack

Second Quilt Rack

The primary difference between the two is the treatment of the end panels. The most recent piece has side panels that mimic the “cloud-lift” curves at the top. The top and bottom rails now feature a through-mortise, and have a bit of texture on the horizontal pieces holding the panels. I again used the quilt square inlay, and octagonal top cross pieces through-mortised and rotated 45 degrees.

I am not sure which one I like better. They are both lightweight and sturdy, characteristics of the chestnut. I used a coat of garnet shellac on the first one, and the second one has a bit of color from an initial coat of Danish Oil. Final finish coats on both are General Finishes Oil and Urethane.

Working with chestnut lumber is a real joy. I did have to get a little device to detect any nails and other metal in the wood. But once it is clean, it is a very easy wood to work with hand tools. It isn’t something I can find locally, but I think it is worth the time and effort to find a source.

(click on the images to get a more detailed view.)


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Quilt Stand

I recently traveled to Galax, VA to visit with some old friends. While there, I had the chance to go by a little place that takes old barns, etc. that are about to be torn down and salvages the wood. They had the reclaimed wood sorted by species, and had pine, walnut, oak, cedar and chestnut. Most everyone has heard about “wormy chestnut” wood – they make flooring and paneling that has the look of wormy chestnut. The chestnut at this little place was the real deal. Very wormy. Very distressed. And it had a ton of character.

Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber

Reclaimed Chestnut Lumber

Chestnut is essentially no longer available, since almost no trees have survived the blight. It is hard to tell how the wood will come out when it is as rough as this lumber was. But I had a project in mind, and was thinking that this reclaimed chestnut might be the perfect material.

I didn’t have a lot of room to transport lumber, so I only bought about 20 board feet, some about 1 inch thick, and a couple of short sections of 2 x 6. Most of the nails had been removed, though I found a few more when I got it home. My planer blades also found one that I hadn’t, but those blades were due for replacement anyway. The photo to the left shows one board planed down, with the rest of the stock as it was. (Click the photo to see a larger image.)

My sister-in-law is a quilt maker, and she has talked about making us a quilt. She does beautiful work, and we spent some time on a recent visit with her looking at fabrics and patterns. She had mentioned wanting a quilt stand, so this seemed like the stock which would make a nice, rustic one.

Quilt Stand Design

Quilt Stand Design

I really like the Mission/Arts and Crafts/ Greene and Greene styles of furniture, and draw from some of their elements in my work. So, with that as a starting point, I evaluated the wood I had bought once it was planed and trimmed of unusable sections. My design had to be constructed from the wood available. I put pencil to paper early one morning and came up with a concept — even in the age of Sketch-up, I still like the feel of a pencil on a piece of graph paper. I can use Sketch-up, but it seems that I take more time on the technicalities of the program than I do on the design. With a pencil, an eraser, and a sheet of graph paper, my thoughts stay on the design, not how to portray it on a screen. After I have a concept on paper, I can refine it in Sketch-up and put together some more readable detail drawings.

I wanted to incorporate some of the “cloud” curves of Greene and Greene, and also the simple straight lines of Stickley, into a simple, straight-forward design. I also had one idea for making a “quilt square” from wood as a decorative element. I used only reclaimed wood with the exception of the quilt square. In addition to the chestnut, the little wedges in the ends of the through tenons are made from black walnut salvaged from an old piano.

When the sawdust had cleared, here’s what was on the workbench:

Quilt Stand

Quilt Stand


Chestnut is a very easy wood to work. It is very light, cuts and planes easily, and takes a nice finish. I used a garnet shellac for the first coat, and will continue the finish process with an oil finish.

I normally use Titebond III glue for most everything I build. This piece is held together with Hide Glue, the kind that can be bought already as a liquid in a bottle. It has a much longer open time, and with all the little tenons to be glued, that was important. With the intense heat only serving to shorten the drying time of Titebond III, I was afraid that the glue would be dry before I could get it all assembled and clamped.

The worm holes, nail holes and other distressed features give the piece a rustic look. The overall dimensions turned out to be about 35″ tall, 34″ wide, and 13″ deep.



To make the wooden quilt square, I cut and glued up maple and padouk woods into a block, and then sliced it into thin sheets on the band saw. This was my first attempt at creating an inlay like this, and I am happy with the results. The design itself is a traditional quilt pattern called a diamond star.


The through tenons ended up rotated 45 degrees, and the wedge was placed vertically to mimic the triangles in the quilt design. The cross pieces were trimmed to a hexagonal shape, with the last inch or so remaining square where the tenon formed.

A couple of years ago I built a steamer trunk from quartersawn white oak. (Click HERE to see the trunk) I may try to build a similar truck from reclaimed chestnut as a future project.



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