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All About Wormy Chestnut

Updated on December 26, 2016

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 here in the Appalachian Mountains. The wood was light weight, weather resistant, very easy to chop, and hand mill. Homesteaders used the tress for not only their homes but for fencing, rails, 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 tress that a blight called Endothia parasitica was born. The fungus which was unintentionally brought into America quickly spread. 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 spent the past 100 years trying to revive the species, but to no avail. It is believed that only 5 chestnut trees have survived this blight.

This 20 foot long by 4" thick and 25" wide board was reclaimed from the floor of an 1820 home.
This 20 foot long by 4" thick and 25" wide board was reclaimed from the floor of an 1820 home. | Source

Reclaimed Chestnut worm holes

The worm holes you see when you look at reclaimed chestnut 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 trees, pine trees, and black walnut tress here 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. 

Worm holes created by beetles after the blight

These holes were created by beetles as a source of nutrition. The beetles thrived on the rich wood and multiplied rapidly.
These holes were created by beetles as a source of nutrition. The beetles thrived on the rich wood and multiplied rapidly. | Source

American Chestnut now extinct

Today there is a law against cutting down the chestnut trees, but it is appearing to be too late.  Although researchers are still working to revive this amazing tree, a hundred years later, they now believe it is not likely to happen. 

Wormy Chestnut 2

This is a sanded piece of reclaimed American wormy chestnut. You can see it's rich in color.
This is a sanded piece of reclaimed American wormy chestnut. You can see it's rich in color. | Source

Saving the American wormy chestnut

We are dedicated to saving as much of this American wormy chestnut wood as we can find. We are using it to build generational pieces of rustic furniture. This will allow the American Chestnut to live on for generations to come.

Wormy Chestnut Furniture

This rustic bar table and stools were built from the large reclaimed wormy chestnut board you see above.
This rustic bar table and stools were built from the large reclaimed wormy chestnut board you see above. | Source
These quaint rustic end tables were made from the reclaimed wormy chestnut found in a centuries old farm home.
These quaint rustic end tables were made from the reclaimed wormy chestnut found in a centuries old farm home. | Source

De-nailing Wormy Chestnut boards

Removing the nails from these centuries old homes and preserving the wood are all part of saving the rich history of the American Chestnut Tree.
Removing the nails from these centuries old homes and preserving the wood are all part of saving the rich history of the American Chestnut Tree. | Source

Patrick 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 that 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"

Rustic Farm Table "Grace"

"Grace" as the owners named her was built from the reclaimed American Chestnut of an 1810 barn in Eastern Tennessee.
"Grace" as the owners named her was built from the reclaimed American Chestnut of an 1810 barn in Eastern Tennessee. | Source

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 it's 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 buy a generational piece of history for your home today. Sadly there is so much mass production that custom furniture is going by the wayside. That is why at PK Woodworks we design and build affordable rustic furniture. It should not be only the rich that can afford to own such a unique piece of American history.

Wormy Chestnut Bench

This American wormy chestnut bench now sits proudly on a homestead here in North Carolina.
This American wormy chestnut bench now sits proudly on a homestead here in North Carolina. | Source

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" American chestnut 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.

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      Kim F. 3 months ago

      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!

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      Sydney mccone 3 years ago

      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

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      pkwoodworksstore 6 years ago from 480 Fruit Tree Lane Burnsville, NC 28714

      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 profile image

      Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

      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.