Horse chestnut, and why it's the only live type of this wood available. September 6, 2000

I have an opportunity to get a free chestnut tree from a friend. It is dying and he wants to remove it. Can anyone tell me if it is a good wood to cut, and if so, its uses. I have a WoodMizer and I just hate to see a log go to waste!

Forum Responses
I never sawed one, but I've been told it's kind of like oak, except it does not have the decay resistance of oak.

Chestnut is very similar to oak but grows slower and has a tighter grain pattern. The woodworkers in my family have made beautiful furniture with it in the past. If you happen to have wormy chestnut it adds some character to the grain pattern and makes for some attractive shelving, tables, etc. You may want to try a 1.25 x .045 blade with 9-degree hook angle to saw it.

If it is real chestnut you have something very special, however, it's more likely horse chestnut, which is not of much value. Almost all the American chestnuts died long ago from a blight. If it turns out to be real chestnut, let some tree people know about it. I'm sure they would love to get some seeds from this apparently blight-resistant tree.

I have an American chestnut log that is nearly 100 years old (that is, it died about 100 years ago), and about 36 inches in diameter, on my property in VA. Such logs show up now and then and account for the supply of wormy chestnut that still exists.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

How can you tell if the tree is "horse chestnut" or "real" chestnut? Are the leaves different? The chestnut that I've sawn here in Western Washington has no blight, and the wood looks identical to the pictures I've seen in hardwood books.

If it is "horse" chestnut, how does that make the wood "bad"?

Horse chestnuts have opposite branching and a compound leaf, which is palmate, with five leaflets.

American chestnut has a simple leaf which is highly serrate. Most live chestnuts in yards are Chinese chestnuts, which are blight resistant. That would be my guess as to species.

The wood is lighter and softer than oak. It was heavily used in construction, furniture, and millwork before the blight.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor D:
Before you cut down an American chestnut, you might want to contact the US BLM office and consider endangered species laws. I found an American chestnut tree in GA. The forest department alerted me to the fines and penalties of harming an American chestnut tree. If the tree is American chestnut, you must report it to the park commission and they will do their best to save the tree's health. According to the count from the US forestry department as of 1990, there are only 27 known live trees and they are all property of the US government.

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