Homegrown Sweet Chestnut is sweet alright, it’s a charmer and no mistake.
We all know the ‘poor man’s Oak’ expression, but Chestnut (Sweet not Horse) makes an interesting alternative to Oak in lots of circumstances and its certainly not ‘poor’ in any way, shape or form.
Our favourite thing about Sweet Chestnut has to be coppicing,
That’s the traditional woodland products and the old school woodland worker way of life… but having said that Chestnuts do grow into giants if left un-coppiced and the gargantuan waney edge boards from those trees are quite awe inspiring. Maybe we like Boards best… ?
What’s in a name?
Sweet Chestnut or Castanea Sativa, sativa meaning cultivated by humans, probably because the nuts (Chestnuts!) are edible (if cooked properly!) It’s the same species as the European Chestnut, the Spanish Chestnut or otherwise know as just plain old Chestnut, but also Marron.
Describing Sweet Chestnut
It’s true that when it’s fresh sawn Chestnut’s hard to tell from Oak. It has a similar colour , maybe due to the Tannin content (like Oak) but when it dries it’s quite different. You wouldn’t normally have trouble telling the two apart.
Dry, the colour is creamier than Oak, with sometimes contrasting brown streaks than you wouldn’t see in Oak (unless it’s Brown or Tiger Oak of course) and sometime some strong yellow colour (that old devil called tannin again).
The grain pattern is actually a real feature, it’s open, fairly coarse, great for wide expanses on tables or worktops, a bit like Ash or Elm in that way, however it still has a fairly dense grain and with that Tannin content it has inherent durability, great for outdoor tables then!
Chestnut from coppiced woodlands is also fantastic for traditional riving as it’s naturally inclined to split down the grain. It makes laths, staves, battens, hurdles, pales, rails, shakes, and all the things you can make with those things.
It’s strong and durable so it’s great for cladding, for decking, really good for groundworks, for fencing other landscaping work. It maybe not so great not as heavy structural framing timber, unless you’re making a round timber frame and then it’s an exciting prospect!
Like other fresh sawn products, Chestnut will take a finish when it’s surface dry if you want to stop the weathering and silvering process, otherwise it will grey down over time and doesn’t need any preservative treatment.
When it’s dry and machined Chestnut will take finishes as any other hardwood, although it’s always worth checking your finishes are compatible with the Tannin in Chestnut and that your product doesn’t contain strong alkali (eg. ammonia) which will react with Tannin and darken the colour.
TECHNICAL INFO established by TRADA
Mechanical Strength: 80% that of Oak
Treatability: Extremely difficult apart from sapwood
Moisture movement: Small
Density (Kg/m3): 560
A bit about Sweet Chestnut Grades
PRIME (Grade 1) as defined by Making The Grade
The following are the properties that are allowed or permitted within Prime grade Sweet Chestnut:
Fully and partly inter-grown knots: one ≤20mm diameter or several smaller up to a combined diameter of 20mm
Non inter-grown knots and rotten knots: occasional if measured-out
Checks: occasional surface + occasional splits in sound knots permitted
Colour: none specified, but surface stains are not generally regarded as a defect providing that they do not penetrate into the timber. Stick-marks and other penetrating stains are not permitted
Grain: straight or nearly straight + wavy-grain is accepted providing that it can be regarded as a special decorative feature that will not limit the performance of the piece in its intended use.
Rot / insect attack: no
Warp: none specified
Wane: none specified
Sapwood: should be excluded if used externally
BOULES logs cut and dried for use range from 450 – 1000mm diameter and 3-6m in length, cut into thicknesses 27,34,41,54,65,80,100mm. See stocklist
BOARDS in waney edge are available in the same thicknesses as BOULES (of course!) in varying widths up to 1.0m and lengths up to 6.0m. See stocklist
STRUCTURAL fresh sawn timber is customer cut and is available in similar sections to Oak, up to 300mm section dims and up to 6.0m lengths. Rounds for framing are usually not as large as square section equivalents and are not too difficult to find in local woodlands.
CLADDING, DECKING & FLOORING Chestnut all comes from the same stock as above and is available to order in standard sizes and some not so standard!
Uses of Chestnut Wood
Fresh sawn chestnut is good for structural work, cladding and external landscaping , used in the sawn situations you would use fresh sawn Oak.
Dry, Chestnut is good for most joinery or furniture work.
It is very popular for external cladding in air dried, machined profiles, partly because of it’s eco credentials (use of small growth logs therefore very sustainable source) and partly because of the finger jointing option which means you get really long lengths (6.1M). It’s superb for flooring – have you seen our office lately?! The colouring is very mellow and rich, creams and browns giving a significant difference in aesthetics when compared with the softwood alternatives.