Sunday, August 12, 2012

Japanese Chestnut on the Lathe

Our Japanese Chestnut (Castanea crenata) is fairly resistant to the Chestnut blight fungus that devastated billions of trees in the United States, and where intensive efforts to find a prevention for the disease have to this day not been successful.  In Japan, our Chestnut is still quite abundant, the wood being a valuable timber, and the nuts an important food product.   It appears that although the Asian trees have the level of resistance, it is thought that either the Japanese or Chinese variety (different species) were in fact the culprits in introducing the parasite into the west, possibly either in some lumber or living trees that were imported.  A sad day that was, beginning the demise of an important timber from trees that had also been a source of food to natives and the early settlers.

Speaking of the wood's character, it is quite 'calm', a fairly light in weight hardwood that is yielding and relatively easy to work with.   With time, objects made from the wood take on a subdued but very pleasant honey color, giving a subtle quiet effect.  One of my favorite woods, and fortunate to have a local source for it.  I have made a wide range of different types of furniture with Chestnut, both of western and Japanese style inspiration.  I currently am building a rocking chair with the wood.  There can be some range in the quality of the material, the older trees with a tighter grain are the ones that yield the best lumber, with greater stability resulting as well. 

It occurs that many woodworkers have not had the opportunity to work with the wood, perhaps haven't much seen how it turns out when worked and polished up with a finish on it.  Both a clear oil and an urushi finish will give very pleasing results.

A tray or "obon" like this is very commonly used to serve tea, I suppose nearly every household will have one.  A fine wood for the lathe as well.  This chunk has an interesting swath of reddish color through it, something that I don't recall seeing much before.

I put this small item with it's stand of tig welded stainless out as part of an exhibition that I had of pieces for sale, something inexpensive to supplement the larger furniture work.  I was interested in seeing what reaction it might bring, to my mind a very lovely piece of wood in a useful form that most people can relate to, and last but not least, at a giveaway price.  "Buy it for almost nothing and I will give you the stand too".  I like to at least show one thing at a price that a shrewd person ought to pick up on right away, my contribution to the masses, so to speak.  I don't recall there being any reaction really, folks barely looked at it. It is hard to figure, sometimes, and a bit disappointing.  Still, Illusions can inspire...






9 comments:

tomausmichigan said...

Dennis

That is a beautiful piece of wood. I've never seen chestnut with such color. The American variety is a subdued grey-brown, nice to work with hand tools, a bit splintery. I found some chestnut framing in a house built in 1918 and enjoyed working with it, but its long gone. You must had have the sharpest gouges at the lathe.

Tom

djy said...

Hi Tom,

I don't know that I have ever seen American Chestnut, other than beams in a barn. I have wondered how it compares? It is most common to find railroad ties made from it here as well, apparently it holds up when subject to moisture, plus aided by the heavy creosote applied to it.

I haven't thought of our variety as splintery before, relatively soft, yes. Perhaps it gets that way with age, as in the framing that you mention? Come to think of it, the old railroad ties are much that way, I made a sign using some once. There is a change in density between the annual rings and surrounding wood, with time I could see that turning to splintery.

Thanks for your comment, nice to get the input.

Julia said...

Beautiful natural patterns in the wood, would they be called wood whorls maybe?

djy said...

Hi Julia,

I don't know if there is any particular name that best applies to the grain pattern. Whorls seems good to me,
Grain with ripples in it is often called "fiddle".

Thanks for the comment.

Dennis

XUANXON said...

Hello ... Dennis Young

Just to mention that your castanea crenata, castanea sativa reminds me of my land, a wood very Noble in their work as well as a very good outdoor performance.

greetings fellow


...

Hola ...Dennis Young

Solo para comentar que tu castanea crenata , me recuerda al castanea sativa de mi tierra, una madera muy Noble en su trabajo, asi como de muy buen comportamiento al exterior.

Saludos colega

djy said...

Hello Xuanxon,

Thank you for your comment. Where is your land?

In Japan, the Chestnut was commonly used for railroad ties, and especially when treated with a preservative, it will last many years. Other than that, I haven't seen much in the way of outdoor woodwork done in Chestnut, and have never considered it for that purpose myself. I would be very interested in seeing the results when it is so used. Does the wood turn black over time?

Regards,
Dennis

XUANXON said...

Hey Dude ...

My land is Asturias, in Spain ... Here is what Brown says that the Romans began ... that's part of the story ... but traditionally used for outdoor construction ... a barn typical of land called 'Horreo' ... eventually traded very expensive ... for being very difidil to find in large sizes or replaced or have to increase the budget for labor ... but it is a very popular wood in the construction of furniture, my family made ​​a living with it ... I am dedicated to the Carpentry and Joinery Teaching ... but I try to remind my students that this wood is almost like our genes ...

Sorry for the translation. greetings Colleague

Hola Colega ...

Mi tierra es Asturias, en España ... aqui se dice que el Castaño lo iniciaron los Romanos ... eso es parte de la historia ... pero tradicionalmente se utiliza para construcción exterior ... un granero tipico de la tierra llamado 'Horreo' ... con el tiempo se cotiza muy caro ... por ser muy difidil de encontrar en dimensiones grandes o se sustituye o se tiene que aumentar el presupuesto, por la mano de obra ... pero es una madera muy apreciada en la construcción de muebles, mi familia se ganaba la vida con ello ... yo me dedico a la Docencia de Carpintería y Ebanistería ... pero trato de recordar a mis alumnos que esa madera es casi como nuestros genes ...

perdona por la traducción. Saludos Colega

djy said...

Hey Tipo...

Did you know that Chestnut was a very popular wood for barn construction in the United States at one time? Readily available then, and it is a fairly easy wood to work, is my guess as to the reason for it being used. The trees disappeared quickly after the disease entered the country.

Has the "Chestnut Blight" disease invaded Spain? So far we are ok in my part of the world. The tree is still abundant.

Regards,
Dennis

XUANXON said...

Hey Dude ...

brings us a problem, but that may not be your biggest problem ... slow growth and profitability makes unpleasant for cultivation in forestry ... I send a reference of the same ...

http://ria.asturias.es/RIA/bitstream/123456789/218/1/el% 20chancro% 20of% 20castano.pdf


... greetings Colleague


Hola Colega ...

algun problema nos acarrea, pero puede que ese no sea su principal problema ... su crecimiento es lento y su rentabilidad lo hace poco agradable para su cultivo en silvicultura ... te mando una referencia del mismo ...

http://ria.asturias.es/RIA/bitstream/123456789/218/1/el%20chancro%20del%20castano.pdf


... Saludos Colega