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Horse Chestnut wood - anyone used it?

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Eric The Viking

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I think we're going to lose a few locally this year, probably to fungus. They're on the Downs nearby and not looking at all well. So, in the interests of getting something useful out of a disaster, I was wondering about the wood, if/when they come down.

The Forestry Commission web site says this: The wood of horse chestnut tends to be rather weak and for this reason has never been used widely, although it has absorbent properties which make it ideal for fruit racks and storage trays as it keeps the fruit dry and so prevents rotting.

I know it's not liked as a general purpose timber, but has anyone actually used it? If so for what and how did you get on?

Cheers,

E.

PS: The Forestry Commission also say there are fewer than half a million individuals in the UK. That's a lot fewer than I expected. I can't believe they're endangered, but apparently there are a few nasty fungi on the increase at the moment.
 

chipmunk

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Hi Eric,
I've turned several bowls in horse chestnut. It turns very easily and because it's so soft it's easy to turn it thin.

It can be very boring to look at though because the grain isn't very visible although I do believe that the burrs and spalting can be pretty special though. I seem to recall a bowl by Bert Marsh that combined the two to good effect.

HTH
Jon
 

stuartpaul

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Also known as 'poor mans oak' and apparently a very good outdoor timber.

I know a cabinet maker who has just made all his replacement windows from it and expects them to outlast him!

I've only used a small amount but found it easy to work with sharp tools.
 

Richard T

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When habitat were selling 1' square lumps of Oak for £100 a go, I cut a block out of a big crotch of conker to try to emulate them. It has split and moved all over the place in the years since and is no longer its original dimensions but is a great feature an currently supports the X box in a very stable way.

It was very soft to work - we used to get a lot of conker boughs just falling off under their own weight when coming into leaf and I can remember boughs breaking in the middle as I lifted them on to the lorry. Very weak. When green it smells like wee - I'm not talking this up very well am I?

Stuart, could the "poor man's Oak" refer to Sweet Chestnut?

Eric, there has been the dreaded Red Canker in the last few years that has really hit them hard here.
 

CHJ

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Not found any I've tried very inspiring for turning, soft, rather bland, readily marks with a fingernail when finished.
The opposite end of the spectrum to Sweet Chestnut.
 

Phil Pascoe

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stuartpaul":inbqi02q said:
Also known as 'poor mans oak' and apparently a very good outdoor timber.

I know a cabinet maker who has just made all his replacement windows from it and expects them to outlast him!

I've only used a small amount but found it easy to work with sharp tools.
I suspect you mean chestnut, not horse chestnut. Chestnut looks like oak in lots of ways, and is quite weather resistant - horse chestnut doesn't and isn't.
 

Eric The Viking

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Interesting, this.

After a bit more research, I found out they're not native, but were introduced around 400 years ago from Greece or the Balkans. Christopher Wren arranged for one of the first avenues of them to be planted in Bushy Park (Hampton Court).

It sounds like the wood's not that useful, and some web sites point out branches can split off with little or no warning, implying the wood's not that strong.

Still wondering if anyone's made anything from them, apart from turning, that is...

E.
 

Sgian Dubh

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phil.p":2l3i755y said:
I suspect you mean chestnut, not horse chestnut. Chestnut looks like oak in lots of ways, and is quite weather resistant - horse chestnut doesn't and isn't.
More specifically phil, I think you are referring to Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa of the Beech or Fagaceae family. Slainte.
 

chipmunk

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It also oozes lots and lots of watery sap unless felled in the winter.

Unless it has any figure, save it for firewood and work with something else.

Jon
 

Eric The Viking

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I've emailed the Downs' Ranger responsible, and got a friendly reply.

By coincidence they're doing their six-monthly round on Wednesday (him plus an arboriculturist*), and are going to check the unhappy specimen. We'll see what comes of it.

If it is coming down I may yet grab a bit to play with, if they'll let me.

Fascinating thread, this. Should we widen it to "Species I wouldn't touch with a bargepole" ?

E.

*there's a mouthful. You can see why "I'm a tree surgeon" goes better at parties.
 

dickm

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Can confirm the way branches from Horse Chestnut can suddenly drop. Years back happened to glance out of office window (well, it might have been more of a gaze :D ) and a branch about 6" diameter just dropped out of one of the trees opposite the office with no warning at all. Right on to the pedestrian walkway, so could have been really nasty. The then head groundsman was always vigilant about dangers like this, but had obviously missed any overt symptoms.
 

stuartpaul

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phil.p":1nmp0h1g said:
stuartpaul":1nmp0h1g said:
Also known as 'poor mans oak' and apparently a very good outdoor timber.

I know a cabinet maker who has just made all his replacement windows from it and expects them to outlast him!

I've only used a small amount but found it easy to work with sharp tools.
I suspect you mean chestnut, not horse chestnut. Chestnut looks like oak in lots of ways, and is quite weather resistant - horse chestnut doesn't and isn't.
Oops :oops:

RTFQ as my old man used to say!
 

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