» Horse chestnut
Sweet chestnut, European Chestnut
The sweet chestnut is widespread throughout central and southern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. It originates probably from Asia but has been known in Europe for many hundreds of years. Its distribution is similar to that of the grape, although individual trees can be found in northern areas too. The sweet chestnut is also to be found in the warmer Mediterranean areas, in Switzerland and South and West France and is characteristic of the landscape there.
It grows to a height of 20 to 25 metres, its stem continues to grow thicker even when it has stopped growing taller. The trees are ripe for felling between 80 and 120 years of age.
The sapwood and heartwood are clearly distinguishable from one another. The thin sapwood is grey-white to yellow-white in colour, the heartwood yellowish-brown to light-brown and darkens with age. A typical characteristic of the sweet chestnut is the large pores of the springwood that are clearly visible on the end-grain. They are also apparent as ridges in the long-section. The pores of the summerwood are much finer and barely visible. The longitudinal section is either clearly striped (radial cut - see picture) or with a wavy grain (cross cut). A characteristic of chestnut wood is the lack of wood rays on the end-grain, which for instance by oak are clearly visible.
The sweet chestnut bears no relation to the horse chestnut. Both trees belong to different botanical families and the properties of their wood are very different.
The wood of the sweet chestnut is fairly dense and hard. It is generally described as strong and elastic. The wood does not shrink considerably and is stable once dry.
The heartwood of the sweet chestnut has a good natural durability, even when exposed directly to the elements or the earth. Under water, the sweet chestnut has proven to be one of the most durable woods. It has a high content of tannic acid.
The wood dries only very slowly and has a tendency to crack and warp, which means that drying must be undertaken with great care.
Wood of the sweet chestnut can be worked with most tools and machines. It is straightforward to drill, plane, mill and sand. It is also often used for carving and turning. It is easy to split, a property that is exploited in making barrel staves. For the same reason it is recommended not to nail the end-section of sweet chestnut. The high tannic acid content leads to chemical reactions when in contact with iron. Stainless steel nails and screws are recommended.
Surface finishing presents no problems; it can be stained or painted.
Sweet chestnut is available as round or sawn timber, sometimes as veneer.
Other names: true chestnut, Edible chestnut, Marron
- (Wine) Caskets, Barrels
- Poles and posts
- Stairs, flooring, parquet
- Interior furnishings, furniture
- Carving and turning
- Gardening, Wood tiling, playing grounds
- Hydraulic engineering