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Spanish Chestnut Castanea sativa

Spanish chestnut is often described as poor man's oak, because it is strong and durable. However, it is neither as easy to use nor as well figured. Preferred to horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Spanish chestnut has no obvious medullary rays, and plain-sawn faces resemble dark European ash (Fraxinus excelsior). As can be seen from the growth of the bark in the living tree, the grain is straight or spiraling, but tends not to be as interlocking as you might imagine.

Type Temperate hardwood
Other names European sweet chestnut, C. vesca
Similar species American chestnut (C. dentata) Alternatives Oak (Quercus species), ash (Fraxinus sylvatica and F. excelsior), elm (Ulmus hollandica and U. americana)
Sources Europe and the Asian part of Turkey
Color The heartwood ranges from straw colored to brown.
Texture Coarse
Grain Usually straight but sometimes spiraling
Hardness Hard
Weight Medium, but much lighter than oak (34 lb./cu. ft.) (540 kg/cu. m)
Strength Moderate
Seasoning and stability Liable to checks, splits and honeycombing, and generally slow and difficult to season. But once seasoned it doesn't move much.
Wastage Potentially high with splits, checks or other defects Range of board widths Good
Range of board thicknesses Should be good, but may depend on yard
Durability Medium, but some insects attack it and the heartwood won't take preservative.

Though it can be used for decorative veneer, Spanish chestnut is used largely as a secondary lumber, as an alternative to oak. Its most common use is for coffins.

There are more common hardwoods in Europe, but as the sweet chestnut is valued for its nuts, its future should not be under threat. There is no real need to buy certified lumber.

Spanish chestnut is not widely available, but neither is it expensive for a hardwood.

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Updated: 12/2017   copyright 2011 Rowecraft