What Is Chestnut Wood?

Chestnut comes in different species and varieties, how do we identify the true chestnut pieces? Many crafters, carvers, and woodworkers are keen to know this considering the wide range of applications of the wood. Like many hardwoods, chestnut has its pros and cons.

Here’s what I learned from years of research:

What Is Chestnut Wood?

Chestnut wood is a hardwood that originates from North America. The wood belongs to the Fagaceae or beech family and comes from the dicot tree group like oak, ash, and maple. Chestnut wood is easy to work with. It’s straight-grained, spiral, or interlocked. Its applications include home and barn construction, furniture and cabinet making, carving, turning, burning, and more.

In addition to looking at chestnut wood, this article will treat the following areas:

  • Pros and cons of chestnut wood
  • Properties of chestnut: origin odor, identification, price, workability, and more
  • Chestnut wood types: American chestnut, Chinese chestnut, Japanese chestnut
  • Applications of chestnut: smoking meat, carving, burning, turning, making furniture, and home construction
  • FAQs 

We’ll explore other areas to detail everything about chestnut wood, nuts, and trees. 

Let’s get started.

Property characteristics

FamilyFagaceae, beech family
Scientific name(s)genus Castanea
Origin/DistributionNorth America/ Europe and Asia Minor
Color Brown
Odor No characteristic odor
Diameter5 ft
Log Durability Durable
Specific gravity 50, .59
Janka hardness 680 lbf (3,010 N)
Rupture Modulus10,360 lbf/in2 (71.4 MPa)
Crushing Strength6,360 lbf/in2 (43.8 MPa)
Elastic Modulus1,248,000 lbf/in2 (8.61 GPa)
Coeff. of volumetric shrinkage12.6%, T/R
Total tangential shrinkage (TS)6.9%
Total radial shrinkage (RS)4.2%, 
TS/RS ratio1.6

Origin & History

Originally, chestnut wood came from North America. However, there are varieties of trees that come from Europe and Asia Minor. 


The natural heartwood of chestnut wood comes with a color range of light to medium brown. The inner color changes however to a reddish hue as it ages and when exposed to air and Ultraviolet rays (UV). However, the outer part of the wood can be pale white or light to dark brown.   


American chestnut wood is slightly difficult to recognize. Overall, there are more than 15 species of chestnut wood, with some disguising as true chestnut woods. As a hardwood, chestnut features heartwood and sapwood. It is usually identifiable with its height and width of 20 m and 10 m respectively. 

Chestnut Tree

What Does Chestnut Wood Look Like?

Generally, comes with a straight-grained pattern. You may find some pieces that feature knots, interlocks or spirals. The spiral or interlocked-grained pieces are rare and not readily available. Since the chestnut wood comes from the dicot tree group like oak and maple, it’s relatively low density. 

Durability and Treatability

Chestnut wood is one of the most durable woods on the market. This is why it is used for almost everything. It can withstand not only rot but the elements. Its relatively softer hard property will quickly adapt to glue and nails. This is why wood is an excellent option for furniture.   


Apart from the typical health risks associated with wood, chestnut wood has no specific complications. Skin and eye irritation is what is common to all woods. However, chestnut is not recommended for smoking meat and burning due to the release of rotten odor.  


Overall, chestnut wood works well with hands and machine tools. Its low Janka hardness value of 540 lbf makes it compatible with many tools. It won’t blunt your tools or cause serious damage to the hand. You must be careful when glueing or nailing screws to the wood since it splits easily.  


As it stands, chestnut wood is 100% conservable and sustainable. The cut stools of the species can regrow vigorously and be reclaimed rapidly. The regrown chestnut wood tree can absorb more CO2 than a typical freshly planted chestnut seedling will. If correctly done, chestnut trees can deliver excellent yields for years on a rotational basis.  

Pros and Cons of Chestnut Wood


  • Straight-grained pattern for construction 
  • Split easily and easy to work with
  • Highly durable and rot-resistant
  • Versatile application: home and barn construction, flooring, utility poles, railroad ties, cabinet and furniture
  • Not harmful, food-safe, and ideal for carving and turning
  • Cost-effective: it costs between $15-$20 per board foot
  • Works well for outdoor and indoor uses: 
  • Easy to stain and finish


  • Chestnut can be hazy and difficult to identify
  • Splits easily (this can be a benefit in some instances)
  • Relatively pricey compared to its Janka hardness value

How long does chestnut wood take to grow?

On average, it can take between three to five years for most varieties of chestnut trees to start to mature and produce nuts. However, the harvest may start coming in as early as the first two years, but it’s only applicable to grafted saplings. It’s tolerant to frost and sandy soil and requires a planting spacing of 10 to 20 feet, moderate water, and a planting depth of 3 inches. 

What does chestnut wood smell like?

No characteristic odor but it has been argued that many people refuse to use chestnut wood to smoke meat or burn it because it releases odor similar to rotten meat. But overall, the wood has no distinguishable smell. 


Typically, you will need between $15 and $20 to be able to buy a square foot of chestnut. However, the price depends on a number of things such as a seller, wood standard, and species. 

Chestnut wood types

1. American chestnut wood

What is American chestnut wood?

American chestnut is a type of deciduous tree native to temperate regions. It has a straight grain pattern. It boasts a Janka hardness value of 540 lbf, equivalent to or less than the Janka of many softwoods and hardwoods. The chestnut wood originates from North America but has been distributed to Europe and Asia. It contains sapwood and heartwood with pale white and light brown colors respectively.

Can I plant an American chestnut?

Yes, you can plant an American chestnut tree. What is important is that you must start your planting early in the spring. You must also plant the seed directly in the ground rather than nursing them. While sowing, make the flat side face down and about 2.5m deep in the ground. 

Are there still American chestnut trees left?

Yes, there are still American chestnut trees left. As of writing, there are more than 430 million American chestnut trees still currently growing in different regions. Although they are small in diameter you can identify them in their native range depending on what you know about them.

How to identify American chestnut wood?

The American chestnut wood is pretty easy to identify apart from being a hardwood. It features sapwood with a color range of pale white to light or dark brown. The heartwood of American chestnut is a light to medium brown part of the wood. The color can change over time due to exposure to insects and UV light. 

What is American chestnut wood used for?

At the earliest times, American chestnut wood was used for a wide range of things. Today, the applications of this wood have expanded. The wood is used for home and barn construction and flooring. You can also make furniture, boats, telephone poles, piers, fences, and shingles with American chestnut wood. Mostly, the reclaimed wormwood and wood are suitable for cabinets and furniture. 

How Much is American Chestnut Wood worth per Board Foot?

On average, with a price range of $15 to 20, you can buy a board foot of reclaimed American chestnut wood. However, the price ranges from sellers to sellers, regions to regions, and wood standards to wood standards.  

2. Japanese Chestnut Wood

What is Japanese chestnut wood?

Also known as Korean Castanea or Korean chestnut, the Japanese chestnut wood is a type of chestnut wood that originates from and is native to Korea and Japan. It has a maximum height range of 10 to 15 m. This small to medium-sized deciduous plant has the same tree and leaf structures as the sweet chestnut. 

Is Japanese chestnut a hardwood?

Yes, the Japanese or Korean chestnut wood is hardwood, like oak, maple, ash, and American chestnut. However, with a Janka hardness value of 820 lbf, we can conclude that the Japanese chestnut is softer than many softwoods. This low Janka hardness makes the Japanese not suitable for furniture and flooring.   

What can horse chestnut wood be used for?

Horse chestnut is best used for turning. So, if you are on the lookout for the best chestnut wood pick to turn your storage utensils, including bowls, horse chestnut is the go-to guy. The chestnut is also suitable for turning kitchen utensils, racket grips, broom handles, and toys. It will help store your fruit for a long time without spoiling.  

Is horse chestnut wood poisonous?

No, there are no health complications or irritation associated with horse chestnut. You can use the horse chestnut to turn your storage tools that can store your fruit. But be on the lookout for eye and skin irritation that’s the standard health risk of using wood.  

3. European chestnut wood

European chestnut wood originates from and is indigenous to Europe. It comes with Castanea sativa as its scientific name and a specific gravity of 0.5. The wood is used for making cabinets, furniture, architectural millwork, veneers, and wood carving. This species can also be called Spanish chestnut or sweet chestnut.

In addition, the chestnut is a great substitute for American chestnut wood due to the similarity in color and grain properties. The European chestnut lumber’s grade is available in flitch cut materials. What’s more, the chestnut is readily available in tan to yellow to light brown color. It boasts an average weight per board foot of 3.00lb/bf.  

4. Chinese chestnut wood

As the name implies, Chinese chestnut wood is a family of hardwood native to China, Korea, and Taiwan. It has a Janka hardness value of 680 lbf and maximum width and height of 10 m and 20 m respectively. The Chinese chestnut tree has an annual growth rate of about 12-inch to 24-inch. The Chinese chestnut produces highly demanded edible nuts. The wood is highly durable and boasts great resistance to rot and termites. This makes the wood a perfect option for woodworkers and joiners who choose to make furniture and cabinets. Its straight grain pattern and uniform texture support the wood’s ability to work well as a wood material for construction. It’s good to work and splits easily.   

Application: What is chestnut wood used for?

1. Furniture

Is chestnut wood good for furniture?

Absolutely! Chestnut is one of the best woods you can use to make furniture. With chestnut wood, you can easily glue and put your nail. This is due to the wood’s modest Janka hardness value, high rot resistance and straight-grained property.  

What color is chestnut furniture?

The natural color of chestnut furniture is brown. It should be noted that the American chestnut wood can appear in a wide shade of colors, ranging from a pale white to medium brown. As the furniture ages, the color hue turns reddish.   

Does chestnut stain well?

Yes, chestnut stains well with evenly spread color. If you’re in search of the best woods to stain, chestnut be will top. As the wood grows and ages, its rich medium brown color will turn dark. This is due to exposure to UV light and moisture.  

Is chestnut wood durable?

Yes, chestnut wood should be one of the topmost woods to choose when looking for a durable wood material that will endure for a long time. Although lightweight, the wood can withstand all the shenanigans of moisture, rot, termite, and UV light. However, the outer part of the wood (sapwood) is prone to infestation.   

Does chestnut wood rot?

No, chestnut wood is in a league of its own when it comes to resistance to rot. The wood contains a lot of tannins and very little sapwood (outer part). The tannin serves as a preservative for the wood to hold out against rot and stay strong for a long time. 

Is chestnut water-resistant?

Certainly, chestnut wood is highly resistant to water and moisture. It is extremely hard and heavy and won’t absorb water easily. Besides, the wood is rigid and durable while featuring incredible protection against wear. The grain visuals of the wood are amazing.  

How to build a table of old chestnut wood?

  • Cut the wood into pieces
  • Measure the size of the leg and dimension of the top surface of the table Sand the wood with fine-grit sandpaper
  • Remove the surface sanding dust
  • Apply coat and allow it to dry
  • Fix the legs and other parts, using strong nails and glues
  • Spray the surface with a fine lacquer finish

What is the Best Finish for Walnut Wood?

The best finish for walnut wood is lacquer. The choice of lacquer is a no-brainer. The finish dries fast to touch and you’ll only apply two layers of the finish to your walnut wood to get a near-perfect job. Besides, lacquer is known to be user and surface-friendly and you can use a pressurized or airless spray applicator to apply the finish.   

2. Guitars

Using chestnut wood as a tonewood can be tricky. The concern is always about its stability. But with adequate and careful drying time, this wood will produce amazing guitar spines and sides. At least, a 5-year drying time is recommended to get the best result. In addition, you will also have to season the wood very well before you use it.   

3. Smoking

As we may not recommend chestnut wood for burning so it may not the best pick for smoking. When you burn chestnut wood, it gives off some smell liken to rotten meat. Being a hearty hardwood that can easily resist decay, chestnut won’t make a good choice for smoking. You may still smoke with the wood but if you find an alternative, go for it.   

4. Burning

Chestnut wood isn’t one of the best woods for burning because releases some rotten smell similar to bad meat. However, you can still burn your firewood with chestnut wood. The other downside of using chestnut wood for burning is the energy-sapping pain and time it takes to cut down the wood and stack it.   

5. Carving

Typically, American chestnut is ring-porous. The pores in the spring provide the wood with a beautiful grain pattern that’s needed for carving. The carving tools steadily and easily dig into the porous layer of the wood. Besides, the wood can split easily. The icing on the cake is that recycled chestnut wood’s non-uniform.   

6. Turning

If you’re looking at turning your broom handles, racket grips, toys, kitchen utensils, or any other storage objects, choosing horse chestnut lumber is a perfect idea. Chestnut woodworks excellently for turning bowls for fruit. The reason is simple. Chestnut boasts incredible moisture absorption capacity, which reinforces its readiness to store your fruit for a longer time. 

7. Woodworking

Chestnut wood is specifically prized for woodworking. It comes with a fine and straight grain, making it incredibly suitable for all kinds of woodworking jobs. Unlike oak, maple, or ash, horse chestnut is relatively softer, making it somewhat great for woodworking purposes. Meanwhile, the wood’s low density can give off a fuzzy texture on your project’s surface. 

Chestnut wood vs. oak 

Both oak and chestnut woods come from the same dicot tree family and this makes them hardwoods, like walnut, ash, and maple. However, oak boasts higher resistance to denting and scratching than a typical chestnut. Most parts of chestnut wood have a lot of economic benefits than an oak. But if you have to put a nail or screw into oak and chestnut wood, you’ll need more force in the former than in the latter. This is because red oak has a Janka hardness of 1,290 lbf (5,700 N) as against chestnut with 540 lbf (2,400 N).  

Chestnut wood vs. walnut wood 

Chestnut wood and walnut belong to the dicot group, making them both hardwoods. However, a black walnut wood has a higher Janka hardness value of 1,010 lbf (4,500 N) than a chestnut of 540 lbf (2,400 N). This means chestnut wood is less strong than its walnut counterpart. It also means that walnut wood has an edge when it comes to resilience and resistance

You will need more force to embed small steel into the surface of your walnut wood than you would need if you’re working with chestnut wood. Chestnut wood is more susceptible to scratching and denting than a walnut.  


Is chestnut wood valuable?

Yes, chestnut wood is highly valuable and rare. They are valuable raw materials in the construction of a home, making cabinets and furniture, musical instruments, utility poles, and railroad ties. The chestnut trees also produce healthy edible nuts safe for eating and that can also serve as seedlings for replanting. Besides, the wood’s durable and highly resistant to rot, termites, and moisture. 

Is chestnut tree softwood?

No, chestnut wood is all hardwoods. Generally, softwood is a byproduct of gymnosperm trees, including cedar and fir. However, chestnut wood comes from the dicot tree group. It behaves like other hardwoods such as ash, walnut, maple, oak, and cherry.  

Is chestnut wood extinct?

Technically, one can say that the chestnut wood has gone virtually into extinction. Yet, we cannot categorically say that chestnut wood is extinct. It’s to be said that chestnut wood refers to wood not from a tree, but a family of trees. However, it no longer exists as lumber and species of nut crops. 

Are chestnut trees making a comeback?

Yes, with the evolution of science, the comeback of the range of chestnut wood is practically possible. The efforts of the American Chestnut Foundation are yielding results through its 3B United for Restoration (Breeding, Biotech, and Biocontrol).  

Can I grow a chestnut tree from a chestnut?

Yes, the easiest and best way to grow a chestnut tree is to plant the chestnut. In fact, more than 90% of the seedlings germinate to produce the chestnut tree. For this to happen you must get healthy chestnuts from a tree that’s at least 10-years-old. Make sure you plan in the sunny spring on well-draining soil. 

What wood is similar to chestnut?

The wood that looks chestnut and can serve as an alternative is the oak wood. Oak has a similar straight grain as the oak. It comes in a wide variety of natural hues. If you cannot find an oak, black walnut will be another better option that is similar to chestnut. 

How can you tell if chestnuts are edible?

An edible chestnut is known by its color, shape of the base, and cap. Chestnut can be edible if it comes with a shiny brown color. The bottom must be flat-shaped and have a pointed top. Once you notice that the point at the top is missing, avoid eating the nuts as they are no more edible.

Which chestnuts are edible?

Not all types of chestnuts are edible. Only the chestnuts that are from the genus Castanea class are edible. They must come sheathed in sharp, spine-wrapped blurs. Although both edible and inedible nuts are brown, the edible ones come with a tassel. 

Are wild chestnuts safe to eat?

Yes, they belong to the Castanea genus family. But while cultivated wild chestnuts are good for eating, their horse chestnuts are inedible. This latter category has a higher level of toxicity. They can cause serious throat irritation and digestive disorders, including abdominal pain. 

Final words

Chestnut wood has many benefits for woodworkers, joiners, carvers, object turners, and furniture makers. It is also an excellent raw material for building construction, railroad tiles, utility poles, and musical instruments.

The information and helpful tips contained in this article about chestnut wood will help you make an informed decision the next time you carry out a project.

With the aggressive mission of the 3BUR, American chestnuts are looking to make a comeback and lasting impression in the plant kingdom. There’s nothing not significant for use in the chestnut tree, particularly the lumber will help woodworkers a great deal.

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