In the early 1900s, the American chestnut provided timber unrivaled in quality. Straight-grained and strong, easy to work and rot resistant, chestnut lumber was used for everything from structural barn beams to furniture.
That time is gone. It is estimated one out of four trees in Appalachian forests was an American chestnut prior to the arrival of the deadly chestnut blight, a fungal disease that destroys the bark tissues. Though it’s believed the fungus was introduced in the late 1800s, carried over on the boughs of blight-resistant Asian chestnut trees, the first recorded incident was in 1904 at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The blight moved outward at a remarkable pace, killing an estimated four billion trees. Today, all that is believed to remain of this once grand species is fewer than 100 large trees with girths of more than 24 inches.
But thanks to developments in genetics and plant pathology, the chestnut can reign again. Established in 1983 by a group of scientists, The American Chestnut Foundation is leading the way in restoring the tree to its native range within the woodlands of the eastern United States using a scientific research and breeding program known as backcrossing. The technique cross-pollinates the American chestnut with the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut. The first generation hybrids are then bred back with American trees, diluting the foreign genes and bringing the native ones to the fore. The result is a tree that looks like an American chestnut, but is blight resistant.
Native to eastern North America, and found from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Minnesota and Texas, white oak is a long-lasting tree. Specimens are known to have lived for more than 600 years. Typically reaching heights of 80 to 100 feet, with diameters of 36 to 48 inches, white oak can develop a massive crown with its lower branches stretching far out above the ground.
Slow growing and relatively rot resistant, white oak was a signature wood used in Gustav Stickley’s mission-style furniture during the turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts Movement. White oaks have cellular structures called tyloses, which prevent water from passing. This leak-proof characteristic is why the wood is often used for making wine and whiskey barrels. Other uses for the hardwood include interior construction and ship building; the most notable vessel was the USS Constitution, also known as Old Iron Sides, built in 1794.
A native of North America, the red oak grows in slightly acidic soil from southeastern Canada to Alabama and as far west as Oklahoma. In forests, the tree grows straight and tall, upward of 115 feet with a trunk diameter up to three feet. Open-grown trees do not get as tall, but can develop a stouter trunk up to six feet in diameter.
The red oak’s stout branches grow at right angles to the stem, forming a narrow, rounded crown. It grows rapidly and is tolerant of many soils and varied situations, although it prefers well-drained stream borders. Hailed as one of the most important oaks for timber production in North America, the wood is highly valued for its interior uses. Lacking the tyloses indicative of white oak, the red oak’s wood grain is porous.
The walnut tree is one of the most versatile hardwoods on the planet. In addition to yielding exceptionally tasty nuts, its timber is treasured by carpenters and sculptors alike. Walnut trees are hard to miss. A mature tree can tower up to 100 feet with a leaf canopy stretching up to 70 feet. The tree is also very durable, with some living 200 years. There are nearly two dozen types of walnut trees in the world, though most are native to the United States. Walnut trees are predominantly grown in North America, with California being the largest purveyor of the trees. It takes 10 growing seasons for most walnut trees to produce mature fruit.
A species native to eastern North America, white ash or American ash populates areas as far north as Canada and south to northern Florida. Light colored, dense wood makes white ash a highly desirable material. Used to make baseball bats and furniture, white ash must be cultivated carefully to keep up with abundant industrial demand.
Unlike its green ash cousin, white ash prefers the nutritive soil of a healthy forest biome and does not thrive in disturbed understory or urban settings. White ash also stands apart with a colorful autumnal display of bright oranges and reds whereas the green ash yellows only.
The Asian emerald ash borer poses a great threat to the ash species, wiping out entire populations with speed. Yet due to relatively modest numbers, white ash is somewhat slower to succumb to the ash borer as the beetle moves more efficiently through larger, less isolated ash populations. A future of uncertainty, white ash is in need of diligent cultivation and responsible harvest.
Our reclaimed lumber is sourced locally from Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and West Virginia. All of the structures slated for reclamation have been deemed a liability and unsafe by the landowner. After a thorough inspection of the structure, and calculating the usable board feet of the material, a deal is struck and the dismantling process begins. Depending on the season and the conditions, our team of reclamation experts will often camp on-site, dismantling the structure board by board, carefully removing each iron nail one at a time, taking extra care not to damage the lumber in the process. The lumber is then kiln dried to stabilize the moisture content to between six to eight percent while also exterminating any unwanted insects that might otherwise destroy the wood over time. Once received, the lumber is then sorted by length and condition and carefully racked and placed in inventory.
BLUE RIDGE HERITAGE BARN WOOD
As barns that stood proudly on family land for generations become unsafe structurally, The Old Wood Co. carefully restores their charm and integrity. It is with great care and pride that, board by board, we unearth the history of these treasured iconic structures. It’s like unwrapping a present, removing the layers of dust and dirt to reveal the beauty of an oldgrowth piece of lumber. Once exposed, the lumber will showcase all of it’s history. Nail holes represent the original construction purpose of the material, worm holes, highlight the vulnerability of the wood to the outside elements; tight knots, showcase the continued growth and strength of the tree; growth rings tell the age and seasonal pattern of the tree’s growth; unique grain patterns explain how the board was originally milled, mostly for the best yield of material—these are the traits that make working with reclaimed lumber so intriguing and interesting.
Due to the nature of our reclaimed lumber, knots, nail and worm holes, multiple gain patterns, finish variances (including those within a single piece or between two or more pieces) and other natural characteristics are to be expected and add character to the pieces. Actual wood samples, website photos, and brochure photos will vary slightly from the actual finish that is received due to the unique nature of our wood finishes. Due to the live edge treatment on some designs, table depths may vary within one to two inches.