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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Weathered Chestnut Vases

American Chestnut Vase
The American chestnut tree, once a major component species of the eastern forest, was tragically wiped out by an accidental introduction of a fungal blight in the first years of the 1900's. Our chestnut had not evolved with this fungus, and had no resistance to it; thus, it succumbed quickly to the blight, which raced through the eastern U.S. forests. By about the 1950's, the American chestnut tree was virtually gone. Its root system is not killed by the blight, so the chestnut is still sprouting new above-ground growth in the forests, but despite that, the new saplings are quickly infected by the blig
ht, and die off. Repeated sproutings sap the energy of the roots, and eventually they peter out too.

Chestnut wood is highly rot resistant, so the remains of long-dead trees are still occasionally found on the forest floor, though they're usually pretty far gone now. Here in central New England, I still find small bits of the once great trees in the woods. Most people would never give these weathered remnants a second look, not realizing they're all that's left in the forest of a cherished, historic American species. Those who are aware of the significant part that chestnut played in the building of America are delighted to see and handle a piece of its weathered remains when I show it to them; their eyes brighten and a look of wonder and awe washes across their face.

When I find such pieces of chestnut in the woods, they're often too far gone to make much of anything from them, so I leave them there in their surface graves. But once in a while, thanks to the chestnut's impressive decay resistance, a piece is sound enough to make into a rustic vase. Pieces like that go home with me to become a treasure for someone who will appreciate it for what it is, and was-- truly a part of early American history.

I just recently found a remnant branch of chestnut that was thankfully suspended above the forest floor, so it hadn't totally rotted away yet; as resistant as the wood is, it doesn't last forever out there in the elements.

The characteristic appearance of weathered chestnut is unique, and instantly recognizable to me. Beneath the grizzled surface is the highly prized, warm glow of American chestnut wood, as sound as ever in some cases.

The few "fencepost" vases that I can glean from this most recent find will be available on the Timberturner website. 

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