We inherited a load of old wood, beams, planks, just the normal jumble that accumulates on a property over time and here in Galicia you usually buy all this as well.
I started to become intrigued with chestnut. All the Galicians always told me how tough it is, no problem with woodworm and properly used only ever the outside half inch of a beam might be affected or season.
Highly seasoned chestnut is tougher but still more flexible and forgiving than oak.
So here is what I do (may not best method but hey, it works).
When you handle some of the wood you will soon realise the difference between still some weight (life) in then or totally gone. I usually start by cutting one end off – about 20 centimeters or 8 inch. This gives you an insight and whilst sawing it electric or “al mano” you will get a feel for the toughness (believe me!).
So I bought a reasonable cheap electric plane. Talking to the guy in my favorite tool supply shop he said “well start with a cheaper one you will need to work a bit more as you can’t take off so much in one go, but if you get it wrong or break it, well its cheaper to replace”. True, you will hit nails or metal and you may, just may cut the cord.
Nails – if you are not able to draw them out or drive them through and they break, I use an old flat philips head screwdriver to drive them in. It does leave a hole but it’s old timber anyway. You see the cut end, this one is very, very well seasoned and tougher than old boots.
About an hours worth of planing later. A beautiful beam presents itself. This is one an interior designer would sell his grandma for.
As this is going to be semi outside soÂ I left some rougher edges. Applying teak oil (which is just boiled linseed oil between you and me) brings out the grain and structure and re-ages it a bit so it doesnt look odd in our place.
Here is another example why fence posts may look to be on their last leg, but actually you can easily still tie your donkey to them. This is used as a step so I had to plane a slight hunch off, showing that any deterioration is just about 1cm deep.
So if you have some “old” wood laying around it is well worth to examine it closer and with a bit work on a not too hot day the result may just be stunning.
Old chestnut – great chestnut.