Why is coppicing a must and not a threat? First of all, what is a coppice forest?
The coppice forest is the result of one of the many known cultivation forms of woods, which is based on the typical feature of many broadleaf trees to produce new stems from the stump, once it is cut. This is a millenary tradition that has allowed – and still allows – the use of woody and mineral raw materials.
People who observe a coppice-governed forest are impressed by the “luck of green” that results from it, but they don’t actually know what they’re seeing: coppicing means controlling and ensuring a healthy growth of vegetation by promoting a continuous and abundant flow of nutrients to the main plants, called Matricina.
These Matricina provide the necessary regeneration to replace aged stumps that have lost their polliniferous capacity, provide biodiversity through pollination, and help prevent soil erosion by maintaining some degree of cover at all times.
With the specific modalities and in the suitable places indicated by the European regulations, the coppice allows the forest to renew itself very quickly and to develop vigorous stems of 10 meters in a few years with an average of about 1.5 meters every 5 years.
Coppicing is essential to avoid an overabundance of “harmful” stems that would not allow the freshman to develop adequately, increasing the risk of disease and restricting the natural quality of the woody tissue.
The health, maturity and continuous reproduction of the forest is our FIRST objective, indeed our first necessity, not only as producers and manufacturers of buildings, furniture and tools with a natural precious and infinitely recyclable material, but especially as responsible for our presence on this planet.
We must always remember that if we want to fight our current major challenges such as climate change or even the massive abandonment of mountain areas, sustainable forest management is one of our main allies.
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No doubt about it! Exposed wood designed to support or furnish buildings of all kinds (domestic, public, commercial, industrial, sporting …) is a very common choice in the projects of engineers, architects and designers.
Today, as thousands of years ago, men are not immune to the natural charm of wood, so much so that it arouses deep feelings that vary according to the memories of the individual.
Without investigating more in human psychology and the emotional impact of wood on our sensibility (not to mention the sense of smell, which would certainly deserve a separate chapter, or rather a separate tome), the numbers speak for themselves: during the pandemic period from March 2020, production and general trade have recorded negative outcomes, while international demand for wood for structural and furnishing purposes has increased, with a consequent increase in prices of 232% (Fortune Magazine).
Among the needs of the moment, people look for the best solution, in terms of materials, for covering and renovating private and public structures. Not only in Italy, but all over the world and especially in Asian countries, the search for technical quality (resistance) and artistic profile (aesthetics) becomes such a need, sometimes maniacal, but not enough to overshadow the thought of economic commitment.
From the point of view of green design and green building, the demand for structural timber is, therefore, an important reality that leads customers to choose among the best woods at the right price-quality ratio. In the same way, the furniture market shows great interest in wood-desing and craftsmanship, so much that both modern products, where the raw material meets technological evolution, and the classic “hand-crafted” carpentry, are considered for many projects in a global level.
Let’s start with technical features (oak – chestnut)
Among the best wood species selected for these purposes, in the podium of broadleaf plants we can certainly find the chestnut and the durmast oak. Definitely the best choices considering the specific technical properties of both and the respective aesthetic peculiarities that characterize them. The identities of these two timbers are now well known to expert designers around the world, but there are substantial differences that lead us to express a preference.
Before delving into technical differences, it is important to remember that there are many varieties for every species, depending on the habitat identified around them. Chestnut and oak differ geographically according to the natural resources available in the territory, which influence the morphological growth of the plant and, ultimately, the quality of the wood.
A comparison, therefore, is valid since we are examining types with similar values and suitable for high quality standards for application in the structural field and for processing in the furniture sector. here it is, then, the profile of Premium Italian Chestnut (Castanea Sativa or Sweet Chestnut) analyzed in comparison with European Oak (Quercus petrae).
Leaving aside the differences and the morphological similarities of these two plants in their natural state, we will try to deepen the intrinsic peculiarities of the wood and the properties that affect the structural and aesthetic performance.
1. Density and specific weight (oak – chestnut)
Starting from the visual measurements recorded in the performance profiles, both timbers are attributed to class 2 of natural durability of wood (UNI EN 350:2016) as well as similar classes of mechanical strength – However, some analyses prove a higher strength (almost 80% more) of chestnut over oak. Two types of wood which are highly durable and resistant, but an important difference can be found in the post seasoning density: oak, with a specific weight of 960 kg/m³ turns out to be much heavier than chestnut, of 580 kg/m3. With a much lower density, the lightness of chestnut, together with its high resistance, represents one of the great advantages for the structural design of roofs and attics.
2. Hygroscopicity, deformity and expansion (oak – chestnut)
The observation of the specific weight also helps us to understand the ability of wood to react to the load of water inside it. Generally, the wood tends to release most of its moisture during the seasoning period and to manage the water exchange with the surrounding air throughout its use (especially if applied in solid form as structural warping) but not all timbers act in the same way.
The absorption and release of moisture (hygroscopicity) of oak is a relatively slow process due to its microstructure, while in chestnut products the porous and flexible configuration allows a continuous and relevant exchange of water particles even in extreme situations and, among other things, without altering the state of the wood over time.
Talking about deformities, let’s deal with a delicate topic for oak wood which is sensitive to dimensional changes in presence of excessive changes of humidity rate in the environment. Shrinkage and expansion, if intensely manifested, could then lead to structural problems that should be considered and avoided already in the design phase during the choice of the material to be applied.
3. Supply and Sustainability
The geographical distribution of chestnut coppice forests, registered and protected at European level, allows a precise and immediate identification of the best silvicolture, thus facilitating the supply of the selected quality. Premium Italian Chestnut comes from certified and recognized cultivations according to the strict regulations for the woodlands management. The greater attention in safeguarding this resource is justified by its ability to reproduce and develop rapidly.
Therefore, since chestnut trees grow faster than oak trees, the material can be harvested and processed at higher rates, ensuring greater productivity and, at the same time, operating within the permitted limits. In this way, the territory is protected while respecting the standards of environmental sustainability.
4. A thin sapwood and a big heart
Another substantial difference between the two species lies in the formation of sapwood and heartwood in the plants. The chestnut tree has a limited portion of sapwood, in the outer part of the section, characterized by soft and delicate texture, intended for the circulation of sap and water. Sapwood can be easily attacked by fungi and insects and while a chestnut section shows a limited portion, an oak section shows it larger, making handwork more difficult.
Chestnut has, consequently, a more developed inner portion, the heartwood. The hardest part but at the same time with a density favorable to handcrafting. Its resistance guarantees a high protection against fungal and insect attacks, giving an excellent durability both for structural and furnishing applications.
5. The artistic side
“Dulcis in fundo”, the aesthetics of wood product in design projects is a fundamental element. The artistic side of the product is given by the texture and the reaction to light on the surface. Chestnut, when deprived of its excess moisture, gives a much creamier color than oak, with brown streaks, not detectable in oak products. In other cases, the wood can take on a strong ochre color resulting from the high concentration of tannin, very often appreciated in classic and modern style projects.
The grain is actually a real characteristic since it is quite coarse, excellent for large expanses on tables or worktops and absolutely original in structural products, especially when applied in solid form that preserves its natural pattern.
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It is official now, Artena Legnami obtains the CE certification for chestnut matchboards, or better say ”solid chestnut wood boards for flatwise structural use with overlapping edge profiles” (ETA 20/1323).
Our company is one of the first in Italy and in Europe to receive this type of recognition. An innovative certification of international importance, a mark that proves authenticity, quality, origin and efficiency of our products.
Compared to the previous certification (ETA 18/0288), the novelty is in the possibility of marking the matchboard produced in chestnut wood. This is an important result and great pride for all of us, especially because a great contribution to the project comes from our company: our own Guglielmo Lanna who is an expert in this sector, observer on the AssolegnoCouncil and member of theConlegno Technical Committee, has always been one of the main supporters of this project, collaborating with great passion in its conception, development and implementation.
What does CE certification carry?
As it is widely illustrated elsewhere, defining the quality of a material or a product is never simple. The intercession of CE certification, like the one mentioned above, in addition to assessing the consistency of performance and factory production control (in accordance with the requirements), opens up a number of benefits. Without doubts, in the two-year period 2018-2019, the entry on the international scene of the BM Trada Technical Assessment Organization was decisive, through which Italian companies – the first on the continental scene – can produce and CE mark matchboards for structural use, enjoying an exclusive competitive advantage on the market.
As noted on Conlegno’s portal, in section ‘Structural Wood’, “ETA is now the only way to be able to CE mark the matchboards for structural use because, as provided by UNI EN 14081-1 (“Structural wood with rectangular section classified according to the resistance – general requirements”), following the processing undergone to confer the specific profile the starting boards lose the class of resistance. It should be added – it concludes – that this assortment is increasingly requested by private and public customers; it is therefore an important and unmissable opportunity, both at technical and commercial level, which allows only certain companies to be able to provide the market with a product that complies with the Technical Standards for Construction so to affix the CE mark for structural purposes”.
Through the certificate issued by CSI – IMQ Group company classifiable among the top international leaders in the activity of verification of conformity – it is possible, finally, to highlight how ETA offers the possibility to CE mark structural matchboards from conifers and broadleaf trees with thicknesses starting from 18mm and width from 80mm.
The use of structural matchboard: focus on attics and wall coverings
In the building sector, the matchboard, which is a term used to indicate a board of planed wood, with variable thickness and length, depending on the cases, is generally used in the construction of attics, ceilings, loft planks, floors and coatings, both external and internal; the lateral overlapping edges are characterized by two different shapes, called respectively tongue and groove (similar to “male” and “female” which are slang-terms from other countries) can be customized according to different tastes and needs.
About the use of the matchboards for attics, they are components from secondary roof frames together with laths and counter laths. In other contexts, the matchboards can also be applied as a wall covering, opting for different laying methods:
Planking laying: boards placed one on top of other vertically pieces.
Shingle laying: slightly inclined (the upper one overlaps externally on the lower one).
Groove and relief laying: two boards are placed side by side and serve as a base for a third board which is positioned in the middle, above the other two.
More than elegant
In terms of design, the matchboarding embellishes the environment making it pleasant and elegant: it gives a harmonious touch to the structure through the various and possible forms of arrangement: horizontal (boards which are arranged parallel to the floor), vertical (arranged so perpendicular to the floor), oblique (inclined at an angle of 45 degrees) and baseboard (perpendicular to the floor but ending in the middle of the wall against a wooden baseboard).
The versatility of the matchboarding allows, moreover, the creation of structural and furnishing components that can integrate wonderfully with other elements, giving rise to extraordinarily impactful aesthetic results.
In short, the adoption of ETA 18/0288 testifies to Artena Legnami’s strong focus both on innovation and on the continuous search for (and offer of) an excellent product which can be certified, traced and compliant with the strict EU regulations: a perspective , moreover, of combining health and environmental safety – guaranteed by the CE mark – with the development of the Italian structural wood industry.
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From a historical point of view, the cultivation of Chestnut in Italy dates back to the Neolithic era (4000 B.C.), although its widespread diffusion is attributed to the Romans.
In addition to manifesting a full-bodied series of resources in various contexts, with the passing of the centuries the wood in question – including its derivatives – has registered a considerable increase in prestige and value.
Before going through the theme of ‘aesthetics of Chestnut‘, it is necessary to mention the fundamental properties: among the most important characteristics, we highlight the tannin, an antioxidant substance of the family of polyphenols, whose function is to protect the plant from pathogens such as fungi and bacteria, which allows this type of wood to be included in the most-durable list.
Nature meets technology
However, the processes created by mother nature are directly or undirectly added to the hand of man. In order to safeguard, therefore, a product of extreme quality, professionals from this sector rely on the work of machines and the skill of craftsmen, which together qualify, shape and finish the wood for its purpose.
In addition, new technologies, such as specific modern drying furnaces, are used to obtain high quality semi-finished products by optimizing time and resources for greater productivity and to meet a constantly growing demand: through the cooperation of the natural method and the artificial one, it is possible to offer greater stability, guaranteeing a reduction in moisture absorption.
Colors, Shades and Sections
The concept of product quality is inevitably linked to the chromatic character of the Chestnut: the tree is characterized by an intense brown color – it becomes a little darker quickly compared to the American and Japanese Chestnut – reddish and tending to gray, depending on the age of the timber.
An aesthetic aspect of fine workmanship that matches the “micro body structures” of the plant, divided into three sections, transverse, radial and tangential, within which are clearly evident a series of veins, different from each other depending on the cut, which make the Chestnut wood suitable for many applications in which its aesthetic value is appreciated in both rustic style and contemporary design.
Harmony maker: structure and furniture
In the building field, the planking is mainly used for the production of furniture, outdoor furniture, solid wood panels, elements for windows and doors, coatings, indoor and outdoor floors; in some Italian regions, Chestnut wood is traditionally used for the production of floors and windows and doors, where it is appreciated for its decorative aspect.
The fusion between anatomical principles and cutting-edge design elements give life to great artworks, resulting in final products of absolute quality. The peculiarities of chestnut wood allows the creation of structural and furnishing components are integrated together, giving then harmonious aesthetic results.
Whatever the architectural style of a public or private structure, solid chestnut is absolutely one of the best solutions, since it is extraordinarily versatile. In its structural version with trusses, beams, rails and planks, and in its furnishing version with interior-design elements (tables, chairs, sideboards and others), it becomes an important protagonist of indoor and outdoor projects.
Remarking its versatility with the various aesthetic styles, this marvelous essence perfectly matches all design tastes.
Always in our homes: friend of style
In the Rustic style, which brings us back to country atmospheres where the colors of nature and tranquility emerge in the environment. The style, moreover, is linked to the concept of raw material, not finished, another element that we find within this particular stylistic mood, in reference to solid wood products.
With the Modern style, however, tends to delineate the space (the space to give more space) or to contrast the area standing out as a distinctive element. A totally stimulating solution for those who live the structure, with reference to its particular geometries and the connection between the minimal-futuristic and the classical-past.
In the Classical style, timeless par excellence, the chestnut tree succeeds in emphasizing its elegant, luxurious and valuable character: structural elements and furnishings make the environment reminiscent of the historical contexts of Greco-Roman nobility.
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He is tall, long-lived and elegant. No, we don’t want to talk about some umpteenth James Bond or other Hollywood stars, but our favorite character: the Chestnut.
Just like the movies, the world of wood has a lot to reveal about one of its main protagonists. Nothing transcendental, of course, but rather technical and qualitative: the Chestnut is really worth analyzing and going through its peculiarities, starting from its founding element, wood, until composing a sort of well-defined identity card. A complete file with every feature, property, function and edge.
There are 50 shades of Chestnut, fundamental elements of a story to be told.
Lights, Camera… Action!
The difference between Wood and Timber
Wood: is the plant tissue generally indicating the roots, stem and branches of trees. Chestnut wood: light brown in color – obvious grain.
Timber: the term timber is generally used to indicate the set of wood product which are classified according to strength and delivered by specific producers for various applications (e.g. carpentry, construction).
Anatomy of wood: Sections, micro and macro Structures
Wood can be defined and characterized through three anatomical sections: cross section, radial section and tangential section.
Cross section: or perpendicular to the axis of the tree (through which the age of the tree can be estimated).
Radial section: that which passes through the axis of the plant (represents the strongest part of the trunk).
Tangential section: perpendicular to the radial section (the tangential section appears frequently in sawn wood, where it is possible to observe the grain).
Annular porosity: vascular elements (or pores), seen in cross section, appear comparatively large in cell at the beginning of the formation of each growth ring and then decrease in size giving rise to a distinct porous circle, known as the “early wood” zone, and an outermost zone of reduced pores, known as “late wood.”
Sapwood: the active peripheral portion (containing living cells and conducts sap) of the wood of a standing tree that is often distinguished from the central heartwood portion by its lighter color. It can easily attacked by biodegradation agents due to its abundant sugar-like reserve substances. Sapwood is generally removed during processing.
Pith: small portion, generally a cylindrical shape, often present at the center of the cross-section of a stem formed during the early stages of the tree’s growth, corresponding to the position in which the vegetative apex is gradually found.
Heartwood: the inactive central portion of the wood of a standing tree that extends between the pith and sapwood from which it is distinguished by its generally darker color (in species with differentiated heartwood) and greater natural durability due to the frequent presence of phenolic compounds, gums, resins and other substances with antiseptic properties.
Tannin: extracted from wood or bark which has phenolic radicals. Very abundant in some tropical woods, in the past it was used for tanning hides.
Texture: morphological wood property. It’s determined by its anatomical structure and the width and uniformity of the growth rings. It is usually defined by the adjectives “coarse”, “semi-fine” or “fine”.
Basal shoot (Pollone): a wood (non-fruit-bearing) branch that originates at the base of the tree’s stem; it is a type of branch that should always be cut off through specific operations, in order to avoid deformities and several morphological anomalies.
Forest: (tall forest) forest in which plants (broadleaf and/or coniferous) born from seed are prevalent.
Coppice: (coppice forest) a forest stand of broadleaf trees that is reconstituted by vegetative propagation after each periodic cut through the emission (regrowth) of suckers from a stump, i.e. stems of limited diameter from which are obtained mostly assortments for the production of poles and wood fuels.
Governance: (form of) mode of forest renewal. Typically, “coppice” and “high forest” government are recognized.
Strength class: a performance profile for the structural use of wood, based on specific values of mechanical and density properties, resulting from a classification process.
Veining: visible figure on the surface of a semi-finished product, formed by the traces of the periodic growth of the wood.
Density: the ratio between the mass of wood or a semi-finished product and its volume measured generally under the same conditions of humidity. The density is expressed in kg/m3.
Natural durability: in general terms, it indicates the ability of an untreated wood or wood product to resist degradation induced by environmental (physical-chemical) and biological stresses (caused by bacteria, fungi, insects and marine organisms). Specifically, indicates the intrinsic resistance of the wood to the attacks of lignivorous organisms both for the portion of sapwood and heartwood and in relation to the conditions of use.
Hygroscopy, Seasoning and Drying processes
Hygroscopicity: It’s the ability of a substance, or materials, to absorb water molecules present in the surrounding environment. Wood is a hygroscopic material, i.e. a natural regulator of humidity.
Seasoning: the process of working with wood, which contains a significant amount of water (the wet weight can reach up to ¾ of the weight of the wood). Once the wood has been cut and transformed into boards, it gradually “loses” this moisture, until it becomes balanced with the surrounding environment. Before this happens it is practically impossible to use wood as a working material.
Dryingprocess: it is included in the maturing process. It is the direct consequence of two phenomena: 1) circulation and balance of the amount of water, 2) evaporation of water influenced by environmental factors. Immediately after the first cut, the boards are piled up in an open-air place away from bad weather: it is an operation that takes time and requires specific operations (e.g. storage, ground, arrangement of piles) unless a specialized furnace is used to heavily reduce the time of drying, guaranteeing a high quality timber.
Critical factors and Diseases of Chestnut trees
Ring shake: discontinuity between contiguous growth rings that extends tangentially along the axis of the stem and affects some provenances. It can be limited at the origin with good silviculture; some assortments are less penalized such as those for naturalistic engineering projects.
Surface stains: dark-colored variations that originate at contact points between wood and metals, in the presence of moisture, due to chemical reactions with tannins. Through good design of these contact areas, stains can be removed with oxalic acid solutions.
Cortical cancer: it is a necrotic disease that affects the woody organs of the Chestnut tree, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica. Symptoms: in the initial stages, the bark takes on a reddish color and a depressed appearance; later on, the tree tries to react through the cicatrization of the destroyed tissues, which gives rise to the so-called cortical necrosis (defined precisely as cancers). European chestnut trees, unlike those in the United States, have suffered a minor negative impact.
Ink illness: it is a disease that affects trees. It is caused by the fungi Phytophthora cinnamomi and Phytophthora cambivora: while the latter “keeps” the attack exclusively to the Chestnut tree, the cinnamomi species turns out to be insidious for more than 900 types of plants belonging to more than 200 genera. The disease appears frequent in places characterized by a high degree of humidity, causing consequently a yellowing of the leaves and a decrease of the flowering; the recommended treatment consists in the net cut of the interested tree and in the mechanical or chemical elimination of the stump.
Wood as an expression of Sustainable Development
Hectare: unit of measurement equal to 10000 square meters used in the agro-forestry sector to indicate the area of land devoted to different forms of cultivation.
Silviculture: it is part of the macrocosm of forestry sciences and deals directly with those activities that allow the planting, cultivation and use of forests, ensuring over time their safe renewability in purely sustainable terms.
Green building: also called sustainable/bio-ecological architecture or engineering, is a methodology of design, construction and renovation of buildings devoted to a low environmental impact and ecological procedures, integrated with both innovative technologies and the use of natural materials.
The properties of Solid wood, Hard wood and Laminated wood
Solid wood: solid wood is obtained from a part of the trunk, the heartwood, the central dark portion that extends between the pith and the sapwood. This type of wood guarantees a higher quality product, being counted among the best selections especially in the field of green building and indoor and outdoor furniture.
Hard wood: Solid wood is characterized by the coexistence of heartwood and sapwood, highlighted by the lack of color homogeneity in the final product. Hard wood is a lower quality element respect to solid wood, but still ensures a good level of production.
Lamellar: natural wood made on industrial scale. It is positioned on the lowest step of the value podium. It has two defects: dimensional instability (possible insinuation of moisture between wood and charred layer with consequent cracking on the surface) and biological perishability (subject to fungi and mold).
Assortment: generic term used to indicate a piece of solid wood (for example, a log or stump) or a semi-finished product characterized by specific dimensional and qualitative requirements established in relation to a specific use. In this regard, we also speak of “sawing log”, “veneer log”, etc..
Wood in Construction: a wide range of Choices
Primary warping: formed by beams placed on the ridge and eaves line (ground force discharge).
Secondary warping: composed of rafters (or joists) where all the various layers of the roof rest.
Chestnut beam: part of the primary framework of roofs and floors. It goes from standard sections 15×15 cm up to 42×42 cm with lengths that can reach 12 mt. Available for “Uso Fiume” and ”Sharp Edge” use: specific processing can be carried out on the ends of beams and morals to increase the aesthetic value.
Uso Fiume beam: it is extracted from the bark and has the same qualities as the classic one. Its main characteristic is the “blunt edge” that is regulated by European classification rules (CE marking included) and it also gives an additional aesthetic value to the final product.
Sharp Edge Beam: it is a traditional beam, with a square and angular appearance.
Chestnut rail: it is used in the secondary warping of the roof and it is indispensable in the support of the planking or terracotta tiles. It is produced with standard sections ranging from 8×8 to 12×12 and with lengths from 100 to 800 cm.
Board: a seasoned board is generally used in the construction of attics, floors and coatings. The thickness of chestnut planks varies from 2 to 4 cm, with lengths that can reach up to 200 cm.
Matchboard: planed wooden board with joints on the sides called “male” and “female” (with the possibility of customization), used for the coating of walls and ceilings.
Sliced wood: consists of extremely thin sheets resulting from the shearing of solid wood boards. There are several classifications of veneer: broad, Italian, French, Swedish.
Veneer: thin semi-finished wood product, less than 7 mm thick. The term is little used in technical language in Italy, where it is preferred to specify the method of processing by which the sheet has been obtained and is therefore more commonly referred to as “sliced” or “peeled”.
Truss: an architectural element formed by a flat, vertically placed truss, used as the basic component of a pitched roof. Thanks to the triangular structure, the truss cancels the horizontal thrusts allowing to obtain stability and safety. Artena Legnami is able to realize trusses of any kind thanks to highly specialized workers; this operation is also possible thanks to the certificate issued by the Central Technical Service and the Superior Council of Public Works for the processing and transformation of structural elements in solid wood and laminated wood.
Chestnut pole: from the classic use for fences to complex works of naturalistic engineering, chestnut poles can be used in a variety of ways. The intrinsic qualities of chestnut guarantee a resistant and durable product, particularly suitable for vineyards and anti-hail systems.
Parquet: element intended for the construction of a wooden floor; it must have the thickness of the top layer not less than 2.5 mm before installation.
Pellets: fuel obtained from pulverized and compressed biomass, with or without the use of binders, having a cylindrical shape and length included between 5 and 30 mm. The raw material used for the production of pellets can be woody biomass, herbaceous biomass, fruit biomass or a mixture of different types of plant residues.
The importance of Certifications
CE Marking: “Certificate of Conformity of Factory Production Control”, designates a set of practices mandatory for all products for which there is a Community directive, which also includes the application of a symbol with the letters “CE” on the product subject to marking (hence the name).
PEFC certification: an acronym for Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes. PEFC is a worldwide non-governmental organization founded in 1999 which, through the support of forest owners, public administrations, environmental/wood marketing organizations, trade associations and workers’ unions, deals with the sustainable management of forests, safeguarding and protecting the environmental heritage for future generations. PEFC Chain of Custody certification provides an independently verified guarantee that the certified material – of wood and tree origin – contained in a product comes from sustainably managed forests; it complements PEFC Sustainable Forest Management certification, which ensures that forests are managed in line with stringent environmental, social and economic requirements.
The Top Quality of our Chestnut
Premium Italian Chestnut®: a customer brand loyal to the Chestnut tree, a well-known plant that grows in one third of the national territory. It is identified as an isolated tree and as a species characterizing some types of woods located in a phytoclimatic area that takes its name (Castanetum). But why the Chestnut tree? Because, in addition to unique properties and characteristics – long life, lightness, resistance, sustainability and versatility in the building world – it represents our pride, in terms of selection and prestige: a true heritage of the Italian wood industry, a guarantee of absolute quality for our customers.
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How many times have we heard about sustainability? Countless, in a wide variety of areas.
But specifically, what is the concept of sustainability? What is its essence? Its internal structure and functions?
To get to the heart of the matter, we need to introduce you to the microcosm of PEFC, which stands for Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes.
PEFC is a worldwide non-governmental organization founded in 1999 which, through the support of forest owners, public administrations, environmental/wood marketing organizations, trade associations and workers’ unions, deals with the sustainable management of forests, safeguarding and protecting the environmental heritage for future generations.
It is a vitally important body for the wood industry which, through its activities, allows companies and their customers to benefit from controlled products, of safe origin and certified in a correct and regular manner.
All this is part of a general framework of sustainability categorized into several sectors, governed by five pillars designed equally and without a hierarchical framework, the absence of which implies the necessary coexistence of the same.
Environmental Pillar: Respect for the Planet
PEFC can be considered one of the cornerstones of sustainability, the principle on which the famous environmental pillar is based. The protection of the territory, in this case of chestnut forests – a type of forest that is dear to us because of the countless properties it contains – is the primary objective to which a community (characterized by the cooperation between companies and common people) must aspire, so that the ecosystems of our planet do not undergo lethal changes.
In this regard, let’s focus our attention on the European Chestnut: remember what makes the “Tannin” so special? Now try to think for a moment of the consequences, for man and not only, that would arise from any sudden imbalance.
Historical-Cultural Pillar: a Heritage to Protect
The most common mistake made when discussing sustainability is to favor the environmental aspect over the other peculiarities that characterize the aforementioned development model: the second pillar that supports the structure in question is distinguished by its historical and cultural profile.
With it, it is more than a duty to convey, with constancy and dedication, a message devoted to the valorization of quality products, ensuring at the same time the protection of valuable environmental resources, sometimes connected to an alternative sphere such as literature, steeped in history, legends and cultural recognition. Among the innumerable possible examples, the plurimillennial Hundred Horsed Chestnut serves as emblematic testimony.
Economic Pillar: The Invaluable Value of Raw Material
The third pillar of sustainability can be traced back to economic value, not to be confused, however, with the “cold” numerical parameters interconnected to the profit of the single business activity. When we talk about economic value, it is necessary to conceive this expression as an opportunity that opens up to the exploitation of raw materials in a genuine, scrupulous and balanced way, capable of generating a sort of “induced reverse”.
So, not only timber – for which we strongly recommend seven reasons, subdivided into technical properties, for choosing Solid Chestnut – but a well-defined variety of products in the building, gastronomic and even herbal sectors: think of the curative superpowers of Tannin – again – of the delicacies made with chestnuts, the non plus ultra of the autumn culinary tradition or even more simply of the aesthetic quality brought to interior design. In essence, a single path for several directions, all of which lead to the chestnut.
Ethical Pillar: PEFC, a Sustainable Management System
Chapter four: the ethical pillar. This division, closely related to environmental issues and the achievement of multiple goals in the economic sphere, refers to the need to build a solid reality, capable of knowing how to combine the various forms of sustainability in a responsible manner and, consequently, to be able to offer the client a totally positive model.
Hence the need to have relevant certifications such as the one created ad hoc by PEFC, a guarantee of:
– Maintenance of the protective function of forests against water.
– Protection of the biodiversity of forest ecosystems.
– Verification of the origin of woody raw materials.
– Regulation of the cutting of trees respecting the natural rhythm of growth of the forest.
– Require that areas subject to felling be reforested or preferably regenerated and renewed naturally.
– Protection, rights and health of workers.
– Promotion of short supply chains.
– Rights of indigenous peoples and forest owners.
PEFC certification is inevitably linked to the importance of CE marking, a confirmation of quality that provides the ideal identikit for a high level product in the field of green building, environmental engineering, carpentry and furniture.
Social Pillar: The Chestnut Tree that Unites
The fifth and last – but not least – pillar of sustainability takes on the features of the well-known social function. By definition, social sustainability implies the inclusion of certain conditions of human well-being, equally divided by class and gender.
Artena Legnami have based our mission on participation and sharing, actions that help build strong, loyal and lasting relationships with both the customer and the surrounding area. Trait d’union between our company and the chestnut tree, Italian excellence from which products of absolute value originate, symbols of the professionalism that makes us a point of reference in the wood market.
Defining the quality of a material or product is not easy at all.
In the world of commerce, globally speaking, there are many products that are provided and promoted as quality goods, trying to justify that in the most disparate ways, especially if there is no certifications that may attest their value, compared to other products.
As a label, the quality is worth 0 for customers and consumers if a comparison system of product values with other alternatives has not been properly defined. A classification that highlights the advantages which are measured through specific parameters and used to verify the real level of efficiency.
Not all products or services in the Great Economy require particular technical characteristics so to be chosen by the customer. However in other instances, it is the exact performance value of a given product that decides the sell process because if it does not conform to certain values, often, it cannot be suitable for use. We may refer to the world of construction and the sectors of architecture, building, civil and environmental engineering, etc, for instance.
A material suitable for structural application must be submitted to rigorous controls and checks in order to receive a certification attesting to its actual quality and performance capacity. Among many products on the market, there is one in particular that requires a series of controls starting from its natural state: that’s wood!
When WOOD becomes TIMBER
There are about 30,000 known wood species in the world. Only a few hundred are suitable for trade and only a few of these can be considered for structural use. From the plant cultivation, which is regulated by regional standards, and the accurate selection of the troches with the relative traceability of their origin, to the first production process by specialized centers that must follow specific National and European procedures.
During the last stages of this process, the material literally changes its identity. Wood, meaning the raw material, becomes Timber, a product for structural use. This happens only after it has been classified according to its resistance, made suitable with a series of performance values and finally delivered by a specific producer or a qualified processing center.
Values, Performance and Parameters
The classification of timber strength is governed, therefore, by a series of performance parameters that refer to a specific value. Each technical characteristic is statistically recorded on the basis of the results of destructive tests and experiments carried out in the laboratory.
Among the species, before mentioned, designated for structural use, there is the Italian Chestnut. It has its own evaluation process and registers specific values in relation to parameters. Some main values are listed below:
– Flexural strength – Shear strength parallel to grain – Shear strength perpendicular to grain – Compression parallel to the grain – Compression perpendicular to the grain – Modulus of elasticity parallel to grain – Modulus of elasticity perpendicular to grain – Volumetric mass
The respective values can be found on the in-depth page of our Solid Chestnut.
However, how are these values established? And how can we measure these values?
Visual Grading Classification
In Italy, the main method for the classification of strength is the “visual grading” method through manual measurements of the wood characteristics that are able to influence the mechanical properties of a structure. The rules of visual grading have been defined and codified in technical standards which are shared by operators of various origins (sawmills, designers, insurance companies and government agencies) and validated after years of application experience, both in Europe and in North America. A dynamic process that is necessary in order to always guarantee the levels of reliability and safety required of the structures. Levels that the products of Castagno Strutturale have always guaranteed.
But, in addition to the system of visual grading for the efficiency of the product, recent studies on Chestnut wood have allowed Artena legnami® and all companies from the ConLegno consortium, to obtain a European Technical Evaluation (ETA) aimed at the CE marking of the assortment known as “Uso Fiume of Chestnut”.
Uso Fiume of Chestnut
Our journey from the performance parameters, the quality lab-tested and the next classification of the structural product, officially ends with the certification of the most effective assortments for structural application. The CE marking for the “Uso Fiume of Chestnut”, in particular..
By definition, these products are obtained by four-sided squaring of selected logs, preserving the natural bevels so as to limit the interruption of fiber continuity in the manufacturing process.
Assigning precise and reliable mechanical resistance values to these products means offering a basic instrument of analysis to designers and end customers, enhancing the use of an Italian forest product, combining aesthetic taste and technique in the renovation of historic buildings and in modern constructions too.
Click HERE to discover the CE certification for “Uso Fiume of Chestnut” of our Premium Italian Chestnut ®.
Click HERE to learn more about the structural use of our Premium Italian Chestnut®. Also, follow us on our Facebook and Instagram pages for news and insights on the Chestnut Culture.
What is so special about solid wood compared to other market productions?
Laminated wood, engineered wood, hardwood products (that’s often confused with solid wood) are certainly interesting solutions for any kind of application (furniture, fixtures, structural use, etc.) but solid wood deserves a special place among the best materials for green building and indoor and outdoor furniture.
To really understand the 7 extraordinary properties of Solid Chestnut wood we need to start with a little introduction about the inside natural structure of this timber. Let’s cut a piece of Sweet Chestnut and take a look inside!
The morphology is extremely complex. In fact, dissecting a trunk we can recognize different parts with very peculiar characteristics. In particular, the most peripheral part of the examined section is characterized by a lighter coloration and it is called sapwood. This section is connected to a darker central portion that is called heartwood and this one is used to create solid wood products.
The sapwood, in fact, is much less resistant and subject to the external attack by fungi and insects, whereas the heartwood is generated through a chemical transformation of the cells from the sapwood and it does not have weaknesses. This feature makes the heartwood the best choice in many situations.
The 7 Qualities of Solid Chestnut Wood
Chestnut wood in the solid form has unique characteristics that make it extremely good and versatile in several applications. Let’s finally find out why it is considered one of the best materials on the market:
1) Durability. Chestnut wood is one of the most durable and resistant wood species in nature, by itself – see the high concentration of tannin inside (read the article The Power of Tannin, to learn more). Its solid form production significantly increases its life cycle over time. In fact, even when placed outdoor in extreme weather conditions, it can be surprisingly durable.
We can prove the fact just visiting all the historical works and structures in good conditions, made of solid wood, that can be admired even today after more than 4000 years since they have been created (such as structures and artifacts in the Pharaohs tombs).
2) Eco-friendly. The today regulations recommend the use of materials with a low environmental impact and which respond to the problems of bio-sustainability that unfortunately afflict the entire world. Solid Chestnut wood fits this profile because it is a solution with a low ecological impact due to its renewability. It is a 100% pure, regenerable and recyclable product, known on the market as “wood par excellence”.
3) Hygroscopy. The ability of a material to retain and repel moisture through a continuous exchange from its interior to its exterior. This peculiarity allows solid wood to establish an equilibrium with the surrounding environment by absorbing or releasing water vapor in the area. The degree of hygroscopy of solid chestnut makes it extraordinarily suitable for this phenomenon thanks to its porous and flexible configuration and it also allows the continuous storage of moisture without altering the state of the wood product over time.
4) Fire-resistance. Let’s dispel the myth of the high flammability of wood because the reality is quite different! Due to its conformation, solid chestnut wood registers very high standards (Italian REI measures)in terms of mechanical resistance to fire, even higher than masonry or reinforced concrete structures.
First of all, a solid wood structure guarantees what is called carbonation: when subjected to a direct flame, the wood begins to burn but once it reaches 240°C it starts a process of “carbonization” of the outermost layer protecting the innermost part like a shield, thus preventing the resistant section from shrinking for a very long time. Secondly, because of its hygroscopic capacity, it tends to accumulate so much moisture inside to further slow down the carbonization.
5) Structural Efficiency. Solid Chestnut is also suitable for the creation of complex and mixed structures. Thanks to the implementation of steel or concrete cables, in fact, it offers excellent levels of reliability. The application in anti-seismic constructions, is also a very important aspect. Its use is preeminent in areas of high seismic risk because of its behavior towards wave stimulation.
6) Antistatic. Unlike other materials (such as plastic), wood has antistatic properties because the surface of products tends to repel dust, debris and other allergens. This property make the living environment cleaner and safer especially for people with respiratory problems or dust mite allergies, whether the solid wood comes as a structural or furniture product.
7) Style and design. Private or public buildings with structural elements made of solid chestnut wood reproduce a particularly welcoming and fascinating environment. The natural appearance of solid wood and the unique coloring of Chestnut generate an extraordinarily calming effect to people and create very pleasant indoor climatic conditions: a sense of peace and relax that helps revitalize the nervous system and consequently strengthen the immune system.
Today, this kind of building aesthetics recreated by solid wood is highly required all over the world, especially for those who want a country or rustic style. In addition, as time passes, wood tends to get darker and Chestnut, in particular, reaches a brown coloration: this style is really demanded in the luxury market and prestigious real estate sector.
Solid Wood is not Hardwood
Now we want to define the difference between solid wood and hardwood. In the first part of the article we introduced the internal characteristics of a chestnut tree trunk, the heartwood and the sapwood. Let’s see how these represent the big difference between the two types. Solid wood is obtained by exploiting both the heartwood, the hardest part of the trunk, and the sapwood, consisting of the outermost rings. This part of the trunk is less dense (lower specific weight) and softer with a higher possibility of deformations and anomalies over time. Solid wood, instead, is made only from the innermost layer, the heartwood, which is harder and more resistant so that it always remains homogeneous and compact
Solution to Seasoning Times
Solid Chestnut requires very long seasoning times before it can be used in its many applications. Seasoning is a process in which the wood is stabilized and loses most of the water left inside, which could be the cause of deformation and instability. The process can be carried out either naturally or artificially, through special furnaces for drying purposes. Artena Legnami® uses specialized furnaces in order to avoid the long natural seasoning times, guaranteeing the same quality standards as natural processes but in a much shorter time and thus offering solid chestnut products all year round.
Click HERE to learn more about the structural use of our Premium Italian Chestnut®. Also, follow us on our Facebook and Instagram pages for news and insights on the Chestnut Culture.
The answer is not so obvious because we may generally think almost exclusively of chestnut fruits for food use, but actually we can use these plants for other several applications thanks to different products we can obtain from them.
The Market, globally speaking, looks mainly to the sectors of gastronomy and green building. However we can identify other products from this amazing resource and different purposes that together represent an important share of the international economy.
Today, the European panorama shows a production of about 150,000 tons and 2.5 million cultivated hectares distributed mainly in the Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese territories, with a demand that far exceeds supply. Nevertheless, Italian production is constantly growing and a 30% per year further increase is estimated over the next 5 years (data from FederLegnoArredo and EuroCastanea).
The Chestnut has always been a wealth and matter of pride from our territory with a tradition of over 2000 years. Its properties begin to be famous since the ancient Roman time, when the plant was the protagonist in the ingenious constructions and works of the “sons of Romulus”. In addition, chestnut flour itself has been an indispensable resource for centuries through which people used to produce the well-known “poor man’s bread”.
The plant with its fruits began to be so much important in everyday life that in 1367 the use of chestnut was regulated, prohibiting its cutting at the foot and establishing a ban on the use of branches as firewood. Moreover, in 1656, meticulous provisions were established even for the safeguarding of the flour mills.
Research and technology gradually led the man to consider this wood for many other different applications. Today we can affirm that each component of the plant is potentially a resource for the economy: from the roots to the leaves, from the bark to the precious wood essence. Among the various areas we find, for example, herbal medicine, gastronomy, furniture and construction.
The numerous active ingredients included in the bark and fruits make it suitable also for medical and wellness functions. In fact, we find elements such as alkaloids, albumin, rubber, resin, small amounts of phytosterols and, above all, tannin (read the in-depth article The Superpowers of Tannin to learn about the benefits of this substance). Thanks to those elements, which are mainly present in the cortex, great benefits can be obtained in case of specific diseases such as gastric disorders, skin discomfort, colds and breathing difficulties.
The preparation of infusions with chestnut leaves is another application. These are used to reduce stress and detoxify the body. Other benefits are related to beauty treatments. With chestnuts, in fact, we can make creams to cleanse the skin but also shampoos and lotions that make to lighten the hair.
Chestnut trees, fruits and Gastronomy
Probably the main reason why the chestnut is so famous is because of its fruit. Lots of people consider it a real delicacy to enjoy in numerous ways. Its application in pastry includes the use of its flour for making one the most popular dessert in Italy which is the Mont Blanc (from French translation though). Last but not least, the first way to consume chestnut is certainly roasted chestnuts, or chestnuts cooked slowly on the fire in a perforated pan. This food has become the autumn tradition of Italian families, who never miss this specialty and its derivatives on their tables.
Furniture and Carpentry Sector
The extraordinary strength and flexibility of chestnut wood make it perfect for massive use in furniture and interior design. The malleability of the chestnut allows us to make furniture in different styles, from the most modern one to rustic and vintage styles. In addition to the direct use of wood in design, we also find the application in elements of windows, coatings and external or internal floors.
The Structural Application
The economy of chestnut is not limited to the uses we mentioned before. In fact, this timber is particularly appreciated throughout Europe for the construction of green structures and buildings. This is due to the great advantages of the inside plant characteristics. Today, indeed, chestnut is the only national broad-leaved tree that have its own mechanical resistance values of rectangular-section timber available for technical consultation (albeit with some limitations).
Another essential element we must consider is the great durability of the chestnut. Its composition with a high concentration of tannin, in fact, brings this wood type to the top list among all timbers in terms of resistance to fungi, atmospheric agents and insects. In this way there is no need to resort to numerous additional chemical treatments. This wood is also extremely positive referring to lightness, resilience to temperature changes and structural stability.
Click HERE to learn more about the structural use of our Premium Italian Chestnut. Also, follow us on our Facebook and Instagram pages for news and insights on the Chestnut Culture.
A mythological serum that could enhance the human body in strength, resistance and longevity, the Super-Soldier Serum. I bet you have heard about it!
Well, there is a real one in the “universe” of plants. It’s not about myths or even lab tests but we can surely find it in some lucky species as a natural organic compound.
That’s the tannin! An Elixir of Life that flows in many plants and specially within the European Sweet Chestnut Tree. The concentration of tannin in chestnut timber is much higher then other kinds from the Fagaceae’s family.
Tannin is an antioxidant substance classified as polyphenol that flows within the tree in every single element, including cortex, roots, rhizomes (which are little stocks full of nutritious lying under the soil) fruits, leaves and the inside wood, of course.
However, what makes the tannin so special?
The Tannin’s Protective Power
Because of its chemical compound, tannin is the best defender of plant species as Universities of Florence, Milan and Padova have pointed out in some evidences. It is an essential catalyst of cellular regeneration but it also acts like an excellent shield against bugs, bacteria and fungi.
More than 90% of bacteria get killed thanks to the tannin’s ability of penetrating the bacteria “armor” which covers the entire cell. It is able to pass through the cell membrane up to the internal area where it interferes with the metabolism of the cell, destroying it. The process could be more or less quick, depending on the type of bacteria that lives within that specific ecosystem: there are cells with only one membrane, like the Staphylococcus, and others with more levels, see the Escherichia coli.
The Tannin’s Mediating Power
Tannins are “semiochemical” substances. They are able to carry biological information useful for the interaction between living organisms in order to evoke physiological and behavioral responses. We could say they act like pheromones produced by animal glands to transmit messages towards counterparts referring to fear, danger or even sexual sensations.
The main difference is that tannins can build interactions between several plant species but also from the biological kingdom of Plantea to the Animalia’s one. This incredible factor makes tannins perfect messengers other than great protectors of the plant’s world.
Tannins in Global Economy
This Elixir of Life has an incredible flexibility of use and it is very adaptable giving so many benefits that it can be used in several sectors and contexts such as beauty treatment, animal nutrition (men included), vegetable tanning of leather and many other applications.
Tannin is an excellent natural supplement in animal diets, even a better solution instead of modern chemical antibiotics, favoring the digestive process in numerous species: some studies from the University of Florence pointed out how this natural compound acts with the concentration of nitrogen insheep, cows and chickens nourishment. In this way, they can better metabolize what they eat, giving back milk, cheese and meat products with 7-10% protein content increase.
All these benefits concern men’s food habits too. Indeed, introducing tannins into our nutrition could be a really good way to improve our wellness in everyday life. A totally natural supplement that we can use as antioxidant and aromatic agent (astringent flavor) in fruit juices, infusions and teas.
Beyond the important innate qualities, choosing products with tannin in it means favoring a sustainable economy model where natural renewable resources are recognized as essential valuable asset that we must safeguard, just like Sweet Chestnut Trees.
Tannin e Chestnut Durability
We have already described tannin as a real Elixir of Life for most of plant species and the Chestnut tree is the first evidence. In terms of benefits, it enhances one of the most important morphological feature in Chestnut timber, the durability.
All Sweet Chestnut trees include the highest concentration of tannin inside their tissues, compared to other elements from the Fagaceae’s family: more than 7% of the total volume. This great concentration lends the wood an extremely high level of natural durability which makes the chestnut a perfect solution for structural purposes. The related ability to endure fungi, bacteria and bugs brings this excellent wood essence to the podium of the best timbers for green construction applications, considering all the possible structural shapes.
Features like durability and lightness are only a few peculiarities which make chestnut the best choice for building covering and coating or, moreover, interior design features and naturalistic engineering works.
For more information and other curiosities from the world of Tannin, you might discover the extraordinary work in the Tannins project by clicking HERE.
Click HERE if want to learn more about technical properties of our Premium Italian Chestnut, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for news and detailed topics on the Chestnut Culture.
Artena legnami is a wood wholesale located in Artena (Rome), born from the experience of 3 generations, mastering technique and professionalism over the course of about 70 years. Our company constantly searches and selects its sources of supply, with the utmost respect for the environmental balance, to protect the woods. It directly takes care of woods cutting and of all the processing phases, through highly specialized personnel, until obtaining a finished product of the highest quality.