Local Woodworker Supports American Chestnut Restoration

Perkinsville, VT woodworker, Tom Fontaine, recently made a significant contribution toward restoring the American chestnut tree to New England forests. He made a rocking chair from rare American chestnut wood that came from a large chestnut tree in Berlin, VT that died from chestnut blight. The wood is held by the VT/NH Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF).


Tom donated the chair to the Chapter and it was auctioned on line to the highest bidder among Chapter members and contacts. Tom estimated the chair’s value at $300. The high bid was $1,250!


The American Chestnut Foundation has been working for 37 years to restore the magnificent American chestnut tree to its original 200,000,000-acre range across the eastern US. Three approaches are being implemented: back-cross breeding, biotechnology and biological control. To learn more about TACF, and to become a member, visit the web page: acf.org.


The story of Tom and his chair

Tom Fontaine is an educator and woodworker that lives with his wife in the town of Perkinsville VT, not far from where he was born and raised in Bellows Falls, Vermont. He has worked with wood for over 30 years. His grandfather and father worked with wood in their spare time and passed their love of woodworking to him. His brother, Tim, took up the carpentry trade after graduating with a degree in wood technology and Tom honed his skills working for him during the summer months. This kept the love of woodworking alive in his heart and soul.


About 15 years ago, he was leafing through a fine woodworking magazine when he came across plans for a Mission Style-rocking chair made from quarter sawn oak. He made his first prototype with his father and was so inspired by the look of the finished chair that, over the ensuing years, Tom built rockers for family members, co-workers and friends. Over the years, he built a woodworking shop but it wasn’t until last year that he put his chairs up for sale. Tom has built rocking chairs from local hardwoods such as cherry, tap-holed-maple, red oak, butternut as well as softwoods like pine and hemlock and lesser-used species like striped maple and cottonwood.


This is the first rocker he has built from wild American chestnut. Through a somewhat circuitous route, Tom found his way to the so-called “Berlin cache” of American chestnut

that was, coincidentally, sequestered in the barn of Randy and Grace Knight down the road in Perkinsville. In 2012, the VT/NH Chapter harvested and salvaged the wood from a large American chestnut in Berlin, Vermont that had succumbed to the blight. Tom approached Chapter about making something and donated the rocker for fundraising to support the restoration of American chestnut.


Tom’s chairs are now for sale at the “Three Graces” clothing store in Ludlow, VT. They can also be ordered directly by texting him at 802 503-9068 or emailing at tomf12288@gmail.com.