View Full Version : Spalted Wood - Grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

James Farrow
12-01-2004, 1:56 PM

Well, I am still working on my second bowl (the first one has cracked
if you recall) and am having a heck of a time with this spalted maple.

Dang thing tears out a lot in the soft spots. The regular parts are
fine. They cut smooth, but the soft areas tear out no matter how
easy I go, even with a really sharp tool.

Now, as I have the shape I want I figured I would just sand out the
little pucks and tears (if that's the proper terminology). So I start
sanding, and sanding and sanding.... Sanded a lot and the going is slow.
It would eventually get there but sure seemed to take forever.

So I thought maybe I can smooth it out with a scraper to maybe
make it go quicker. That was a mistake. Made it worse. LOL!
So back to sanding, and sanding, and....... LOL!

I can see the attraction to this "spalted" stuff as it really looks great
but sure is a pain in the butt to work with. At least for a novice.

So with this type of wood (spalted), is it pretty well a "just keep
sanding it" or is there another way?


James :)

Jim Becker
12-01-2004, 2:15 PM
"Sharp" tools are essential and the type of cuts you use will make a difference. Dealing with spalted wood that has punky spots is often easier with a side-grind gouge, too, since you can vary it's "approach" to the wood. You may also need to stablize the punky areas with CA glue. This is all part of the learning process, James. Just keep turning!

James Farrow
12-01-2004, 2:19 PM

What do you mean by "stablize the punky areas with CA glue"?

They don't seem that bad to me. I say soft, but I don't mean soft
as in styrofoam or putty soft. Just softer compared to the other
areas of the wood. Still hard to me.

James :)

Jim Becker
12-01-2004, 2:23 PM
What do you mean by "stablize the punky areas with CA glue"?

They don't seem that bad to me. I say soft, but I don't mean soft
as in styrofoam or putty soft. Just softer compared to the other
areas of the wood. Still hard to me.
Particularly soft spot can be soaked with CA to harden them.

BTW, you want to try and cut as much as possible...too much sanding where there is harder and softer areas can result in a noticiable distortion of the form...the abrasive removes softer material faster.

Joe Judge
12-01-2004, 2:27 PM
I empathize.

On a smaller scale: 1/2 of the pen turned FINE. The other tore up badly. So, I soaked it in CA.
---> Now, the CA side of the pen looks more brown/cream spalted while the FINE side is white/cream spalted. Argh!! (CA does that?)

... and the spalted maple bowl blank sits on my work table calling me. Like kryptonite on Superman, its sapping my strength to avoid it.


Jim Becker
12-01-2004, 2:33 PM
Joe, CA "can" cause a color difference, but how you finish will also affect that. If you are using a film finish, you'll see less change. If you are trying to use an oil finish, the oil will not soak into an area that has been "stablized". The particular piece of wood will also affect this. I've used CA on some maple and it "disappears" and on other pieces it stands out like a sore...well...you know...

Scott Coffelt
12-01-2004, 2:40 PM
I had the same problem when working with it. As far as cracks, you can also fill/fix them with CA. You'll see the line, but sometimes it adds to the piece.

James Farrow
12-01-2004, 2:56 PM
Thanks for all the info.

Will see how it goes and let everyone know how it turns out.

James :)

Bruce Shiverdecker
12-01-2004, 5:16 PM
Something less drastic that I've used on Punky wood is sanding sealer. Not as hard as CA and therefore not as hard on the tools. There is some discoloration with it, too.

Another thing I've used is Generals' Poly-oil finish. I use it to help the punky areas when that is what I'm using as a finish. Hard to tell that I stabilized the wood but it does firm it up.


Steve Inniss
12-01-2004, 7:21 PM
James, I have to highlight Jim's BTW on sanding - watch it. It's amazing how quickly a spalted bowl will distort by sanding. You stop the lathe to check your sanding progress and all of a sudden, 1/3 of the rim is gone. -Steve

James Farrow
12-01-2004, 9:36 PM

I have been watching that. Doesn't seem to be a problem.
At least not yet. Knock on wood! (no pun intended - LOL!)

I seem to only have the soft spots in the center area of the
outside and inside in certain areas.

I will go slow though.

James :)

Michael Cody
12-01-2004, 9:49 PM
Soak the blanks overnight in a mixture of 50% water & 50% white glue, then dry for 48 hours .. (or bake, or microwave, etc..) .. it will harden them up nice & they will turn nice. For pen blanks you can even do this to pre-drilled blanks with tubes in.. just fill the ends of the tubes with play-do about 1/2" down ... then pull it out when they dry out.. keeps the tubes clean.

You can also use Minwax Wood hardener, but I buy Elmers white glue for 8.95$ US per gallon, that will harden a lot of pen blanks and a lot of bowls ... maybe we can even mix it with alcohol and dry them at that same time! :eek:<i> *that part was meant to be a joke, but the glue works great!*</>

John Shuk
12-01-2004, 10:22 PM
I used the Minwax wood Hardener on a Pretty punky maple burl I picked up. I haven't yet turned it but the results seem pretty good so far. The stuff soaks in really well as it is really about as thin as water. After I turn this thing some day I'll share the experience. I do hav a couple of pen blanks I stabilized from the same burl I intend to turn pretty soon. so I guess I'll have an idea then.

Brad McCollum
12-01-2004, 11:23 PM
It sounds like you are just getting started with bowl turning. If that is indeed the case, I might suggest you set aside your nice spalted bowl blanks. Go find yourself some nice "free" curb side wood to learn on. Then go back to the spalted stuf when you've progressed a little farther with your technique. Spalted woods can be very frustrating. Turning fresh cut hardwood(almost any hardwood will do) will help you build confidence. I'd also suggest you get a lesson or two, if you haven't already, from a qualified turner. Learning the right technique can make a big difference in the quality of the turning and the joy of the experiance.
......been down that road.;)

James Farrow
12-02-2004, 11:08 AM
Thanks Brad, but I tried that route. In other threads I posted the problems I had there. Worse than this. The "green" wood (red oak) cracked like crazy.
My first bowl was a disaster. The second one, I just roughed the outside and a day later it too was cracked really bad.

I put the rest of those "green" blanks in a box and will let them sit till they are dry. And if they crack at least I won't have wasted my time. LOL!

Although this spalted one is a lot more work I think this is better. Even if it takes me a lot longer at least I will have something to show for it at the end.

I have a few other blanks (myrtle, curly maple) to eventually get to also, so there is lots of time for the other blanks to dry.

James :)

Rick Prevett
12-02-2004, 2:08 PM
James, I'm assuming you are sealing up your 'green' blanks somehow. That should help minimize cracking while they dry. If not, grab some green wood sealer (Anchorseal) asap and coat at least the endgrain of those blanks.


James Farrow
12-02-2004, 4:21 PM
They are coated with wax on all 6 sides.

James :)

Rick Prevett
12-02-2004, 4:44 PM
Well...that oughta do it!