View Full Version : Spalted wood - Is this true?

Robert Engel
04-12-2016, 8:53 AM
You can make it by covering wood in sawdust and keeping it damp?

Has anyone done it & exactly how do you do it.

Pics of results appreciated.

Thomas Bank
04-12-2016, 9:21 AM
It’s more of an art than a science. You’re basically getting rot between the rings in the wood. I’ve heard of people attempting to spalt wood by burying it in sawdust, dirt, compost, or other materials with mixed results.

This spring I was trimming up a silver maple on my property. When I cut through the one limb, I saw that the limb was spalting on the tree!

Cody Colston
04-12-2016, 10:33 AM
Spalting is caused by fungal spores. An ideal environment for the spores to grow and colonize is around 80 degrees and a moisture content above 25%. The spores are everywhere...on the wood, in the air you breathe, in the carpet inside your home, etc. To get the wood to spalt, just create a suitable environment and wait. Different spores cause different types of spalting so you can actually control the spalting pattern you desire by introducing those specific spores to the wood.

A good way to spalt boards is to place them in a shallow container, cover with vermiculite and keep it damp and warm. It is actually science and not art.

This site http://www.northernspalting.com/ has a ton of info on spalted wood, including a DIY segment. Dr. Sara Robinson has had a series of articles in FWW magazine and is probably the leading authority on everything associated with spalted wood.

Prashun Patel
04-12-2016, 10:39 AM
Like making yogurt, spalted wood is best when you can seed your soil with the starting spores from other spalted bark.

John K Jordan
04-12-2016, 10:20 PM
It is actually science and not art.

I've seen so much variation that I think what you get might be more chance and luck than art or science. Besides temperature and environment and moisture content, the species and local growth parameters vary. How much yummy fungi food is in a given log? Are the same type and quantity of spores in Alaska as in Alabama?

My experience: set the environment then wait some amount of time and cut into the log. Cut too soon you find little or no useful spalting. Cut too late and you have rotten wood. Often you get some combination of useful spalted sections, unspalted, stain, bug damage, and punky/rotted.


Cody Colston
04-13-2016, 9:11 AM
I agree that spalting whole logs is a hit-or-miss proposition. The timing, as you said, is crucial for getting optimum spalting and avoiding a rotten mess. Also, the type of spalt is pretty much up to mother nature, as is the environment. Some woods spalt more quickly than others and some hardly spalt at all. One does have to know a bit about the process to have success.

For spalting sawn boards, the process can be controlled. Introducing specific fungi will produce a specific type of spalt, whether in Alaska or Alabama. The extent of the spalting can be readily seen so it can be stopped when optimum. It's not quite like throwing a log under a shade tree and waiting a year and a half to saw it and see what happened.

There is a plethora of misinformation about spalted wood that gets repeated and promulgated on internet forums. I encourage you to visit the Northern Spalting site if you are interested. Sara debunks a lot of the myths about the spalting process. You can even purchase fungi samples there (spalted wood ) for DIY spalting.

Danny Hamsley
04-13-2016, 8:48 PM
I have some pecan spalting. Logs were cut one year ago. We will see how they turn out. They were covered with planer shavings for 8 months outside in the environment. Fingers crossed.

Wes Ramsey
04-14-2016, 10:10 AM
I tried to spalt some green ash in a garbage bag of wet shavings for 3 months and all it did was mold the surface. Other chunks of wood I've let sit in the yard for too long spalted unintentionally. There might be more spalting in chunks with the end grain sitting on the ground vs ones where the bark is on the ground, but I haven't done any side-by-side comparisons. An old timer around here once told me that the key is to bury a rough turning in wet leaves in the yard for a month or so. Haven't tried it yet. All I know about spalting is that the less I try to make it happen the more it happens :confused:

Danny Hamsley
04-14-2016, 8:25 PM
It can take more time than you think.