Spalted wood presents something of an interesting anomaly to the art of woodworking. For some, it provides an intriguing aesthetic that is crucial to making that workpiece really pop. Others don’t really know what to make of the irregularities presented by spalted wood. Even others view it as a serious health risk.
To give you somewhat of a better understanding of the phenomena of spalted wood, we will briefly examine its properties, present a method for spalting your own wood, and even look at a few spalted wood-related products that you can purchase online.
What Is Spalted Wood?
Simply put, spalted wood is wood that is colored with the help of fungi through a process known as spalting. Wood that is spalted is so sought after by woodworkers because it has such a distinct look, with conflicting dark and light colors as well as black and brown lines running through the wood. Like a fingerprint, each spalted wood piece is unique in some way.
Now, spalting is typically a naturally-occurring process and one that necessitates certain conditions. Namely, conditions that cause rotting to an extent and allow for fungi to grow. Without getting too much into the biological processes associated with spalting or the different types of spalting, it is important to note that you yourself can recreate the spalting process in your own backyard. More on that next.
Recreating the Spalted Wood Process at Home
Before jumping into that DIY spalting process, you should probably know the health risks associated with spalted wood, however slight. The fungal spores associated with spalting are typically no more harmful than wood dust, so simply wearing a mask during this process will do the trick. Though, if you do have any immune system disorders, you should not work with spalted wood in any capacity.
Once the correct preventative measures are in place, you will want to pick out your wood. Because of their paler color, birch, beech, or maple woods are your best bets. These will most readily stand-out against the contrasting brown color that will show up once spalting takes its course. Next, you will want to pick out enough fungal spores, which you can typically get from a quick trip the woods.
To mimic the correct spalting conditions, you want to place the wood in an unsealed bag (the fungi require oxygen) or a storage bin. Place the wood in the container of your choice and cover the wood with the spores. Then, you will place the container somewhere dark and warm.
Give it about six weeks for the spores to take. Once enough time has allotted, check the pieces of wood for color and softness. If they are not to your liking, like them sit for another week or two. Once the pieces are finally ready for use, be sure to properly air dry them.
4 Spalted Wood Products That You Can Buy Online
Whether you are looking to learn more about spalted wood or just are hoping to get a particular item with that unique spalted look, here are four related products that are available for purchase online.
1. “Spalted Wood: The History, Science, and Art of a Unique Material”
Written by Sara C. Robinson, Julia C. Robinson, and Hans Michaelsen, this $43 book is considered by many to be the unofficial encyclopedia of spalted wood. With nearly 900 photos, this book details the scientific process behind spalting goes back 700 years into spalting’s history and looks at some of the specific applications of spalting that are employed to this day.
A must-have for anyone looking to do a deep dive into the world of spalting.
2. J3 Live Edge End Tables
At $350, this pair of spalted maple end tables is finished with four coats of satin oil-based finish. A wonderful addition to any home.
3. Boards by the Bay Live Edge Curly Spalted Maple Charcuterie Board
Crafted out of Michigan Curly Spalted Maple, this handmade charcuterie board (which you can purchase for around $165) truly exemplifies that Midwestern rustic feel. Available for use as a cutting board, cheese board, or a serving tray, this piece may not be useful in that next woodworking project, but it sure as heck will look great in your kitchen!
4. Sante Fe Stoneworks 3” Lockback Pocket Knife
With a handle made out of gorgeous spalted beech wood from Denmark (the genuine malachite inlay doesn’t look too bad either), this pocket knife is a real beauty, and you may be able to craft something seriously impressive out of its Damascus stainless-steel blade.
Learning to Appreciate the Eye-Catching Aesthetics of Spalted Wood
Because of its unique look, spalted wood can be used to craft everything from tables and chairs to bowls and plates. Sleek as well as natural looking, spalted wood is sought after by both woodworkers and homeowners alike and for good reason. Learning more about spalted wood and the spalting process can help to inspire you either with that next woodworking project or simply with that next gift idea.