What is Spalting?

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Duration: 3:14

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Many woodworkers want to invest some time into understanding wood, which is understandable since we spend a lot of time with it and wood selection is an important aspect to any woodworking project. There are many types of “specialty woods” to learn about, from quilted and curly patterns, to the dramatic effects that can be created by quarter sawing lumber, and the incredible patterns that can appear in wood from spalting. But what is spalting, exactly? Spalting is the growth of a fungus in wood that creates dark streaks that follow the pattern of the grain.

Spalting can appear to some degree in most species of wood, but it is dramatic in maple, birch and other light woods. The contrast that can appear when spalting occurs in certain woods is outstanding, and this lumber can be a great choice for special projects such as bowls, keepsake boxes, or can be used as an accent wood for nearly any project.

In addition to asking “what is spalting,” you might have some additional questions around this topic:

Is it safe to use in my projects? Once the wood has been thoroughly dried, the fungus becomes stabilized and is not harmful to humans or animals who are exposed to it.

Can I create this effect in wood? Yes! Well, sometimes at least. In this video George explains his “recipe” for creating an environment for spalting to occur. If the fungus is present in the wood when you begin this process, there is a chance that you can produce some dramatic features in your wood.

Working with spalting is typically a lot like working with blue stain pine if you recall George’s adventure from a few years back.