Anyone spalt their own lumber?

Discussion in 'Tutorials and Tips' started by Mark Hepburn, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    I've been reading up on the subject because I'll soon be the beneficiary of two cypress trees being felled at work. Plus, I have about a dozen split logs of an unknown (to me) light species of fairly fine grained wood.

    It seems that a somewhat simple method might be to knock out a few blanks and place them in a trash can wih a mix of potting soil, manure and sawdust along with some rotting wood?

    The climate in south louisiana is muggy so temp and humidity should be about right, based on my reading.

    But I've also read about beer as a starter and to tell the truth, I'd rather not have a big bucket of manure outside the shop door all the time :D

    Any experienced spalters here? Your thoughts are most appreciated. Thanks,

    Mak
     
  2. Jerry Bailey

    Jerry Bailey

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  3. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Thanks Jerry. If I could choose only one type of wood to work, it would likely be spalted.

    Mark
     
  4. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I just sit the log on the ground and cover the other end with plastic bags. The spalt quite easily without doing anything. There is an excellent article about spalting in the Journal about a year ago. If your an AAW member just look it up.
     
  5. Dave F.

    Dave F.

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    Timely post. I have an American elm tree that was dropped a year ago by the power company. Recently my neighbor pulled it out of the woods for me. There isn't any spalting yet. I'm going to pull some of it down into a low spot in our woods that gets pretty damp and try John's suggestion of covering the ends with black plastic bags. We'll see what happens.

    Dave Fritz
     
  6. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Thanks John. I search the threads but never consider the back issues, probably because I'm so new a member I only just received my first issue (the one with Al in it). Gotta make that a habit.

    So you just stand the log on end and cover the top with a plastic bag? Problem with that is we humans like to make a process out of things and this is too simple :D

    By the way, you live in what I consider to be the most beautiful parts of the country. Back in the late 70s and earl 80s I was in that area at least twice a month. I was a handle jobber (bought ash and hickory handles from mills in MO and TN) and sold all over the state.

    But back to spalting. I am adjacent to a wooded area of decent size, so I guess the thing to do would be to stand them there and cover them and be patient.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob

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    northernspalting.com

    Dr. Sara Robinson now at Oregon State University has spent her academic career (the UP of Michigan and Toronto) studying spalting and has quite an informative website. Pretty sure she is working on a book as well.
     
  8. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Dr. Bob,

    Thanks very much! I just did a bit of follow up and she has a website: http://www.northernspalting.com/

    I'd say this is probably THE definitive guide from what I'm reading on it. I'm going to read everything I can (but I'm still going to try John's practice too because it's easy) :)

    Mark
     
  9. john lucas

    john lucas

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    If you want good spalting you have to do more than I do but really only a little. Ideally you need to get a collection of the kind of Fungus that she talks about in the article and sprinkle a little on. It would help it grow I'm sure. However the fungus is in the air and you get a little without even trying. The problem I have is most of the time the other fungi start attacking my logs and they end up too rotten to use. I think if you start with the right fungus it will spalt faster and you can stop it before it gets to the point of becoming punky and unuseable.
     
  10. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Makes sense. Well, I do intend to read up on this and apply Dr. Robinson's apparently vast knowledge here. I can't believe she didn't come up with all the googling I was doing. :)
     
  11. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    What I do here is just lay the wood on the ground in a relatively damp place that is always in the shade. Sometimes those conditions are sort of hard to find around here with our recent droughts and hot summers.

    I read a research paper not too long ago about spalting as a way of creating beautiful furniture wood, but I can't remember where it was. Anyway, it seemed that trying to introduce certain types of fungus into the wood wasn't any more successful that the control pieces that were just left to Mother Nature. The black spalting lines aren't the fungus itself, but something like the Great Wall of China where one type of fungus walls off their territory to keep the competing fungi on their side of the fence. So, spalting is actually a result of turf wars on a microscopic scale.
     
  12. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    So I may try to obtain two types of fungi; let's call them the Bloods and the Crips. Give them their turf and let them carve out their territory...:cool:

    Seriously, you do have some hot summers up there and I guess a good bit less overall humidity than here. I wonder if just putting the sprinkler or a mister on the material daily to keep it moist would work? I wonder if I even need it here but I'm sure will find out after reading more.
     
  13. Shawn Pachlhofer

    Shawn Pachlhofer

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    I think you may find that cypress may not spalt well.

    in LA, I would look for elm, hickory, and pecan these all spalt very easily.

    also keep an eye out for magnolia. It spalts some, but it can also develop a dark "black heart" which really contrasts with the outer, almost white, wood.
     
  14. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Shawn, in thinking about what you say, you may well be right. Cypress is famously decay-resistant in wet use, and that's kind of the opposite of what I want, isn't it? :D

    Now that you mention elm, I'm thinking that the wood my buddy gave me may be elm. I'm gonna PM him (Hu Lowery. Lives a couple hours north of me).
     
  15. Shawn Pachlhofer

    Shawn Pachlhofer

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    read up on Dr. Robinson's method for home spalting.

    I've got some elm "cooking" right now. It got started in the late fall, so I've left it alone for a long time. I really should open up the container to see how it's doing.

    anyway - the wood you use for home spalting needs to have a minimum moisture content to be conducive for spalting. If you use anything that's been cut down for a while - you might be disappointed.
     
  16. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Shawn,

    That's a good resource. I've been reading it the past couple of days so I can get started soon. The lumber I have was cut about 3 weeks ago and sealed with Anchorseal. But if that's too dry, I'll have some other green lumber soon and I'll work with that.
     
  17. Shawn Pachlhofer

    Shawn Pachlhofer

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    3 weeks old is probably still good, but you'll want to cut off the portion that was sealed.
     
  18. Gerald Lawrence

    Gerald Lawrence

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    Mark you might want to try pecan. I have some that I had buried in chips for about 8 months just have to get the time. I also had experience with cottonwood which spaulted in the shop and will get punky pretty easily. I think it took 2 months for some spault on it , practically runs water under the bark.
     
  19. Mark Hepburn

    Mark Hepburn

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    Gerald, I like that pecan and am trying to lay hands on some. We have a good number of trees around here; it's just getting one on the ground :)

    Mark
     
  20. JeffSmith

    JeffSmith

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    up here - the extreme upper left hand corner of the country - the problem is often how to keep it from spalting. Shavings from a freshly turned spalted blank can be used as a 'starter' for unspalted woods. I've had maple spalt sitting on the shop floor when I've been remiss in cleaning up for a while...of course it had been neglected for a decent amount of time.
     

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