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Thread: Is spalted maple dangerouse?

  1. #1

    Default Is spalted maple dangerouse?

    Managed to get a nice hunk of spalted maple-- it's a burl with large whorls. Major lucky, was in a firewood pile.

    Anyhow, I'd never turned spalted stuff before, so I went through the motions of hogging it out.

    By the time I was done cutting I remembered in a book I read that you should wear a respirator when turning spalted stuff, so I strapped on the respirator and sanded (no pics avail gotta dry it first).

    Should I be worried?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2004


    If you're still alive and reading this, there's no need to worry.

    Just make a habit of using the respirator. It's obviously not so toxic as to cause instant death but the fungus/spores can cause respiratory problems. Anything you can do to decrease your level of exposure is good.

    AAW Member 21557

  3. #3


    Can be, especially if you have allergies to molds. What you see in the wood is the result of the "roots" slugging it out for food with their brothers and local bacteria. They manufacture toxins to protect their interests which are the basis of our antibiotics. Some even have color.

    The fruiting bodies are located just below the bark, and will be the source of spores to further the generations. They have some minimal proteins in them, but it doesn't take much to start a reaction.

    After saying all this, I'm betting that most reactions are short of hives and merely to dust. The fungus eats lignin, so the wood won't hold together as well, and it can be dusty work sanding it. Sometimes you can even get dust turning the dry stuff. Particulate mask is a good idea, help from the Shop-Vac or dust collector is always welcome when sanding.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Cookeville TN USA


    I have turned so much of the stuff I would be dead now if it was very dangerous. I have never even had a runny nose from it. Some woods do bother me like Walnut and some really old Cherry so it never hurts to take protection. I have a friend who turns almost exclusively spalted maple. He hasn't had a problem either and has turned literally hundreds of bowls and vessels.

  5. #5


    The answer is, it all depends. The big danger (besides being bonked in the head if the thing comes apart) is respiratory damage, and that is dependent on how sensitive you are to certain types of allergens. Some people like John can turn the stuff for years. Other people can end up dead after one exposure. Now, people in the second category usually have respiratory problems to begin, but this stuff doesn't help any.

    When I was in Albany, I watched Stuart Batty turn large pieces of cocobolo in two demonstrations. He obviously does a lot of this work, and cocobolo is one of his favorite woods. Despite being covered in the dust, and having it swirling in the air about him, he had no ill effects displayed. A friend of mine who was also at the symposium did not even go near the room, as cocobolo dust puts him in the hospital. It's like kryptonite to Superman as far as he is concerned. Spalted wood is much the same, but the thing is, by the time you find out, it is really too late. What is really insidious about it is that it can also be cumulative. You may not be sensitive to it in the beginning, but as you expose yourself more and more, your resistance becomes less and less. Not only that, but no one really knows how many different things are lurking in the wood, and it varies from log to log, so while one piece may be benign, the next one may be more trouble brewing.

    I turned a nice chunk of spalted wood yesterday too, and I wore my respirator like a diver underwater.


  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Grumbine
    What is really insidious about it is that it can also be cumulative. You may not be sensitive to it in the beginning, but as you expose yourself more and more, your resistance becomes less and less.
    That's the truth. So far I turned a fair bit of cocobolo with 0 problems and it's one of my favorites too, turns like butter.

    BUT iroko is a different thing altogether. First time I encountered it we made a massive wooden island top for a customer out of it (man was it prettyful). No problems. We have some drop in the shop and I tinker with it at times. Now mere cutting of ONE piece on the chop saw and I start coughing like crazy if I don't put on a mask.

    Thanks for the help guys, breathing a lil easier now!


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    South Carolina and Virginia


    I hate to sound like an old fuddy-dud, but...... when someone says "I've been doing it for years and look at me, I'm still alive and well" I think of VA hospitals full of people who've been smoking for years and are now dying. There are people who die of old age despite smoking or working in coal mines without respirators, but they are the exceptions. Wood dust in general is a cumulative problem and may take years to show its harmful effects. If you want to play Russian Roulette, it's your right, but you'd best ignore those people who say "No Problem" as they may in fact have a serious problem. Hope I haven't offended any of you and I hope even more fervently that I'm wrong and that none of you suffer from wood dust with or without spores.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Chichester, New Hampshire

    Default Dust Danger

    We really do all need to be as carefull as possible about protection from dust. Many years ago I built a post and beam on 20 acres ,in the back woods of NH with my x-wife. She was a hell of a carpenter, I would rough out the joinery, she would chisel down to tolerances so close that a buisness card had a hard time slipping into completed joints. Anyway, she never would wear a dust mask( it would mess up her make-up) now it's 20 years later, she can no longer work as a carpenter, or much else for that matter, her lungs have closed up more and more , until now she needs an inhaler just to walk around the room, and if she ventures into a wood shop even to just watch she ends up in the hospital on oxygen.

    A dust mask, a respirator, dust extraction, any thing to keep from loosing the joy of this hobby we all love so much!


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