What Is Spalted Wood? – How to Get Your Hands On It

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Spalted wood is one of my favorite types of wood to work with. Spalted wood forms a beautiful wave pattern and makes the most boring woods interesting again. 

Spalted wood is any type of wood that has coloration caused by fungi. It is more common in dead or dying trees as the wood needs a high moisture content for the fungi to thrive. The fungi create unique patterns forming black waves throughout the wood. The beauty of spalted wood makes it valuable for woodworkers and woodturners. 

However, spalted wood might be hard to come across when it is your first time looking for it. By the end of this article, you will know the next step to take to find yourself a piece of spalted wood.

Spalted Wood
Spalted Wood

What is spalted wood?

Spalted wood is wood that has fungi growing inside of it, this is a natural part of the wood’s decaying process. This fungi grows in between the grains of the wood and creates beautiful patterns. These patterns show themselves as black waves throughout the wood. Spalted wood is usually found in rotting, dead, or cut-down trees and almost never in healthy living ones. 

What is spalted wood used for? 

Since the structural strength of spalted wood is compromised compared to healthy wood, it is mostly used for its esthetics and to make beautiful objects out of wood. Spalted wood is a favorite with woodturners and woodcrafters. 

Spalted wood is used to make beautiful objects out of wood like vases, ukuleles, guitars, bowls, knife handles, and so on. The list could go on forever. The fun thing about spalted wood is that the pattern in every item you make will become unique and change every time. 

Commonly Spalted Woods ? 

The most commonly spalted woods to work with are wood species with a lighter color to them. Trees like Birch, Maple, Tamarind, Basswood, and Beech with many more are all common to use for woodworkers and woodcrafters. This is because of the contrast that is created from the dark fungi against the light bright wood. Some woods also spalt easier. 

logs in a pile starting the spalting porcess
Logs that have started decomposing and spalting occurs

How do you get spalted wood? 

  1. Buy Spalted wood on Etsy or Ebay
  2. Go into The woods and look for dead/mossy trees and logs
  3. Ask the local lumberyard if they have some
  4. Ask your friends With Big Yards that has a lot of trees

1. Buy spalted wood on etsy or ebay

The simplest and safest way to get spalted wood for your projects is to buy it on Etsy or eBay. Just search for “Spalted wood” or “Spalted Wood Blank” and a plethora of different options will come up for sale. 

The great thing about doing it this way is that you can get the exact dimensions and look of the wood you want for your woodworking and wood-crafting projects. 

The negative of just buying the wood outright is that you do not get to experience the thrill of finding and hunting for the spalted wood yourselves. 

2. Finding spalted wood in the forest or by the roadside

This is my favorite way to harvest spalted wood. Grab your saw and a big backpack or your truck and go out treasure hunting. Roam the woods or the roadside until you find a good candidate for a spalted tree log. Since the spalted wood is mostly found in dead trees they are usually legal to cut open and bring back home (But check the rules and regulations for your country/state) 

When looking for spalted wood in the forest or by the roadside you want to look for dead or dying trees. The reason is that the fungi that infect the tree and cause the spalting need a certain amount of moisture content to grow. Mostly dead and dying trees fulfill the requirement for the fungi to grow within the tree. 

Now, when looking for spalted tree trunks the quality of the wood will differ greatly. Some might be rotten, some might be hard and some a bit of both. You will never know how it looks inside until you cut it in half and look. 

But trees that have been laying on the ground, in the dirt, and in moist areas are good candidates. 

Here are some pictures of good candidates for spalted wood trunks.

3. Ask your local lumberyard if they have spalted wood

Not all lumber yards deal with spalted wood but some do. It can be a good idea to take a trip to the local lumber yard and see if they have some spalted wood for sale. At least they would have some knowledge on the subject to help you further on your path. 

4. Ask your friends With Big Yards

Some people just have old “useless” logs lying around their yards. There is a good chance that these logs are spalted. So if you know anyone that has one of these useless logs laying around it is worth a shot to ask if you could have a look at it. 

Fungi Growing On Log, Results In Spalted Wood
Fungi Growing On Log, Results In Spalted Wood

Is Spalted Wood Dangerous to Work with?  

There is no evidence that working with spalted wood is any more dangerous than working with other types of wood. But it is always a good idea to use respiratory protection when working with any type of wood. Especially when sanding and working with small dust particles. 

Can you make spalted wood ? 

To create spalted wood you need to create the right environment with: .

  1. Wood ( maple, birch etc.. ) 
  2. Oxygen 
  3. Fungi
  4. Moisture 
  5. Beer ( optional ) 
  6. Fertilizer ( optional ) 

The basic premise of making spalted wood is that the wood needs to contain a certain level of moisture for the fungi to thrive. The fungi also need oxygen to grow so you can not seal the wood in an air-sealed box for example.

To help the fungi grow faster you can add wood shavings from previously spalted wood all-around your log. You can also add beer and fertilizer ( manure ) to help the fungi grow faster. 

The spalting process usually takes at least 6 weeks but most of the time you have to wait even longer for better results. 

If you want to see a complete guide on how to make spalted wood you might like this article that I made. 

Spalted wood structural integrity?

The structural integrity of spalted wood varies hugely. It depends on how long the wood has been dead and how far it is into the spalting process. Some of the spalted wood might be so punky that it will be useless and some might be rock hard. 

Spalted wood also creates pockets of different quality wood. The wood in the log will be on different parts of the decaying process even if it comes from the same crosssection. This means that you have to be selective when choosing the parts of the wood you want to use for your projects. 

Picture of different parts of the wood. 

Stabilizing Spalted Wood

If the structural integrity of the spalted wood has become too weak to use or if you just want to strengthen the wood it is a good idea to stabilize the wood. This is done by submerging the wood in a stabilizing resin-like Cactus Juice( link ) and applying a vacuum. The cactus juice fills the cavities of the wood and strengthens it. When dried the wood is now stronger than ever and ready to use.

If you want to read more about Stabilized wood, check out this Article I made about Stabilized Wood.

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