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Spalt Your Own - A Recipe for Creating Spalted Wood

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by frederic b. hodshon, May 12, 2004.

  1. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    found this on the web:

    Since the question of spalting comes up time and again, I will share a description of what I use when the natural ingredients aren't available.
    A "brew" of some kind is required when the conditions for natural spalting do not exist. There are a lot of ways to induce spalting. Like everything else in woodturning, nothing is "tried and true". You will have to experiment. Some wood spalts. Some wood just rots. Others (cherry and walnut) don't do much of anything.
    This spalting brew has everything necessary for almost anything to grow in any wood that wants to spalt. I have used it on maple, birch, beech, sweetgum, oak, alder, holly, and pecan.

    1-qt water
    2-scoops Miracle grow
    2-cans beer, drink one and put th other in the spalting brew.
    1-qt horse manure, doesn't have to be fresh, but the ammonia odor should still be present when it gets wet.
    1-qt dried oak leaves
    There is nothing sacred about any of the ingredients as long as we have the nitrogen, organics, ammonia, sugar, malt extracts, tannins, and leaf molds - everything necessary for all kinds of things to grow in the wood. The only additional ingredient is heat.
    I have used packaged steer manure from the garden store and added a half cup of household ammonia. Don't use the sudsing type because it contains detergents which will kill the growth.
    All leaves contain some amount of tannins, oak leaves contain more than others. I have used maple, alder, sweetgum, and apple leaves, but about 3 times more. Wood chips will not work because you need the leaf mold. You can use chunks of rotten wood to replace the leaves, but the spalting is different with more of an area discoloration than the lines we are looking for. The large black areas look good in oak, but not other wood.
    Put the wood in a trash compactor bag (they are heavier than the others) when it is fresh cut and still wet. If the ends have dried, saw off a slice to open up the wet wood. It works better in wood cut in the spring when the sap is up and the free-water in the wood is at its highest. Apply a liberal amount of the brew on each end, and seal the bag.
    Now we will need that last ingredient, warmth. Store the sealed wood indoors under an old electric blanket during the winter months when the outdoor daytime temperature is below 65-degrees. Otherwise, outside is fine.
    Check it after 2 months. You will be looking for a black slimy mess on the wood, with things growing out of it. Mushrooms are good. Clean it up and split it in half if you can. If it isn't what you want, put the halves together and back in the sealed bag.
    You can use chunks or shavings of spalted wood instead of the brew, but it takes forever, and sometimes doesn't start because it is dead. The brew is faster, more reliable, and gives better spalting (my opinion).
    You could just seal the wet wood in the bag without adding anything, but some will spalt, and some won't.
    And, when all of the ingredients are available in nature, then you don’t need a brew to start the process. Just throw the wood under a tree, let the grass grow up around it, and nature will take its course. Covering it with some leaves will help. Put something under it to get it off the ground, otherwise it will rot on that side.


  2. Very cool, and makes sense too. I'd be interested to see a couple of examples of a natural spalt next to his induced variety.

    Just a question, its just applied to the end grain is it? He says apply it to the end so I figure its just there and you let it eat its way through kinda...

    Wonder how it'd go with paperbark (the wood itself, not the bark), just have to remember where I hide the stuff.

    Josh D
  3. kanti

    kanti Guest

    Feb 22, 2004
    Eugene, Oregon

    spalt is a cool word.
  4. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    How 'bout a Banzai bass? Or is that in the same catagory as eating veal...?
    Po' wittle twees...
  5. It all depends on your definition of ruin v. your definition of beautify.... Spalting can really add charachter to wood and if that's the look you're going for this gives you a way to get it without having to hunt it down through various wood shops.

    The thing to keep in mind... "to each his own".

  6. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    'Cause sometimes in life you have to do something for the hell of it.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Seems like something for Hambones proposed sticky.
  8. +1
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    A web search will turn up several sites with instructions to do it in slightly varying ways. Some say that small pieces can simply be but into a plastic bag! Bonus though for finding a recipe that includes beer!
  10. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    need photos!!
  11. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004