Spalted Maple from our storm-damaged tree

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by M.R. Ogle, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    We had a pretty good storm blow through a couple of weeks ago, and it took down a maple tree on my in-laws property. Looking closer at the cutoff ends of the downed tree, I could see telltale spalt lines in the wood, so we took a few chunks and sliced them into 1" slabs to see if there was any possibility of finding some cool figures for a couple tops. Here are the best four slices out of the FIRST log we cut up... and there's ten more! I'm pretty encouraged! IMG_3137.jpeg Spalt 2.JPG
  2. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I have sealed the ends, and am about to stack them with 1" strips of wood between each slab, and weight them to prevent warping.

    Any advice would be appreciated, as I've never dealt with fresh-from-the-tree green wood before.
    Beej likes this.
  3. You're doing the right things.

    I've dried a bit of wood and done exactly what you did there. I sealed the ends with either wax or latex paint, the wax worked much better in my samples, I got less cracking.

    You're probably looking at at least six months if not a year before it's ready for use, depending on the heat and humidity where you are storing it. My fastest dry time was when I was living in a house that had a dedicated furnace room for a winter. It was always above 70 degrees there, good air flow and no humidity, I had some 2" thick pieces of maple that dried in about 6 months.

    You'll probably want to get a moisture meter (in six months or so).
    Beej likes this.
  4. Wow, that's great!
  5. brianmharrison


    Oct 11, 2007
    What is the reasoning for not making thicker slabs so you can use it for the whole body instead of just the top?
  6. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    My understanding is that this wood is not structurally all that sound, so it's best just used in thin slices decoratively. We wanted 1/2" slabs, but they are all closer to 3/4".

    YES! A moisture meter is something I plan on picking up this weekend.
    Rabidhamster likes this.
  7. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
  8. I understand the visual appeal, but structurally rotting wood seems like an odd choice for tone wood.

    Those do look like nice pieces though, I would agree thinner slicing once they are properly dried.
    And make sure whatever finish you use will be able to seal in the spalt, by the way be careful working it, I've heard of people have allergic reactions to spalted wood.

    Have fun!
    Rabidhamster and el_Bajo_Verde like this.
  9. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    It was my understanding that the fungus ...microorganisms were usually killed / halted by the heat of kiln drying...
    Will it stop on its own by air drying?
    Maybe, I'm no authority. ....
    But I do know, as long as there is will continue to rot.... & turn punky ...nasty... hard to work with.
    Need stabilization ...etc.
    Might want to look into it.
    You can probably find someone with a drying kiln to use fairly cheap... ??
  10. Looks nice. If you run out of projects for it, I'll shoot you my address. :D
  11. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    They look great - think of how much those would have cost you from a supplier. :D

    I build with found woods, punky wood, rotted burls, driftwood, etcetera. The fungi in the spalting, and in rotting woods will continue to exist with moisture and oxygen, but I've found that even the nastiest of rots will dry out in the air over time. I usually don't have to wait more than a year to use things (6% or so) after they've been drying out in my heated shed.

    Breathing in molds and spores is probably not the best thing to do, but the kinds of fungi and infestations that are in spalting and punky woods are generally not "black mold" type mold that is really bad for your health. When I'm milling the blanks or cutting them, I use masks, but I also use them for cutting clean maple and other things too. :) After a year of drying, they don't tend to smell anymore and in my experience can be used. I usually cut things into billets of either 6/4 or 3/4 for drying out.

    Once I have a ready to use billet, I'll resaw it into tops and backs and then glue them down onto a solid core of wood. I usually use either walnut or maple, but I'm big on NA domestic woods. After I cut it to shape and do the roundovers/carving, I'll soak the whole thing in thinned epoxy, or system three "rot fix", which penetrates deeply and stabilizes the wood.

    I should mention I also glue up the body laminates with epoxy, which I imagine also covers the underside of the punky piece that faces into any chambers or cavities there. I've not noticed any smells or problems with stability over time on any of them, but I've also not built 100 either... :D
  12. roller

    roller Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    I forgot who I swapped notes with... but years ago, someone told me there's not much of a sonic difference in spalted maple and flamed maple when used as a top wood. Wonder if this is indeed the case?
  13. Scarey Larry

    Scarey Larry Supporting Member

    Gorgeous. I am a spalted maple lover. I am happy for you.
  14. Bigbri


    Aug 4, 2015
    Spalted maple is hard to find. It results from a diseased tree. You can't tell really until you cut it. Gluing thin slices onto regular maple gets you a lot more bodies that look like that from any particular tree. It would be a waste hiding all that inside a body.
  15. Kelly robinson

    Kelly robinson

    Dec 30, 2014
    I would drop a line to Smithcreek as he seems to do a lot of his own cutting and drying of fresh wood and certainly , is an expert at the craft .... Just my .02 - Kelly
  16. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    You can seal them with wood glue too..thats what us primitive bow builders use
  17. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Thanks for the tips!
  18. Mertle72


    Dec 20, 2013
    Please let me know if you have surplus and would like to sell!
  19. CryingBass

    CryingBass Just a Fool Whose Intentions are Good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    That wood is downright erotic.
  20. JIO

    JIO Be seeing you. Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    erotic wood? time to take a shower... :cautious:
    Rabidhamster likes this.