Spalting and Spalt Wood Recipes - Review

When woodworkers attempt to spalt their own wood, there is usually a secret recipe that is used.  The individual wood spalting recipe usually works for that individual, but may not be a success for the next person.  The fact is that if you go looking for wood spalting recipes you will find there is one rule of success about any spalting recipe:  It depends.

spalt woodNature spalts wood according to a classic basic recipe:  Take wood, leave it outdoors in temperate and moist climates, add in natural fungi, and allow a period of time to pass.  Spalting, the early stage of wood rot, will usually but not always occur.

If you are using a specific recipe for spalting wood, experimentation will be required.  Not all wood spalts, it sometimes just rots.  Some woods, in some conditions, using some recipes, will spalt faster than others.  Some woods will spalt but not look much different  at the end of the spalting process than when they started. 

tree spalting naturallyMother nature can quite easily be the only recipe you need to spalt wood.  One of the most simple and natural spalting recipes is just letting the wood sit outside in the weather on a year around basis.  Spalting will take longer in cool northern climates than in a year around tropical warm and moist climate such as Florida.

Key ingredients are moisture and heat, with nature providing the "brew" (fungi mix) to start the spalting process.  Spalting recipes will work best in temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees and a wood moisture content of near 30 percent - in other words not dry wood.  Some wood spalting recipes include the ingredients for a home made spalting "brew" made of things like yeast, sugar, beer, manure.  Other recipes have added only patience to the otherwise naturally provided ingredients.

A natural spalting recipe is just letting the wood sit outside in the weather on a year around basis.

logpile beginning of spalt woodMany woodworkers will attest to the spalting log recipe that consists of simply cutting the log down, leaving it lay where it fell, waiting, then cutting a small piece off the end to check when the desired spalt has occurred.  Patience, patience, patience.  And if you start some each year at the same time you wind up with a constantly replenished supply of spalted wood.

Although spalting a piece of wood requires heat, wood being spalted outdoors should be place in  a shady location according to many recipes.  In addition, many wood spalt recipes call for covering the wood piece with leaves, dirt, wood chips, grass clippings, sawdust or other natural materials.  Others claim that an application of beer (any brand) helps move the spalting process along.

There are numerous spalting recipes that call for placing the wood to be spalted in a plastic bag and keeping it moist until spalting occurs.  The length of time for these recipes is still dependent on all of the variables of spalting wood.

It has been claimed that spalting can be done to order using specific recipes.  Given the inexact art/science involved in spalting this could become a frustrating effort that does not produce much desired spalt wood.

One recipe for spalting a log calls for raising it off the ground slightly to avoid rot on the bottom of the piece being spalted.  For proper and even spalting of a log, it is rolled over every few weeks.  Other spalting recipes for logs call for standing the logs vertically in a shady location outdoors.

Another recipe for spalting board lumber accomplishes spalting by stacking the boards (oak, ash, etc.) uncovered outdoors and in the shade for an extended period of time (months at least).  This will probably not work with dried or previously spalted lumber.  Patience is the only other ingredient required in a recipe like this.  Again, the key ingredients in any recipe for producing spalted wood are patience, heat and moisture.

Yet another spalting recipe consists of placing wood in a cardboard box and forgetting about it for a few months.  A more systematic approach using this method calls for spalting the wood in wooden boxes lined with plastic, covering with a small amount of sawdust or wood shavings while leaving air space around the pieces and then place a lid on the box.

Check the spalting recipe progress by cutting a piece off of the end of the wood.  Some woods will spalt faster than others.  The spalting recipe must be monitored because if you let it go too long the result is just rotten wood.

spalted woodPart of the wood spalting recipe is to make sure that the spalting process is stopped when the desired level of spalt is reached.  This means lowering the exposure to temperature and humidity.  Failure to stop the spalting process will result in punky wood.  Spalted wood can be air dried indoors successfully, though some spalt wood drying recipes use plastic bags and even a microwave.

Spalt wood aficionados all agree that THE key ingredient in any spalt wood recipe is patience, and all agree that the reward of any spalt wood recipe is in the end result - a unique and extraordinary piece of spalted wood for your project.


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