About Spalted wood

Spalted wood is a form of natures art, with complex line art, body coloring and streaking patterns. The lines can be so intricate that it looks as though they were penned by an ancient calligrapher. Colors can be applied as streaks, solid areas and even as recognizable patterns in black, blue, pink, grey, orange or multicolors at varying depths within the wood. Spalted wood is highly sought-after by woodworkers in the decorative wood market because of the unique and beautiful color patterns.Click here for close-up of a finished Spalted Alder hardwood piece.

One paradox of spalted wood is that as it ages becomes more attractive to the artist and less attractive to the lumber tradesman (One's Junk Another Man's Treasure). If the wood is found too early, it lacks character and seems bland when compared to spalted wood, but caught at the right stage it is still stable and suitable for working (much like fine wine). NiceLand prefers to naturally season (dry) hardwood slowly for 2 to 5 years as this allows for successive spalting patterns to develop. Click here to see a cross sectional cut of unfinished spalted Alder hardwood after seasoning. Notice the thin dark lines that appear to loop back onto themselves in the picture; this is a specific form of spalting called Zone lines. The loops represents a three-dimensional fence protecting the area claimed by a microorganism colony. Generally this type of spalting occurs when multiple colonies of various organisms attempt to occupy the same real estate.

Spalting is the process that creates spalted wood, and is a by-product of the decay process that is carried out by vast numbers of microorganisms (mold, fungi, bacteria, etc.) found naturally in forest land. With appropriate time, temperature, humidity, micro-organisms, insect deposits and minerals in the soil, chemical reactions can be induced causing many different and beautiful colorful patterns in decaying wood. This is known as spalting (Spalted wood is like found art).

Because of the desirability of spalted wood, many people have devised various methods of inducing and attempting to speed up the spalting process in wood; however, when there are as many variables at work as mentioned above in the decay process, getting predictable spalting results is still more an art form than a science. One log may have good workable spalted wood, while the next, although appearing the same, will be useless.Click here for an up-close look at an Alder log surface with spalting after seasoning but before cutting.

The best examples of spalting usually occur in lighter colored woods such as in the Beech, Maple and Birch families. Luckily for us here in Northwest Oregon two of our more abundant native hardwood trees are Alder (in the Birch family) and Oregon Maple also known as Bigleaf Maple. NiceLand specializes in spalting both Alder and Maple woods for our decorative specialty products (Checkout Our Products).

More photo links below that may be of interest.

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