How to Make Spalted Wood (DIY Recipe for Spalting Lumber) - DIY Projects, Patterns, Monograms, Designs, Templates (2024)

How to Make Spalted Wood (DIY Recipe for Spalting Lumber)

Spalted wood is the coloration and detailed dark lines that occur from fungal growth in wood (commonly referred to as “spalting”). The unique patterns and coloration of the spalting process can add value to wood which otherwise might have a low-value. Knowing tips and tricks on how to get wood to spalt can allow you to discover beauties and colors not normally found in wood.

How to Make Spalted Wood (DIY Recipe for Spalting Lumber) - DIY Projects, Patterns, Monograms, Designs, Templates (1)

Spalting is like growing plants. With the right ingredients, you should get good results.

Step 1. Select lighter woods for spalting.
Lighter woods like maple, sycamore, pine, and birch typically work great for spalting. This is because these woods have a whitish color that function as a blank canvas for spalting to occur.
Step 2. Keep the humidity high.
To help keep the humidity high, I place the wood in a plastic bag or plastic storage bin. Since the fungus needs some oxygen to grow, I will either periodically open the container to allow fresh air to enter or create a few small holes. Keep your plastic bag or storage bin in a dark area if possible.
Step 3. Add additional ingredients to promote spalting (e.g., Beer).
Ingredients that contain nitrogen, organics, and sugar will help speed up the spalting process. This can include horse manure, fertilizer, and leaves. I have had especially good luck using two cans of beer. One can of beer you pour on the wood. The other can your drink!

Notes on Spalting Wood.

If the wood has not been kiln-dried, there are typically enough dormant spores to begin the spalting process. On the other hand, if the wood has been kiln-dried, I would recommend adding some shavings from a piece of wood that has begun to decay.

The spalting process usually takes several weeks. Begin checking after six weeks. If you like the coloration, remove the wood from your bag or container. If not, allow the wood to spalt for another two weeks and then check again.

Allow the wood to air-dry before using. Once a piece has been air-dried, the decaying or spalting process will stop leaving you with a beautiful piece of wood.

To help logs spalt naturally outside, I store the logs on their ends in a shady area as shown below. If I have time, I also cover the top of the logs with dirt and wood shavings to help keep the tops moist. Regardless, do not place anything on the bottom of the logs (e.g., plastic bag) that would prevent water from being absorbed.

Storing logs on their ends:
1. Allows logs to wick-up moisture from the ground.
2. Allows easy removal of bug damage. As shown below, after storing for several months, there maybe bug damage in the bottom section (represented by X). When stored in this direction, one chainsaw cut can easily remove all the bug damage.

When to use spalted wood.

When creating pieces for functional or utilitarian use, I typically look for strong preferable hardwoods with little or no decaying present. For these pieces, I also prefer straight grain wood without forks, limbs, crotches, and knots. However, when creating pieces for artist expression or decorative use, I prefer to use partially decayed or spalted wood. The term spalted refers to the discoloration and detailed dark lines that occurs from fungal growth in the wood as it decays and rots. The discoloration frequently includes brown and black staining. The detailed dark lines (sometimes referred to as zone lines) can create very intricate patterns. Spalting is simply nature’s way of breaking down wood. Once you have created a few pieces using spalted wood, you will know why it is sought after by many woodworkers.

Drawbacks of the spalting wood.

One of the drawbacks of the spalting process is it weakens the wood and can make the wood more difficult to work. There may be areas of the wood that are hard right next to very soft areas. This can make sanding the piece very challenging. If the spalting is too advanced, the wood may be useless. Some people say working with spalted wood is a health hazard. Other people say we breathe spores from spalted wood all the time. My advice, always wear respiratory protection when working with wood – regardless of whether you are working with spalted or unspalted wood.

Keep in mind, spalting wood is like everything else, nothing is “tried and true.” Some wood will spalting beautifully, but others will not do much. Experiment and have fun.

Looking for more WoodWorking Tips and Tricks?

Woodworking Tools, Tips, and Tricks.

Find tips and tricks on Scroll saws,,Stone Inlays, Wood Burning,Sandpaper Grit,Spalted Wood,Table Saws,Carving,Workbench Plans,Best Wood Finishes,Wood Finishing Tips,Workshop Plans, Dust Control,and so much more...

Looking for more WoodWorking Projects and Plans?

DIY Woodworking Projects and Plans

Find plans on Bird Houses and Feeders,DIY Hexagon Shelves,Carving Wooden Spoons,Making a Dough Bowl,Wind Spinners,Tic Tac Toe Game,Wooden Word Sign,String Art,Easy Wooden Projects,and so much more...

You will also find patterns of all 50 US States.

How to Make Spalted Wood (DIY Recipe for Spalting Lumber) - DIY Projects, Patterns, Monograms, Designs, Templates (2024)


How do you make spalted lumber? ›

You can induce spalting in fresh cut logs by wrapping them in plastic and letting them sit for 2-3 years. This time period is usually enough to allow an ample amount of spalting to occur, but not so much that it can cause structural integrity problems with the bowl blank.

What does spalted wood look like? ›

Zone Lines: The signature visual characteristics of a spalted maple include inky winding lines, dark dotting, and thin streaks of red, brown and black. These natural design patterns are known as zone lines.

What is the most common spalted wood? ›

However, Maple remains the most popular and sought-after wood for Spalting, which is a result of its wide, white sapwood, that creates an ideal 'canvas' for the fungi to work its magic.

How is spalted maple made? ›

Spalted maple is caused by the natural decay of the wood. Fungus leaves the black spalted areas. It's typically caused in blonder woods such as maple, sycamore, beech, poplar, basswood, and more. However, most of these woods rot too quickly so you rarely can use them for something like a slab dining table.

What is the best finish for spalted wood? ›

We recommend applying lacquer or water-based varnish, two finishes that add little color to wood. However, if you prefer a warmer, more amber look, you can use oil-based varnish or shellac. You might choose polyurethane for items that will receive a lot of use. Avoid applying oil, such as boiled linseed oil.

What is the best way to finish spalted wood? ›

Overview of Popular Finishing Options

Tung oil, linseed oil, lacquer, and varnish are all popular options for finishing wood. However, we highly recommend Osmo Oil for finishing spalted maple as this highlights the grain for a stunning finish.

What does hickory lumber look like? ›


Hickory is an open grained hardwood that is often used for rustic applications. The grain can range from a blond or cream to a lively reddish brown with streaks of purple.

What does willow lumber look like? ›

Willow typically grows in the southern United States, and like swampy wet soil. General Description: The sapwood is white to a light tan color. The heartwood is gray or reddish-brown with dark streaks. The gain is somewhat interlocked and has a uniform texture.

Is spalted wood expensive? ›

A lot depends on how good the spalt is and how good the wood is and what type. I have sold thick hard maple with very good heavy spalt for $5 bdft and sold lightly spalted 4/4 for little more than I would get for good lumber. So the trick is to know what you got. It is easier to come down on the price then to go up.

What is the most rare wood? ›

Highlights: Most Expensive Woods In The World Statistics

Dalbergia wood, also known as African Blackwood, can cost up to $300-$500 per board foot. “The Pink Ivory” wood is rarer than diamonds, and costs $7-$8 per board foot. Snake wood, due to its unique pattern, can cost around $200-$300 per board foot.

What is spalted tamarind wood? ›

The deep reddish brown heartwood is almost never imported to the United States—the sapwood is sold much more commonly under the label “Spalted Tamarind.” Expect prices to be high for an imported tropical hardwood.

Is spalted wood toxic? ›

The fungi that cause spalting attack the wood and do not produce toxins per se, especially in the sense of aflatoxins which ARE quite dangerous.

What is spalted sugarberry wood? ›

What differentiates Room & Board Sugarberry from anyone else's is that it's spalted, which creates one-of-a-kind patterning throughout the material. Spalting is a naturally occurring process—when the tree dies, it often pulls minerals from the soil and those minerals create these patterns in the wood.

Can you use spalted wood for cutting boards? ›

The dark lines prized in spalted wood are caused by white rot fungus. What the fungus adds in beauty, however, it takes away in hardness, leaving behind soft, punky areas. So right away we'd advise against using it for cutting boards.

What does Spalt mean? ›

Brittle; liable to break or split. Frail; clumsy; heedless; pert. To split off, as large splinters from a piece of timber in working it. noun A whitish scaly mineral, used to promote the fusion of metals.

How long does it take to spalt wood? ›

How long does spalting take? Each different fungus takes a different amount of time to colonize different wood species. There is no one answer for this, but, in general, if you are doing things correctly, it should take about 12 weeks or less.

How does spalted wood form? ›

What is Spalted Wood? Spalting is any kind of wood colouration that is caused when fungi colonise the wood and extract nutrients from it, leaving behind dark dotted and lined patterns.

Is spalted wood safe for cutting boards? ›

Personally I would avoid using spalted wood for most food items and as the spalted part is usually a lot softer I would certainly avoid using it for something that will take as much abuse as a chopping board. A lot of people may say that woods that are spalted are OK but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Virgilio Hermann JD

Last Updated:

Views: 6040

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Virgilio Hermann JD

Birthday: 1997-12-21

Address: 6946 Schoen Cove, Sipesshire, MO 55944

Phone: +3763365785260

Job: Accounting Engineer

Hobby: Web surfing, Rafting, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Ghost hunting, Swimming, Amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Virgilio Hermann JD, I am a fine, gifted, beautiful, encouraging, kind, talented, zealous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.