What a Surprise

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Blog entry by ScottM posted 04-24-2017 06:19 PM 1237 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is sort of an odd blog but I thought I’d share this simply because it surprised the hell out of me. It’s sort of a long story but I think a little background is needed for the surprise ending.

So we live on the coast of southern Alabama. My mother and father bought an old summer home on Mobile Bay when I was one, so 50 years ago. That original house was essentially destroyed by a hurricane in 1979 and house was rebuilt 14 feet in the air in 1981. Yes, we did hang on to a bunch of the old lumber but it too was washed away by another storm 10 or so years ago. My father passed away several years ago and my mom is getting up in age and just doesn’t use the house much anymore since she has difficulty with the stairs. So a month or so ago she finally decided to sell it. None of my brothers or sisters can really keep up with it either so we told her we were fine with the decision. An offer was made and accepted so everything in the house has to go. My dad used to refer to the house contents as “throw aways”. When you bought something new you’d take the old “thing” over the bay to use in that house so there’s nothing really of value there. A couple of sentimental things but nothing really tugging at the heart. There was an old coffee table and lamps that my daughter wanted/needed so on Saturday we loaded up and headed over to rummage through and pick those up.

As we were going through stuff I noticed a couple of trimmings/branches under the house. I then remembered where those came from. A couple of years ago the next door neighbor was trimming a row of water oak and sycamore trees that are between the two yards. A few of the limbs were in our yard so I told him not to worry about it and I’d gather those up for the trash pile when I was cutting the grass. As I picked up a couple I thought about keeping them, milling them, drying, etc, and making something out of them. But I kept forgetting them. Well they stayed under the house protected from rain all this time. I sort of figured somewhere along the line someone would have thrown them in the trash, but they did not.

So when we were there on Saturday I spotted them and decided to take them home. They were pretty dry but I noticed a couple of what looked like bug holes. So I figured I’d take a look and if there were bugs in them they’d go in the trash. So they’d dried quite a bit and the bark layer had mostly separated from the wood so that came off pretty easy and I kept waiting for the bugs… Never saw one. These branches were water oak just 4 to 5 inches in diameter since that was all I’d be able to get through my small bandsaw. After I pulled the bark off I noticed some dark areas on the outside of the wood. It looked strange but I decided to keep going and see what I could get from them. So I set up my bandsaw to try and split some planks.

The first cut was to try and get a semi-straight edge to run against my fence and there it was!

Spalting like I’ve never seen in oak. My wife’s jaw hit the floor. I continued a few more cuts and it just kept going. I still had two more branches to go so I figured that was the end. Well both of the others were the same. Just wow. Take a look a the pictures. A couple are a little hazy but you get the idea. I’d read a few things about spalting lumber and it talked about rotating to keep it from rotting, etc. But these have not been touched in like three years. So just the constant salt air breeze off the bay did this.

That’s all. Just wanted to pass a long a good surprise story from an old branch I should have thrown in the trash a few years ago… Oh, and NO BUGS!!! Now I need to find something ornamental to make for my mom and maybe my sisters from it.

4 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile


18140 posts in 4501 days

#1 posted 04-24-2017 07:08 PM

Top notch spalting there!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4298 days

#2 posted 04-24-2017 07:10 PM

These look like Ambrosia Maple. ?? The only reason I say this, is because the wood that I won last Christmas in Popular Woodworking magazines “December to Remember” sweepstakes, the lumber looks just like some of the pictures you posted here. Just saying. I could be wrong.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Charles Holland's profile

Charles Holland

88 posts in 2190 days

#3 posted 04-24-2017 10:42 PM

I’ve got hold of some spares oak before. Only enough for a small box. Looked great. Not quite like what you’ve got though. I

View ScottM's profile


757 posts in 3641 days

#4 posted 04-25-2017 12:38 PM

These look like Ambrosia Maple. ?? The only reason I say this, is because the wood that I won last Christmas in Popular Woodworking magazines “December to Remember” sweepstakes, the lumber looks just like some of the pictures you posted here. Just saying. I could be wrong.

- Roger

It’s definitely oak. Like I mentioned, I did see what looked like bug holes when I removed the bark layer; sort of like you see with ambrosia maple. Is there an ambrosia type beetle that will get into oak do this?

You may be right, but I do know that it is oak, just not sure about the bug thing. I would be interested to find out. Maybe I’ll post a request for more info from the masses in the forum.

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