Should I work with a spalted log green or dry?

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Forum topic by mmh posted 10-23-2008 07:58 AM 2698 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3700 posts in 5053 days

10-23-2008 07:58 AM

Topic tags/keywords: maple spalted log crotch furniture sculpture chair bench shapely power tool hand tools white fungus green dry

I am eyeing the Maple crotch log that my husband and I harvested from curbside. It was cut 2 yrs. ago and because it was on the dirt, it became innoculated with a white fan fungus. I tried killing the fungus with rubbing alcohol but this only stimulated it. It is now elevated on a concrete paver so the fungus is drying up, but I am sure it is quite spalted inside.

I am interested in making a bench, chair or sculpture out of it as since it’s spalted it would need to be hefty to be strong.

My question is: When should I consider working on the log? Green or dry? If green, how do I keep it from checking? Do I need to coat it with Anchorseal after I initially carve it? Then come back and finish it when dry? Or do I wait until it’s dry and hard to start my project? It’s sitting next to the porch steps as that’s as far as we had the energy to roll it. It was number 12 of 12 logs we hauled home that day. See blog “Can You Pass By A Pile of Wood Without Stopping?”:

I was considering using power and hand tools. What would you suggest?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

5 replies so far

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 5321 days

#1 posted 10-23-2008 09:50 AM

I’ll tell you what my experience has been and you can take it for what it’s worth. When I get logs from trees that recently fell, I don’t wait to work the wood. I saw an episode of “The Woodwright’s Shop” where he split a log through the center and then split a pie shaped wedge off of one of the halves. This is the definition of “quarter sawn” wood. His comment was something to the effect that quarter sawn wood that is cut at ninety degrees to the growth rings like this doesn’t move when it dries enough to worry about and is ready to work immediately.

So, I went and bought a froh and a wedge and a large hammer and split some of my logs. I can tell you that the wood I cut at ninety degrees hardly moved at all as it dried. I can also tell you that no matter what kind of wood you’re splitting, it’s hard work, and I mean hard. But, quarter sawn wood is always a sight to behold.

Good luck,

-- Jim

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5237 days

#2 posted 10-23-2008 01:26 PM

I would let it dry…and use good breathing protection when working with it. Being spalted it will not be quite as hard to work dry.There are many great green woodworking techniques out there . I just prefer working with dry wood, no surprises later after hours of labor and the thing blows up from green to dry.

View mmh's profile


3700 posts in 5053 days

#3 posted 10-23-2008 04:49 PM

Hmmm, Thank you for the advise. It looks like I’m in for a good project here. Maybe I’ll wait for a nice cool day when I feel I need a good upper body work out. I may need to eat more “Wheaties” and beef up a bit.

I would like to try to work with green wood, but then again there is the checking issue. It will probably come down to just being the right time in my life to start this project, or when I don’t want to be stuck doing house chores! (“Sorry Honey, I forgot to make dinner as I was outside riving a log.”) Actually my husband would understand. He’d just have me order Chinese or Sushi to go.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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1199 posts in 5321 days

#4 posted 10-28-2008 05:07 PM

Thanks a lot Daren. That’s going to cost me another three hours of reading. LOL.

Good luck mmh. I can’t wait to see the results.

-- Jim

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 5205 days

#5 posted 10-28-2008 05:55 PM

There are a few issues here…

First of all you said that it would “need to be hefty to be strong.” Spalting does not effect the strength of wood. Rotting does. Thats the thing about spalting… it has to be caught at just the right point in time. Too much time and it starts to rot. As soon as that happens, it doesn’t matter how “hefty” you make it, it is pretty much garbage unless you trim the rot off. But as long as it is not rotten, a spalted board should be perfectly strong.

Like you said, spalting is coloration from fungus growth in the wood. This fungus needs a certain moisture content to thrive. If it dries out, it will stop growing and therefore not turn into rot. If the moisture content of the wood ever increased enough in the future, it would actually start to grow again. You don’t need to try to “kill” the fungus with any chemicals. As soon as the wood dries it will be dormant.

As far as working with it green or dry, it depends on how you intend to work it. Use the same logic you would on any piece of wood. If you intend to turn it, leave it wet. Then when you are done it will dry and the spalting will stabilize. If you intend to cut boards out of it, treat it just like any wood. Cut them rough, sticker them to dry and paint the end grain to reduce checking, and then when dry do the final milling.

-- Happy woodworking!

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