Spalted: "Wood" You Like to Know What It Is?

Spalted: "Wood" You Like to Know What It Is?

Troy Seidman
Jul 5, 2011

It may sound trite but nature makes some of the most beautiful creations; what's surprising is when natural beauty is even further enhanced by decay. The impressive table top above by studio furniture designer and craftsman Don Howell is a paradigm of a natural phenomenon called spalting. Expert woodworkers seek out pieces of spalted wood, but what is it, exactly?

Spalting typically occurs in light colored hardwoods such as maple, birch and beech. Essentially it is the presence of fungi, eating the sap - which is like a carbohydrate, within the wood. Also called sapstain, the fungi creates the elaborate blue/black patterns that resemble ink drawings across the wood. Interestingly, spalted wood is a popular choice for custom-made guitars.

If you're concerned about having something with fungi inside of it, keep in mind that most wood is typically kiln dried which kills off any living organisms inside.

Take a closer look at some photos of this natural distortion in these two projects by Don Howell:
Supreme Cocktail Table | Caviar20
Upstate Deco Side Table| Caviar20


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