So basically I had the chance to get back to my southern village a few days ago. Having some fine time to spend while my elbow was healing from an unfortunate accident at work, the first thing I did was to run into the woods to get to the previous Ca find spot. I can’t tell you how bad that thing was haunting me.
Well, I didn’t get to measure things as I wanted to (next time!), and instead I merely kicked down all the trunks from a dead stump (not sure it’s the right word – correct me if needed) and peeling them right there, which was quite fun by the way.
As opposed to what I first thought, the stain from Chlorociboria doesn’t get from the very beginning into the bark, but still runs into the wood. It happens that the trace left by Ca in its early colonization stage’s entry point is a very dark brownish-green, so much that in fact you have to pay extra attention to find it. The weather wasn’t good enough for me for a close inspection on site, so I basically broke everything down into manageable sized pieces, peeled everything, and brought the good spalted stuff home. Then all of the sudden, while breaking down one of the trunks, tadaaa, the treasure showed up. And of course the breaking happened right in the middle of the Ca-stained zone. Oh, well. Here are a few shots of the portion of interest I’m talking about:
I outlined the tell-tale spots here for added clarity. As can be seen, there’s a dark spot in the brown zone, right under where the bark was. A slight farther towards the top of the tree, there was a visibly green portion. The full resolution picture is here , without the red lines, so you can look more precisely at it and see what to look after when hunting for Ca in the woods.
I only kept the interesting part of that piece of wood, because the stain isn’t big or dark enough to use it for cutting veneer. I can still carve something out of it, as with the chunk from the previous find (you’ll get a chance to see the finished piece when I’ll have decided on what its final shape has to be, the color itself is incredible).
As with my previous “standing find”, the Ca stained zone was relatively high above the ground, in this case it was a bit less than a meter, but I didn’t bother to bring my tape measure. That’s not rocket science after all, but as a rule of thumb it seems that Ca attacks at belly height, at least in my area of “research”.
Anyway, lesson learned #1: Ca infestation happens early and while the tree is still standing, visibly around 1 meter above the ground, when a previous colonization from a fungus TBD has occurred.
The interesting thing about this very piece of wood, as for the previous early find, is that it’s deeply spalted, but the wood fibers have NOT been damaged: it’s still very hard and has no insect attacks. So far so good. It also seems that the very first colonizer ate all the first layer of wood under the bark, as hinted by the slight depression into which the initial Ca colonization shows up.
Lesson learned #2: peel off all the bark from the trunk before attempting any sawing, or you could end up sawing or breaking right into the good stuff as I did.
I applied that to the trunks I kicked next, peeling off the bark (with my Swiss Army knife when needed), and looking for green. Bingo for those that were wet enough, but not too wet. Next step will be to check for approximate moisture content, but as a rule of thumb you want them not too wet and not too dry. Covered with fresh moss is okay, but I found out that oak is rather hard to penetrate by Ca, even if I brought back home three 30 inch long pieces with visible green stain. I just find that birch or beech are far easier to find stained and to work with, once dry and stabilized if need be.
Oh, and of course, I went back to the laying trunk where my sister had found the biggest chunk to date, and BINGO again, the upper part of that very piece had developed the same deep green stain. And of course that new piece is home with me here, but this time I’m leaving it dry slowly – the previous block split like crazy, but that was quite expected. A good idea is to secure a place in the area of the find and erect a little platform with some kind of roof to put the finds into and leave them to dry very slowly in the exact same conditions where they started to decay. Having them around in the shop is more of an issue than anything else: I’ve had to set up a full-time blower next to my spalted wood pile to get the moisture out of them and prevent molds from developping and all that kind of stuff. Unless you have a kiln, that is. Which is among my projects for next summer, along with a homemade bandsaw mill. But I disgress.
Finding Ca stained wood is very exciting, at least to me, but along with it is also very fine material that also deserves to be kept: while I scored around 20 kilos of Ca-stained wood this time (among which a full 2 METER long trunk, green from top to bottom – YIKES), mind you that I brought home around 200 kilos of spalted lumber. Cut them down into ~ 50 cm (20”) sections with the chainsaw once home, cleaned up the cuts with the bandsaw, opened them up after carefully choosing an orientation regarding the end-grain spalting figure, and ended up with a bunch of half-rounds that will live as very nice box tops or parts. Here is one of these that I also brought to Paris, and one that I dried directly and slabbed to make a box for my gal, along with what I’m all about with this Ca bizness: one of the finest slabs that I have, which is to be used for inlay on a guitar fretboard I already talked a bit about:
I also brought home fresh infested bark that I kept dry during the whole time there, but my attemps at putting it into culture have suffereed from both the time between getting it and my lack of good equipment. Dr Spalting would be yelling at me if she saw my crappy culture boxes ^^’
Something maybe of interest on that matter: a yellow mycelium has very quickly developed on my Ca-infested bark chunks, left wet and isolated from molds. I found yellow stain quite often along with rather early Ca-stain, so maybe this is a case of collaboration between two fungi, which need one another to develop. And I say maybe, I’m no pro on that matter. Will have to check that out with the fungi specialists at my university.
And as promised, I also brought back home sawdust from my first veneerings of Ca, and will use it to isolate the xylindein pigment and measure its destroying temperature point. As I already pointed out several times, Ca-stained wood must be sanded down carefully, too much heat will kill the pigment as I found out when sawing with a dull bandsaw blade which lead into the discoloration of the cutting zone. Will have that sorted out ASAP, when I’ll get a chance to find a lab rat^H^H^H chemist willing to make some measures with me at the university.
Comments, questions, cursings and related ranting are welcome and expected :)
-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...