How to finish this "ruined" maple?

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Forum topic by Halfbubblepastplumb posted 09-28-2009 02:00 PM 5602 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Halfbubblepastplumb's profile


33 posts in 3369 days

09-28-2009 02:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple

Here are some images of a tabletop I’m making.

The planks are from a maple tree that had some sort of insect in it that bored holes through the wood. There was one log in a set from the back yard that I had milled at Moore’s Sawmill The holes evidently let in water that caused the streaks of discoloration (is that called “spalting?”). They are light brown to gray, but retain the maple hardness. The planks are sweet, with almost pink coloring where I use the cabinet scraper on them. I was looking at Trifern’s blog about analine dyes, and also the recent Lazy Larry by I love that golden color. I’m thinking to run some tests on scraps and see if I can get the grain to pop. I’ll fill the holes with a black filler. A: will this work? B: suggestions for a durable topcoat that will be somewhere between satin and gloss and won’t be a bear to apply/sand/buff?
Thanks for all the great ideas I’ve already gotten from this site.

-- Dave E. "People who are competent are worth the oil it will take to fry them in hell." --Mencken

6 replies so far

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

514 posts in 3722 days

#1 posted 09-28-2009 02:13 PM

Bartley Gel stains have always been easy to apply for me. I do not own spray equipment nor do I have a “room” to actual spray in if I did have it. So I go with Bartleys. I would suggest you go to Homestead finishing’s website and read some of Jeff’s articles that are reprinted here:

-- jstegall

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4424 days

#2 posted 09-28-2009 02:47 PM

Actually, what you have there is called ambrosia maple, because the insect usually responsible for that kind of streaking is the ambrosia beetle.

Below is a project made from ambrosia maple:

And here is a sample of spalted maple. Spalting is really the beginning stages of rot.

As for finish, by all means experiment with the dyes and stains if you like. Just keep in mind that maple is notorious for looking splotchy when you try to color it, so experiment with decent sized scraps to get a good idea of what you will see in the finished project. For a top coat, I would suggest oil-based wipe-on poly. It comes in gloss or satin, but I would suggest using gloss, because you can always rub it out to the degree of sheen you are trying to attain.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View firecaster's profile


573 posts in 3624 days

#3 posted 09-28-2009 02:59 PM

I question filling the holes with black filler???

Won’t this draw your eye away from the natural beauty?

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4111 days

#4 posted 09-28-2009 03:30 PM

“Ruined” ? That is some nice looking ambrosia maple. You will ruin it by doing anything other than a clear coat finish in my opinion.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3934 days

#5 posted 09-28-2009 03:36 PM

unless you need the box to hold something that could fall out of the holes (not sure what could be that small), I wouldn’t bother to fill them. They won’t affect the structure. Also, I wouldn’t try and pop the grain. Odds are you will take away from those great streaks.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4028 days

#6 posted 09-28-2009 03:45 PM

Here is a video that Marc Spagnolo has posted on popping maple grain, if you want to take a look at it.

You have some gorgeous wood to work with. Ambrosia maple has some beautiful coloration to the wood. Maple is ordinarily pretty bland as far as graining and coloration goes so the effects of the fungus introduced by the ambrosia beetle and, bacterial infection with spalting, enhance the visual appeal of the wood.

If you want to fill in the holes with epoxy that will work. Another option would be to inlay dutchman or butterfly patches. In a contrasting wood such as walnut these add visual interest to the project or they can be in the same wood for a more muted effect. Here is a workbench that has been posted showing the look that a dutchman patch gives.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

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