spalted maple and box making

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Forum topic by CompleteRookie posted 01-26-2010 10:49 PM 2653 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 3487 days

01-26-2010 10:49 PM

I am looking to make a small box for my niece.

I saw a picture of spalted maple and I think that would make a great top. I have also read that you need to “stabilize” the wood first….Say what? This was news to me but then again I haven’t worked with spalted maple. What does stabilizing mean in this case and how do I go about doing it (assuming that I need to)?

Also since the maple would only be the top, do you have any suggestions as to what would be a nice complimentary wood for the box itself?

(I really need to buy one of those wood sample sets… Christmas is comi… oh wait…sigh)

-- I can make firewood with the best of them!

4 replies so far

View Timberwerks's profile


360 posts in 3397 days

#1 posted 01-26-2010 11:19 PM

If the wood is not soft and punky you do not need to stabilize the wood. Wenge and Spalted Maple work well together. Ebony would also look great or ebonized Walnut. If you want a coarse grain wood ebonized Ash would be a good choice.


View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4454 days

#2 posted 01-26-2010 11:27 PM

I’ve worked with spalted maple many times without stabilizing it.

As far as a complimentary wood, anything fairly dark will look great. Here, I used walnut:

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

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3813 days

#3 posted 01-27-2010 07:45 AM

OOO nice charlie

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4110 days

#4 posted 01-27-2010 09:35 AM

“Spalting” is black streaking caused by fungus that attacks the wood. When the wood’s moisture content drops (you cut it down and it dries out) the fungus goes dormant and stops attacking the wood.

If the fungus gets too much time to grow in a section of the tree before it dries out it can break down the cells in the wood to the point where the wood becomes soft or “punky.” This is also known as ROT. At a certain point the wood becomes unusable for woodworking.

The perfect “spalting” is in wood that has had enough fungus growth to cause the interesting streaks and colors without advancing enough to rot the wood. Sometimes certain parts of usable lumber can be just a little “punky” and need to be “stabilized” with epoxy so they harden and become workable. But most of the time this is not necessary.

Since the fungus spores only go dormant when they dry they are NOT actually DEAD. So if the moisture content is increased in the wood it will continue to grow and rot your wood. It can also be very dangerous if you breath the sawdust from spalted wood because the fungus spores will thrive in the moisture in your lungs and cause serious health problems. So take respiratory precautions when machining or sanding spalted wood.

Spalting can occur in many different trees. Light colored domestic hardwoods are very dramatic because of the high contrast it creates. Here are some examples of Spalted Red Alder I found on my property and used for boxes. As far as a complimentary wood, choose something that reflects the shades found in either the light or dark parts of the spalting. I chose Black Walnut in the second box (below) because the same color was found in the dark parts of the spalting.

Click for details

Click for details

-- Happy woodworking!

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