Prepare Spalted Wood for Furniture Use
I really like the look of spalted wood. Are there any workability issues or risks I should know about before diving in?
Turk Sobek, Sheridan, WY
Spalted lumber can add a dramatic touch to your furniture, but there are a couple of issues to keep in mind. The fungi that contribute to the wood’s striking color can also lead to rot. So it’s common to run across soft or punky patches in an otherwise usable board. When that happens, you can fortify the soft areas with cyanoacrylate glue. The softer areas also soak up more finish than other areas, creating dark, blotchy patches. As a remedy, I seal spalted boards with a washcoat of shellac before continuing my finishing routine.
Some people warn of the health risks associated with working spalted wood, but expert Sara Robinson (“Spalted Wood“, FWW #199), says that the spores represent no more risk to healthy adults than normal sawdust (but it’s a good idea to wear a dust mask anyway). However, she does advise people with immunesystem disorders to avoid spalted wood. By the way, Robinson’s article tells you how to save money by spalting your own lumber.