Spalt Your Own
A Recipe for Creating Spalted Wood

     Since the question of spalting comes up time and again, I will share a description of what I use when the natural ingredients aren't available.
     A "brew" of some kind is required when the conditions for natural spalting do not exist. There are a lot of ways to induce spalting. Like everything else in woodturning, nothing is "tried and true". You will have to experiment. Some wood spalts. Some wood just rots. Others (cherry and walnut) don't do much of anything.
     This spalting brew has everything necessary for almost anything to grow in any wood that wants to spalt. I have used it on maple, birch, beech, sweetgum, oak, alder, holly, and pecan.

  • 1-qt water
  • 2-scoops Miracle grow
  • 2-cans beer, drink one and put th other in the spalting brew.
  • 1-qt horse manure, doesn't have to be fresh, but the ammonia odor should still be present when it gets wet.
  • 1-qt dried oak leaves
     There is nothing sacred about any of the ingredients as long as we have the nitrogen, organics, ammonia, sugar, malt extracts, tannins, and leaf molds - everything necessary for all kinds of things to grow in the wood. The only additional ingredient is heat.
     I have used packaged steer manure from the garden store and added a half cup of household ammonia. Don't use the sudsing type because it contains detergents which will kill the growth.
     All leaves contain some amount of tannins, oak leaves contain more than others. I have used maple, alder, sweetgum, and apple leaves, but about 3 times more. Wood chips will not work because you need the leaf mold. You can use chunks of rotten wood to replace the leaves, but the spalting is different with more of an area discoloration than the lines we are looking for. The large black areas look good in oak, but not other wood.
     Put the wood in a trash compactor bag (they are heavier than the others) when it is fresh cut and still wet. If the ends have dried, saw off a slice to open up the wet wood. It works better in wood cut in the spring when the sap is up and the free-water in the wood is at its highest. Apply a liberal amount of the brew on each end, and seal the bag.
     Now we will need that last ingredient, warmth. Store the sealed wood indoors under an old electric blanket during the winter months when the outdoor daytime temperature is below 65-degrees. Otherwise, outside is fine.
     Check it after 2 months. You will be looking for a black slimy mess on the wood, with things growing out of it. Mushrooms are good. Clean it up and split it in half if you can. If it isn't what you want, put the halves together and back in the sealed bag.
     You can use chunks or shavings of spalted wood instead of the brew, but it takes forever, and sometimes doesn't start because it is dead. The brew is faster, more reliable, and gives better spalting (my opinion).
     You could just seal the wet wood in the bag without adding anything, but some will spalt, and some won't.
     And, when all of the ingredients are available in nature, then you donít need a brew to start the process. Just throw the wood under a tree, let the grass grow up around it, and nature will take its course. Covering it with some leaves will help. Put something under it to get it off the ground, otherwise it will rot on that side.


© 2002 - 2009 by Russ Fairfield. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.