Working with Spalted Woods

Spalted Maple

A definition of spalting could be the partial decomposition of wood.  
It can produce some very unusual patterns and coloration.
One way to spalt wood is to keep it kind of damp under a pile of leaves for a couple months.
Minerals, bacteria and other things penetrate the wood and that produces spalting.

These woods have their own problems.  

Wood that is left to spalt too long looks nice but can become very pithy.

If you can press a thumb nail well into the wood, it is very pithy.

The pithy wood can be mixed with areas that have become quite hard and that causes problems.

The Ebay stuff in my opinion is about 50-50.  The only time I ever really bi&*^ched was when I started
rounding a couple blanks and the tool went right through the wood to the brass in a matter of seconds.

Major pith.

 When I have problems like this I always take pictures, contact the Ebay seller and show him what happened.  

They have always replaced the bad stuff free of charge.  Better doing that than receiving negative feedback.

The Spalted Alder  shown above was from Ebay. Most of it was ok.  

The Spalted Maple shown below was from a local store and was worse than the stuff from Ebay, but still workable.  

If you are hand sanding a  blanks that are both pithy and hard, odds are you will end up with oval blanks.

Same applies to bowls.

The Spalted Alder pen shown in the upper right corner of the page was extremely pithy where the wood is white and was
pretty hard where the wood is discolored.

What to do

Well, one thing to do is to equalize the hardness and density with CA glue.

Spalted Blank

This is Spalted Maple,  Both blanks are very pithy.  Turn the blanks down to within 1/16" or so of their final diameter.

CA Glue

Use a thin CA glue and slowly drench until the wood will not hold any more glue.  
One thing about CA glue is it does tend to darken the wood.

Sometimes this produces a desirable effect and other times.......

The really pithy stuff absorbs glue like a dry sponge absorbs water.  

Let it dry overnight.

I don't use accellerant because it can cause the glue to bubble up and it can turn white in cavities,
which doesn't look very nice.  

There is a non-rising CA glue but it costs a bit more and it can be purchased from Arizona Silhouette.

I prefer everything settle at a more natural pace.  

Spalted Pencil

Sand the blanks down using a sanding block until you get to a fine grit.

The reason for the sanding block is to keep sanding pressure equal across the blank until close to completion.

It is quite easy to turn a round pen blank into an oval pen blank without a sanding block, especially without CA glue.   

This pencil is finished with EEE and a little CA glue.

I'd count on messing more than a few of blanks up, so make sure you have enough extra for replacements.

One of the pencil blanks split with in a few minutes of turning, right along a spalt line.

Spalted wood does make for some nice pieces but it takes a bit more time and patience.