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Author Topic: Spalting Lumber  (Read 4251 times)

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Offline metalspinner

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Spalting Lumber
« on: April 19, 2022, 10:02:14 PM »
My decades long quest to find the perfect spalted sycamore and spalted beech logs have driven me to turn to science rather than an alignment of the stars or just plain old luck.

My son, Nick, gave me this book for Christmas last year. This book gives exacting conditions, recipes, environmental factors, and fungal species requirements to spalt many lumber species. Thankfully, Nick is smart enough to help me with the science part.



 



Tissue culturing is one of his hobbies. He likes carnivorous plants and orchids the most. But he has dabbled in many other species, too. And, he has always had great interest in fungus and mushrooms.
Here are just some of the test tubes of stuff he has growing in his room.



 




 



He sent away for the inoculum that we were the most interested in. These two species create black zone line decay (xylaria polymorphia) and green zone line decay (chlorociboria aeruginasens).



 




 


Right away, Nick got to work creating Petrie dishes with the inoculum. And I called @Teenswinger to place my order for QS Sycamore and Beech, both sawn to 8/4.

Here you can see him going through the steps of making up the petri dishes. He uses agar for the base media, I believe. Everything is put through the pressure pot to sterilize it.



 








Here he is saying something profound enough that I thought a picture should have been taken. ::) :D




 




He then inoculates the dishes with the fungi in his Laminar Flow Hood. Can you believe he found this thing on Craigslist? I think he was 14 at the time. We drove all the way down to Georgia to pick it up. The LFH recirculates air through a massive HEPA filter giving him a sterile environment so as not to contaminate the media or dishes.



 





 




 




 



And a few weeks later, here is the result! A perfect bloom of chlorociboria aeruginasens.



 



Here is the tray of dishes today. The white dishes are xylaria polymorphia (Dead Mans Finger) and the black dishes are chlorociboria aeruginasens (Elf Cup).



 



He also has a gallon or so of liquid culture of each species. Maybe we will go into business?!?

Anyway, today is the day! I picked up a trailer full of sycamore and beech this morning from Teenswinger.




 



I will try to spalt long boards (7) and short boards (2 3). For the long boards I made this container from foam board and plastic wrap. The shorts will go into these totes. The containers dont have to be air tight, but I may need to add water to maintain the high moisture content (30%) so they need to hold a bit of water.



 






 






 



Everything is loaded into the containers. You can see the gaps between some of the boards. This is where we place the tissue cultures. And because we had so much liquid culture, we splashed that on the top of each layer. She says to do that is a low percentage success rate, but we had it so we did it.



 




 









 





 



The book says 12 weeks to inoculate with a 75% success rate using this method with a spalt percentage of 20% on and throughout the lumber. Somebody set an alarm for mid-July!
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline btulloh

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2022, 11:22:17 PM »
Wow.  

That is a step or two up from just sitting logs out for a while. 

Im looking forward to July and seeing the results.

Very cool.

Offline Andries

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2022, 11:22:49 PM »
Unbelievable!
Good work you two, and well written up too.
I felt like I was back at work in the research lab, but this, this has SUSPENSE!
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2022, 03:29:37 AM »
Cool 👍

Offline tacks Y

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2022, 08:06:22 AM »
Amazing, How old is your son?

Offline K-Guy

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2022, 08:11:38 AM »

Very interesting!! I definitely am looking forward to seeing the results.

But I wonder if you have raised a mad scientist that will use plants to take over the world!!  smiley_jester
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Offline WDH

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2022, 08:20:11 AM »
Chris, this blows me away!  I have relied on blind luck, full moons with dancing wood nymphs and fairies, but have never resorted to chickens yet.  Now you show me this.  You two are "Mad Scientists" material for sure ;D
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Offline metalspinner

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2022, 08:32:45 AM »
tacks Y,
Nick is 22. He graduates this May from UT and begins a Research Assistantship in Chemistry at UNC in June a four year program ending with a Doctorate in Chemistry. His goal is to be a medicinal research chemist. 

Its been a running joke for years that his chemistry lab (his bedroom) would be ground zero for the end of civilization or the cure for cancer. 
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline metalspinner

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2022, 08:38:26 AM »
Because my foam container is under 8 long, we had lots of shorts  around 2 long. So, we just filled up totes with the wood and Petrie dishes. 
I can really see a sales/marketing opportunity for you wood guys. Upselling otherwise unusable shorts cut from low grade lumber with value added processing. And it uses green lumber!
But, lets not get ahead of ourselves.  We need results first. 
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline rusticretreater

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2022, 08:39:58 AM »
Have you picked out a site for his hidden lair to be used in the next James Bond movie?
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Offline olcowhand

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2022, 08:47:18 AM »
This is Great stuff! I've done very well with Spalted Beech in my Projects, but it has always been happenstance. I can't wait to see the results.

 
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Offline boardmaker

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2022, 09:10:38 AM »
This is really cool.
Can't wait to hear the results!

Offline kantuckid

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2022, 09:14:13 AM »
Jostled my memory back to a Fine Woodworking article from a long time ago on spalted wood. What little I've had to use was hard maple and apple, both of which spalt nicely but always by chance, sort of, in my case. 
I have a maple logs lying in the woods since last summer, just maybe it's got some magic fungi on it at work?  :D

One our youngest sons (a twin), a Chemical Engineer, lives in Knoxville, TN now (which he chose over AL recently based on his new venture company) and is the guru of a startup company, energy related/plant based, plastics company there, as we speak. Just putting a bug in your son's ear toward yet another chemistry work field, Engineering. My sons area of specialization was atmospheric then worked in energy a good while then directing energy research, now novel plastics production. Feel free to msg me for more information. 

Like others here, I'm anxious to see some boards.  
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Offline rusticretreater

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2022, 09:15:32 AM »
This has got to be the most interesting thread I have read on the forum.  I already ordered the book!
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Offline trimguy

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2022, 09:21:46 AM »
Very interesting, but way above my head . 

Offline Crusarius

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2022, 09:51:31 AM »
OOOH this could be good. Currently I have a few ash trees laying in some very moist areas, hopefully I can get them to spalt and not just rot.

Offline metalspinner

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2022, 10:08:53 AM »
The book is very well written and I recommend it. The author's research is spalting fungi in wood and she is also a woodturner. It is written in a very practicle way.

The biggest take away I have from reading it is that competing fungi lead to wood rot very quickly. If you can eliminate the competion by overwhelming the wood with the fungi you desire, then your chances go up.
"In the wild" spalting have potentially hundreds or thousands of competing fungi and not neccisarily the ones you want. And with the wrong (or right?) conditions, things get out of hand quickly.

She also outlines four methods to spalting. Each method removes variables from the previous method to better control the outcome. The "Rustic" method is the first one most of us use. Just stack it outside and forget it.

The one I use here is the third method "The Scientific Warehouse." The biggest difference to the fourth method (Tightly Controlled) is that I didnt sterilize the wood or containers prior to loading. So there are probably other competing fungi in my stacks, but hopefully they will be overwhelmed by the chosen fungus in the petri dishes.
I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline JoshNZ

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2022, 03:45:35 PM »
Subscribed...  popcorn_smiley the suspense is killing me already xD 

Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2022, 04:54:37 PM »
This puts everyone to shame who has ever answered the question of how do you get logs to spalt.
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Offline metalspinner

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Re: Spalting Lumber
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2022, 08:42:28 PM »


The optimal temp ranges for this spalting fungus is between 75-80 degrees and about 80% humidity. 
But how will I be able to monitor that??
I found this Indoor/Outdoor thermometer set on Amazon. It comes with three outdoor units. 



 

I placed numbers 1 and 2 into the large container. One on each end. The third one I put into one of the totes. 

And here is the reading tonight. 🤨

 
 The orange indoor temp is the ambient air in the garage. The othe three are the sensors in the containers. 
I need to get the temp up! We had a cold snap the past several weeks and the wood did seem kind of cool to the touch. 
Im wondering if a couple of heating pads will move things along??


I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.


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