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what exactly is spalted beech?

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Rob_H

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I saw a mirror frame made from spalted beech the other day. What exactly is spalted beech because I've been told it's something that is done to the beech to get that effect. Sorry for my ignorance but is that true or not and, if so, how is it done?
 

Steve Maskery

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Hi Rob
Spalting can be beautiful, can't it? It's actually the first stage in timber going rotten! (although, of course, it can go rotten without spalting first). As I understand it, it the boundaries where different colonies of microbes compete for territory. I'm sure a microbiologist could give you a better answer.

As for something being "done" to the wood, as far as I know you can't do anything other than provide suitable condition (warm, damp, little air movement) for the bacteria to thrve and hope for the best. And then get it dry before the little beasties devour it altogether.

Cheers
Steve
 

Cutting Crew

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Hello Steve,

I was extremely lucky, the spalting fell just where I had planned the rim to be (I wish).

The black line is nothing more than a few applications of a Berol permanent marker pen applied before the finish, with the bowl being so thin it help draw the eye to the edge.

Regards....Mike
 

Sgian Dubh

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Rob, trees are affected/infected by fungi that cause wet rots, brown rots (or dry rots which destroy the cellulose) and dote which means partial degradation of the woods cellular structure. dote can be caused by more than one fungus

Dote spreads through the heartwood of living trees and also logs felled ready for conversion and drying. It's usually visible as a bracket shaped fruit body on the bark. Early infection doesn’t weaken the wood much, but spalted woods such as maple and beech are a result of dote. Severe spalting does weaken the wood.

There are health hazards where some people are badly affected by the fungal spores that dotey wood can give off, so if you plan to work it you may well need to take precautions.

As I'm in a question answering mood, here's a bit more about wood and fungi. True dry rot affects timbers that have been dried and is an indoor type of fungus. It requires damp conditions and poor air circulation to get started. Once established, the fungus develops its own water system. Treatment is drastic requiring complete removal of infected wood and treatment of surrounding brickwork etc., with chemicals and heat.

During the timber drying process a moisture content (MC) of 20% or less is considered 'dry-rot safe.' Slainte.
 
A

Anonymous

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Mike that is absolutely fantastic I only wish I could turn to that level :?

Sgian, thanks for the spalting explanation - something I have wondered about for years
 

Rob_H

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Thanks, everybody. I take it spalted beech can be bought from sawmills such as Yandles the same as ordinary beech? I really want to make a spalted beech mirror.
 

Taffy Turner

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Rob,

I was at Yandles in October for their show, and they had an enormous selection of spalted beech there.

It is definately a timber that you want to select yourself, as the level of spalting varies greatly.

Be a bit careful though, as the heavily spalted stuff can be difficult to work, due to a tendancy for bits to "pluck" out of the surface where there are any weak areas.

Regards
Gary
 

smiffy

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I am just about to spend about £600 on an order of Beech where the supplier is saying that the Beech has a 'flamed pattern'. Does he actually mean that it is spalted then?
Please excuse my ignorance on this.

Cheers,
Raymond.
 

jasonB

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A flame grain pattern is usually obtained where the wood is cut from a crotch - where a branch joins a trunk.

If I were spending that much, I would want to see the wood first, it may be it has been cut from a heavily branched tree and not a clear butt (trunck)

Jason
 

Sgian Dubh

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smiffy, flamed pattern has absolutely nothing to do with spalting, which is what Jason said.

It's all about the grain pattern. Description of grain pattern can get very subjective. For instance, ripple maple is also be known as fiddleback maple.
Tiger maple is another that is often characterised as fiddleback maple.

Then there are descriptions like plum pudding mahogany, which is just another way of saying wavy grain with a mottled look.

Flame beech is probably as Jason indicated likely to be charaterised by flamboyant grain patterns at the junction between the trunk and a first-cut branch, although it could be from elsewhere. It'll be attractive, but unstable, and likely to suffer distortion during manufacture and service.

I'd use this kind of stuff for non-critical decorative parts such as table tops in preference to using it as necessarily stable carcase or table frame, etc., constructions. Slainte.
 

tim

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Trevtheturner asked if I would post a couple of pics of the spalted beech plate he gave me a couple of days ago. I would be pleased to call it my work - but it isn't.

You can see from the more obliique view that the spalting doesn't (in this instance) affect the integrity of the surface:




Thanks again Trev for the gift.

T
 

trevtheturner

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Thanks, Tim.

The beech is from a load I 'won' at a Ledbury auction. Took a chance when I bought it - fortunately it turned ( :roll: ) out to be well spalted and free of the dreaded worm.

Cheers,

Trev.
 

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