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Author Topic: How to mill spalted maple ?  (Read 5659 times)

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Offline Warren

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How to mill spalted maple ?
« on: July 22, 2006, 07:10:54 am »
Folks,

I picked up 5 maple logs from a tree service two weeks ago. All about 20" to 28" on the small end.  Both trees were standing dead due to being covered in English Ivy.  All 5 logs show signs of spalting on both ends.  I've never intentionally sawn spalted maple before.  A couple quick questions to the group:

1) What is best manner to saw to show most the figure or pattern with spalted wood ? Flat, Quarter, ???

2) How do you determine if the wood is spalted versus degraded to the point of being fire wood ?  When I tap the exposed surfaces with a biltmore stick I get a sharp "tapping" sound back, not a "thunk"

3) What are preferred dimensions for spalted lumber ?  I know some folks talk of turning blanks. What are common sizes for turning blanks ?  Also, I've heard of folks building furniture out of spalted material, so I am guessing some 4/4 and 5/4 stock woul be appropriate.

All help greatly appreciated.

Warren
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Offline BBTom

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2006, 07:17:10 am »
Most spalting that I have run into has been best near the outside of the log, therefore flatsawn would be the way to go. Quartersawn would have spalting just on one edge.   I cannot help you with the turning blanks. 
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Offline kelLOGg

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2006, 08:20:11 am »
Warren,

Don't know the best way but I am surely am pleased with some flat-sawn spalted maple I cut a few years ago. I cut it 1 inch and because I'm not a fine woodworker I gave it to a master furniture maker neighbor. A year later he surprised me with a beautiful book-matched end table (gratis) with part of it. Getting the wood at the right time is the trick - too late and it's not even firewood quality. When I cut my maple I let it sit in the elements off the ground for a year then milled it. I was lucky.  No telling what your standing dead tree will present, but your tapping results sound promising. (Wasn't it Duke Ellington who said if it sounds good it is good?) Cut it and see if he's right :D. Good luck and post some pictures - I would do the same but I don't have a digital camera. yet.

Bob
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Offline jkj

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2006, 08:46:51 am »
What are common sizes for turning blanks ?

Warren,

The only way I know to evaluate the wood is to cut into it and see the extent of the spalting and decay.  Whle punky wood can still be turned, it is undesirable and has low or no value.  If you can easily make an indentation with your thumbnail the wood may be too far gone.  I've done some spalting of maple on purpose and some came out great and some was compost.

Turning blanks can be any size,  but usually the bigger the better.  There are two basic types of blanks: bowl and spindle.  Bowl blanks are cut with the grain going across the blank, across what will be the diameter of the bowl.  Spindle blanks are cut with the grain running lengthwise, just as if you were sawing 4x4s from the log.

For bowls, 2" is about the minimum thickness, 3" is better, 4" or more is even better, depenind on the diameter of the blank.  The diameter should be at least 6" square with 8", 10", or 12"+ better.  The larger the diameter, the more the thickness should be or you start turning plates and platters rather than bowls.  There is also a market for larger blanks.  When cutting bowl blanks, the pith must be removed, so the size it mostly limited by the diameter of the log.

As  mentioned, often the spalting will be on the outside of the log, so a blank should be cut to take advantage of that.  For a bowl blank, it is OK to let one side go all the way to the curved outside of the log - this will give more options in turning and maximize the spalted wood in the blank.

Spindle blanks can be any size from about 2x2" on up.  Smaller sizes are used for table legs, pepper grinders, and a wide variety of small decorative items.  Larger blanks can be used for hollow forms, pots, and vases.  A 6x6" or 8x8" spalted blank would be ideal.  The length can vary, but should be at least two times the diameter, preferably a little more.

If you want to get into producing turning blanks, you might check out a book "Turning Green Wood".  It describes some of the best ways to cut blanks from a tree.  Some of the best wood,  btw, will be found in large crotches or stumps, things that usually don't make it to the sawmill.  Be advised that producing turning blanks can be a lot more work than sawing boards.

For an idea of marketable sizes, check out the blanks offered for sale on the internet, for example here:  http://www.exoticwoodworld.com  (look at Products, Turning Blanks.)  Another thing is to visit any local dealers that cater to woodworkers and turners.  For example, a lot of Woodcraft stores sell turning blanks on commission - you can often get an idea of the size and value from what they have on the shelf.

Selling the blanks is another big issue and unless you find a good market, it may not be worth the effort.  It might be best to wholesale to a turning blank dealer.

Unless the blanks are very dry, be sure to coat with end grain sealer to prevent cracking.

One other thing - spalting is caused by a fungus and can be dangerous to inhale.  Be sure to wear a respirator, or at minimum, a dust mask.

JKJ
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Offline Raphael

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2006, 10:53:47 am »
  Flat sawn 4/4 or 5/4 is definately the way to go for spalted boards...  You'll get more call for the 4/4 but the person who needs a 5/4 will tend to pay a disproportionately higher price for it.
  I got some really beautiful spalted boards off a 36" maple that had rotted to the heart on one side.  Depending on how far gone the logs are you may need to spend some extra time getting the good wood separated from the bad.
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Offline Tom

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2006, 11:45:25 am »
I favor flat sawing to see the fungus lines.

Sawing figured wood is an art and each sawyer will treat a log differently.  Saw the boards in the direction that you appreciate what you see.

As far as punky wood.....   I think that the use of the wood in any condition is going to be dependent on the experience and tenacity of the woodworker.   I've met woodworkers who will not tolerate a single flaw or out-of-place grain.  They also want their rough cut boards to be absolutely straight edged and have the appearance of planing.  No bark or tooth marks are allowed.

Then, on the other hand, I've seen some absolutely beautiful masterpieces made by a craftsman who found a piece of firewood that intrigued him and he sawed it up on his band saw and table saw into boards that he could use.  To this man, the boards didn't have to be of any particular size, only close enough that he could join them into something he could use.

There are modern finishes that will harden even the punkiest of woods if a craftsman is intent enough.

To the fellow who is just building as if he is putting together a jigsaw puzzle, you will never satisfy him.  To the fellow who recognizes your "find" as more boards for him to display, it won't matter too much as long as you were part of the artistic endeavor.

Basically, figured woods are sawed four quarter to six quarter (for resawing) and in pieces as wide as the log will stand.  Lengths are more appropriately decided upon by the mode of transportation.  A cabinet maker usually has to carry his boards in an automobile unless he is lucky enough to have a pick-up truck.   Seldom do they have a need for anything longer than 10 feet.

Remember one rule.  When you decide that a piece of wood isn't worth keeping, you are usually making a decision for someone else.  Just how good is he?

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Offline treecyclers

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2006, 12:58:07 pm »
When I cut junk logs for turning stock, I cut 3 different thicknesses.
I cut 3" thick, 4" thick, and rounds.
The 3 and 4" thick stock i cut ito blocks that are reasonably square, and the rounds I cut are a little longer than they are in diameter, to leave a bit for chucking a tenon into a jawed chuck.
I anchorseal the snot out of the ends, to prevent cracking as best I can. But, when they do crack, they get resawn into half rounds and sold that way.
Some folks like turning half rounds on the side, as it makes for an interesting edge on the bowl when finished out.
For your spalted maple, I suggest going for lumber as much as possible, and taking the turning stock from the butts and junk sections. Turners seem to love that - I know I do.
Turners also have tricks they use when turning punky wood, such as epoxy or stabilization processing.
Stabilization basically is impregnating the wood with resin under pressure/vaccuum, which stabilizes the wood intact, keeping the figure and character intact.
It's neat, and I love turning it.
Have a great day!
Dave
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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2006, 01:23:04 pm »
This is some spault for a the UGLIEST most Dangerous tree I have ever felled. I was still shaking hours later. More than 14' in CIRCUMFERENCE. Hollow, curly tangled with vine on a construction site on a HILL side to boot :o.

  Expect some significant looses due to collapse, and good luck.





        Reid
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Offline Tom

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2006, 01:25:50 pm »
Reid,

That's gorgeous!
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Offline Ironwood

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2006, 01:46:13 pm »
Tom,

 Thanks. I love spault but it is sooooo prone to degrade even in a GOOD spaulted log. It is not for the weak at heart, you throw ALOT of effort and $$$$ at logs that yeild nothing. You really need to maxiumize the good ones to pay for all the previous garbage you have cut.


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Offline iain

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2006, 02:01:27 pm »
What the wood worker above said

but the rewards can be better looking than your wife on her bridal night

iain

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2006, 04:28:25 pm »

 Just to get y'all thinkin, I see LOTS of logs here FULL of Spalt, or a VERY similar effect.

  That is one beautiful piece of furniture, Reid.
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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2006, 04:43:36 pm »
Very nice Reid!

I milled some this winter. It had just started spalting after sitting in the log pile for a year. It was flat sawn and showed the best figure in the outer boards. As I got past the first few boards on the outside the spalting decreased tremdously. On the plus side there was no punky wood where the spalt was as it hadn't layed too long.

This was hard maple.



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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2006, 05:00:37 pm »
Great work Reid...if you have a better pic of the table I would like to see it also.  And again beautiful work...the boss just peeked over my shoulder and is awestruck also.

Spalt has a limited but sometimes very lucrative market.  Sent some to the east coast last week and had an inquiry for a large order...couldn’t supply the guy enough boards with the same color to make him happy though.
Larry

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2006, 05:26:03 pm »
Another vote for milling flatsawn 4/4 or 5/4.  It's a gamble as to what you will get because there's a very fine line between not enough spalting and rotten wood.   I am taking that gamble on a couple dozen hard maple logs that have been sitting on the ground for about three years.  They get moved around, rotated once in a while, instinct says that they should spalt evenly that way.  I'm going to open them up late this fall and see what I get, hopefully I'll have about 800 bf of nice spalted sugar maple boards.    ;D  Worst case I have about a cord of nice dry firewood for the wood boiler.   :(

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2006, 06:16:25 pm »
Thanks All.

 Most folks trying to spault their own try to keep the log length below 6' to get good moisture penetration. If you can find standiing maple with good water infiltration from a dead branch or some hole they usually get pretty nice.

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2006, 06:38:37 pm »
Everyone, 
Thank y'all for the responses. I will probably go more for the 4/4 and 5/4 stock and then experiment with the turning blanks.  At least one butt section has fence wire that will require I buck off a 4ft section.  I may try shaving blanks off parallel to the wire.

Reid,
I don't normally use the word awesome, because it is over used.  But awesome is an understatement for the wood and the craftmanship in your pictures.  thank you for sharing.

I will try to share pictures as I go.  The raw logs are pretty ugly since they are totally covered in ivy.  Fortunely, it's not poison ivy...

Again, thanks all...
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Offline getoverit

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2006, 07:43:06 pm »
WOW Reid !

That is some mighty pretty cabinitry ya got there !
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Offline Furby

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2006, 09:37:22 pm »


Offline metalspinner

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Re: How to mill spalted maple ?
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2006, 10:17:58 pm »
WOW!!! :o :o :o :o :o


That's a cool table!
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