Everything You Need To Know About Spalted Wood

When most people look at spalted wood, the chances are that they aren’t actually sure what it is at first glance. If a group of people are looking at some wood laid out on the table then the chances are that the piece they will pick out is spalted.

This is because it looks so different and the design is really eye catching.

Today, we’re going to dive into everything that you need to know about spalted wood. We will tell you the uses of this wood, and we’ll dive into a couple of the myths about this unique kind of wood.

What Is It?

In essence, spalted wood is a kind of wood that has started to rot or decay. This can happen because an airborne fungus has gotten into the wood. It is then formed because the white rot of the fungus has started to bury itself inside of the log or wood, changing the appearance.

As the fungus starts to get bigger in the wood, it starts spalting.

You will usually find that spalting is going to occur much more frequently in hardwoods. It’s possible for it to happen in softwoods too, however.

There are three conditions that must be met in order for the spalting to take place in the wood. You will need to ensure that the temperature, oxygen and moisture is correct in order for the fungus to grow inside of the wood.

Temperature - the white rot fungus generally spreads and grows most efficiently in temperatures ranging from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moisture - you need to ensure that the level of moisture in the wood is above 25%. Of course, it is not an option to submerge the wood underwater. This is because it can stop the oxygen from getting at the gungi. As such, the best thing to do is to put the wood in a damp and dark location. This will ensure that it doesn’t get dry so that the fungi can grow properly.

Oxygen - It’s not possible for a fungus to grow if it cannot breathe. You don’t need a specific amount of oxygen for the fungus to grow - there just needs to be some present.

It’s important to ensure that you stop the spread of the fungus before the wood completely disintegrates - spalting is, after all, a kind of rot. Given enough time the wood can just fall apart, which isn’t ideal for your project requirements.

You can stop the spalting from happening further by putting the wood in a place that is dry - it is imperative that no water can get into it at this point.


One of the most common myths with this kind of wood is that it is made as a result of bacteria, insects or bugs that are hanging out in the wood. This is actually not the case, despite popular opinion.

Of course, they can live in the wood and they can also make the wood look different as they create holes in it. This is not spalted wood though - that’s only caused by fungus.

Things To Do With Spalted Wood

You can do a lot of things with spalted wood since it basically operates like normal wood. What’s especially great about it is that the design is very unique, so it’s best to put this on display. As such, you should primarily be using spalted wood in projects that you can look at.

It’s a bad idea to put the spalted wood on the rear of a dresser, for instance, as you simply cannot see the wood.

You will often find that this wood is especially popular with people that like to cut pieces of wood with wood lathes or with wood turners.

The designs are incredible as they are full of patterns and designs so they can look great in rounded shapes. For instance, spalted wood can work especially well for bowls, pens, utensils and urns. 

Of course, this kind of wood isn’t only good for wood turners and lathes though. You can use it for much larger objects too, like guitars and table tops.

If you want to buy spalted wood that is big enough for larger objects like wardrobes, tables and guitars though, you are probably going to be paying quite a considerable amount of money. That’s because it can be hard to acquire this kind of wood. 

Is This Wood Dangerous?

Another myth in the woodworking world is that there are dangers linked with spalted wood. This myth probably surfaced because the wood is linked with mold spores. As such, people may assume that it can be dangerous to work with thanks to the presence of fungi.

Of course, this is simply not the case. People have conducted studies and they have shown that this kind of wood isn’t any more dangerous to workers than working with any other kind of wood. Likewise, it is not dangerous to have spalted wood in your home.

It is very important to be careful when working with wood though - that goes for all species of wood, not just spalted wood. This is because it can be dangerous to get spores and dust in your lungs.

There have been instances of allergic reactions coming as a result of inactive fungus getting into the air with spalted wood when people are working without taking the right precautions.

Thankfully it’s easy to protect yourself. You simply need to get a mask to stop you from breathing in the dust from the saw. You can get them on Amazon for an affordable price, and they will help to seal your mouth and nose away so you don’t breathe in any dust.

Can You Use This Kind of Wood Around Food?

There are mixed opinions on this. Some woodworkers will say yes, others will say no. There’s really no clear consensus on what is the correct answer as of yet. 

Some people will err on the side of caution and say that it’s just too risky to use this kind of wood around food. It’s made with fungus spores after all, so people can be a little wary of using it around wood. It can sound quite scary to have fungus around your food after all.

On the other hand, if you aren’t using wood with bigger pores such as red oak and walnut then it should be safe to use the spalted wood for things like food. You will simply need to ensure that you apply a food safe finish to it.

This finish will help to seal up any of the spores that are in the wood and it will kill off any bacteria.

The choice is mainly left to the woodworker in this respect. If it’s something that you feel comfortable with then go for it.

There are a lot of things in the kitchen that would look great made out of spalted wood. You can also make other things out of this kind of wood if you are concerned.

Tree Burls

One other kind of deformity that you may find on wood is tree burls. These can have a huge impact on the color, rings and grain on the wood. They differ from spalted wood since it is usually as a result of some kind of damage to the tree. They’re basically like tree warts.

This kind of deformity will usually happen because the tree has taken some kind of damage in nature. This damage can sometimes result in an attack of a disease or insects.

Eventually the burl will grow and it will look like there’s a bubble growing in the part of the tree that has been damaged. This can result in a unique look and color in the tree.

You can get burls in a lot of different sizes. You will need to be careful when working with them though since they can often break or crack thanks to the damage already present on the tree. They grow because of damage and stress, so the burl can sometimes contain bits of bark that have grown a little too much. Voids and pockets can then form inside of the burl.

Some burls form eyes inside of the grain of wood, and this kind of burl is the one that’s the most popular. It can be a lot harder to fine them though, and it can be hard to know whether this kind of burl is present unless you have taken the burl off the tree.

How Much Will A Burl Cost?

Tree burls can vary in cost. The price can depend on the size of the burl and the species. You can often get some of them for less than $20 if they are small, which is great for smaller projects.

If you are trying to buy a larger burl though this could easily cost more than a few hundred dollars. Some burls can sell for more than $1000 if it’s from a rare kind of tree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to burn spalted wood?

It is not an issue to burn spalted wood. It is best that you don’t use it for things like campfires though. Instead, if you don’t do woodworking then you would be better off putting it up for sale online - you can get quite a bit of money for it since it’s always so highly sought after.

It’s a real waste to try and burn it so you should try not to do this.

Are there any differences between ambrosia maple and spalted maple?

The different kinds of maple can be very alike in many respects, but they are generally made in different ways. It should be very clear by now after reading through this article, but spalted maple is created thanks to a kind of fungus forming inside of the tree.

Ambrosia, on the other hand, is made by little beetles burrowing into the tree trunk and changing the color of the wood as they begin to travel through it. 


That’s everything that you need to know about spalted wood, and even wood burls! As you can see, spalted wood is very popular. It can look fantastic on a lot of different projects but it also costs a lot of money since it can be hard to come by. 

If you find some of this wood on your travels, make sure that you take it with you since people can wait a long time to acquire it. We hope that you now know enough about spalted wood that you too can enjoy making lots of beautiful things using this kind of wood!