View Full Version : Spalted Pecan...

03-14-2014, 06:25 PM
A friend gave me some slabs of Pecan… When I got them cleaned up enough to see what I had, A good portion of them are spalted. They’re going to make some beautiful boxes!
I have a question or request for an opinion… How should I treat the occasional “punky” spot. Leave them as is, fill with a matching wood putty, fill with a contrasting epoxy or something else?

03-14-2014, 07:05 PM
I think you go with it and use the contrasting epoxy. That is always a great look.

03-14-2014, 07:16 PM
Thin CA glue, PC-Petrifier, Minwax Wood Hardener. Haven't tried any, just looked into it a bit for some spalted maple I have.

Beautiful pieces you have there!

03-14-2014, 07:38 PM
Steve, maybe play a little? No! Not my work.http://www.woodturningvideosplus.com/inlay-materials.html

Brian Harnett
03-14-2014, 07:50 PM
I am assuming you will clear coat them, what I do is use regular epoxy, west system brand and fill it in, when its clearcoated it will show the spalting beneath and harden the wood.

The cherry slab below had a lot of epoxy filling


ron brown
03-14-2014, 10:33 PM

Most real boatbuilding epoxies can be thinned with lacquer thinner.

Mix epoxy and hardener; let 'cook' a bit; thin; pour in 'punk'; chill the bit of excess ( you did make a bit extra didn't you?); put the capped bottle in the freezer; let set. When 'tacky', pull bottle from freezer and re-apply; let cure.

I never need beyond 15% thinner to make the epoxy 'water thin'.


Brian Harnett
03-15-2014, 09:41 AM
Another tip, I use a hairdryer to get the bubbles out if there are any before it starts setting up.

03-18-2014, 03:21 AM
Well… I spent the weekend studying some of your suggestions and “playing a little” as Scott suggested. About all I know for sure is that I don’t care for epoxy filled with turquoise chips or brass filings! I have some with about ten coats of spray shellac or lacquer and they’re still soaking it up and not “sealed”. I’m likely going to have to use a two part “thicker” finish. I’ll post some images when I get something I’m happy with!

03-18-2014, 03:39 AM
Filling with turquoise chips and ca glue was something that woodturners did often. In my eyes that makes it look "odd".

I seem to recall someone in the woodturning group telling us how to create spalted wood. By taking a slab of wood, soaking it in beer and setting it on your driveway (not sure if it was asphalt or concrete) or if that had any bearing at all) and covering it up, or was I just being set up for the "snipe hunt"?

03-18-2014, 01:36 PM
Here is one for you Jack

04-17-2014, 05:11 PM
Here’s another project I made with my Pecan stash… The stool was inspired by a similar one I watched my grandfather make. He used an ax, brace and bit, whittling knife and a plane. I used $30,000 dollars’ worth of woodworking tools. I had fun, he was serious about the stool grandma wanted…

04-21-2014, 05:25 PM
Today I was re-sawing some spalted Pecan slabs to make legs for another coffee table… Inside the log was a re-sawn grub of something about 3” long and ½” in diameter.
My question…
Can I treat this wood with something to guarantee that one won’t crawl out of a customer’s table a year from now?

Brian Harnett
04-22-2014, 07:55 AM
The best way is to put it in a kiln and get it heated it must have only been air dried, I would check moisture content before making to much more to avoid having a nice project crack in a few months.

I heat my slabs to 140 for two days then let the dehumidifier take over in the little kiln I made, so far I have only found dead insects, the wormy buggy stuff has the most character.

There is lots of info on this site,

04-22-2014, 09:08 AM
Steve, Like Brian would recommend heat. Was researching killing fungal spores for a big batch of spalted maple but the heats looked to high, but remembered the house temperature for termites being lower. Have cooked air dried maple blocks (2") in oven to reduce moisture content and started at 130F for 2 hours and bumping 10F an hour up to 160F for 3 hours with no ill effect on 200 blocks.
I used convection settings. Here's the link for the spore article and another one for powder beetles.


05-09-2014, 12:21 PM
Steve, Saw this a couple days ago and thought about your spalted today. Probably not a good idea for your BIG holes(Like Brians method), but for smaller ones MAY look good after taking a second look at your wood. Haven't tried it yet but just started saving my expresso grounds :) Anybody used it?http://forum.vectric.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=19784&sid=d12f25f1309f22061fb4ae53ad8b9fed

05-09-2014, 01:45 PM
Thanks for thinking of me!
I had actually read about using coffee grounds on another site. The Coffee grounds are virtually indistinguishable from the crumbled “punk” when stabilized with super glue... My issues were getting white streaks between layers of glue and the deep areas taking literally weeks to setup solid enough to sand.
I’m still experimenting and will someday post my findings...

05-09-2014, 02:10 PM
Glad you posted pics! What caused the white? Excess CA? Looks like the bleeding has to be solved too. Maybe un-waxed shellac cut thin? I was thinking of using on hard maple where I needed contrast but a flush surface. Fresh grounds? I was worried about my dark beans having to much oil, so figured expresso machine pressurized steam would have driven most oil out. Time to play, but that was a big hole you did also. Thanks

05-09-2014, 02:41 PM
I’m assuming the white is some issue with cured vs. uncured super glue. What appears to be “bleeding” was actually just the way it was! Any bleeding happened before the log was cut.

05-09-2014, 03:03 PM
Learn something new everyday. I never realized that superglue needs moisture to polymerize. Going to take some playing.never bothered to look it up before, maybe should take expresso grounds out of the oven?:) Thanks Steve

05-10-2014, 10:23 AM
The following is documentation of my attempts to apply a finish to spalted wood. If you aren’t trying to finish this type of wood, it’s a meaningless read. It is however here for you to find when the time comes!

I wanted to find a finish that works best for me on Spalted Pecan… A web search yielded opinions that varied as much as there are finishes, so I decided to test finish materials for myself! The problem with spalted wood is that it’s spongy or pithy or soft in spots, and all the way to normal density for that species in other spots… The spalting process is a decomposition or rotting process that has been stopped mid rot. Stopping the rotting process is not a problem, all you need to do is remove the conditions that cause rotting… Moisture and warmth. Some folks on web forums were concerned about cutting and sanding wood that has been thoroughly infused with rot causing fungus… These fears were allayed by “experts” who assured that these fungi are ones we live with every day without issues.
Applying a finish to my examples involved three stages: stabilizing, filling and finishing. Stabilizing is necessary because the wood, or at least parts of it can easily crumble and disintegrate. Unfortunately, the best or most unusual wood pieces tend to need stabilizing the most! All my testing was done on completed boxes with ¼” thick top and bottom and ½” walls. Different results may be realized from blanks stabilized before machining.
The first stabilizing product I tried was “Minwax Wood Hardener” This was an off the shelf purchase in the paint department of a big box store. If you are thinking about trying this product, read the warning label… You may change your mind! Directions say to brush on multiple coats in quick succession until a shiny appearance is obtained. I did this with a 9” X 5” X 2.5” box. My first observation was that the color was going very dark, I hoped that this was a temporary condition until the product was dry. My goal was to have a light colored finish because that would show the spalting lines and tones the best. My next observation was that the feather lite box was gaining some heft, this was encouraging! The third observation was that the box just kept soaking up any hardener I applied… I felt that the box might soak up the entire pint I had bought! I stopped at about half the bottle and decided to let that set up and I would apply more as a second coat if necessary.
The next day, about 24 hours later… I went to check up on my box. It was dark, heavy and puckered! I wish I had taken a photo, by puckered I mean PUCKERED. Totally unsalvageable. I’m sure this product has uses, but this isn’t one of them.
The next stabilizing product I tried was Cyanoacrylate or super glue. I had mixed success with this. First I tried to stabilize just the worst “punky” areas, this resulted in wood that had areas with vastly different characteristics, and subsequent top coat finishes did not blend well, you were always able to tell which area was treated and which wasn’t. I tried coating entire surfaces to get around this problem, but the fumes were more than I could tolerate. I later read about someone who got superglue fumes in his eyes, it floated on the watery surface of his eyes until he blinked…
The last stabilizing product I tried was fiberglass resin. Because I wasn’t sure if some of the worm holes might go clear through, I taped up the exterior with blue painters tape and figured to do the exterior after the interior was sealed. I poured several ounces of catalyzed resin into the interior and it immediately ran through the box, between layers of tape and unto my work area. Frantic work on my part salvaged the box… however I was unhappy with the meniscus that formed in all my interior corners, and top coats of lacquer did not adhere well. I might have spent more time perfecting this method, but the darkening of the wood made me lose interest.
There are commercial stabilization services offered that use vacuum and/or pressure to infuse chemicals into the wood, they are quite pricy… but worth it for that special piece.
Noticing how readily spalted wood soaks up anything liquid, I decided to try using polymerizing oils as both a stabilizing agent and a finish. First I tried Linseed oil… This finish was the least fuss of any I tried. An incredible amount was soaked up until a “wet” finish was obtained. I then let it sit for about two weeks to fully polymerize and then top coated it with two coats of lacquer. The box feels well stabilized but turned such a yellow/gold that I might get away with calling it “Osage Orange”! Also, even with two topcoats of lacquer, When you open the box a heavy linseed smell greets you. I considered the linseed oil a limited success and decided to try “natural” Danish oil to see if the resulting color would be better. The Danish oil took two “sessions” to fully saturate the wood, dried in a few days and top coated nicely. If a darkened color is acceptable, this method worked well.
Still determined to get a “lighter” colored finish I decided to try a water based “crystal clear” finish. I happened to have some Armstrong Excelon floor polish… it’s a water based acrylic that looks like water thinned wood glue. The spalted wood soaked it right up and didn’t appear to darken the wood very much, but after a while I noticed that the wood was badly warped. Hoping things would straighten out when thoroughly dry I let it sit over night, but the next morning it was still warped. As a last ditch effort I microwaved the box, apparently there was still a lot of moisture trapped in the wood because several minutes later the dried box had regained 99% of its original shape! Naturally the grain was raised and required more sanding. It took three soaking/dryings before no more finish would be absorbed… This finish doesn’t look bad by itself but it top coated well with anything I tried. I haven’t tried punishing the surface but my gut feel is that this method isn’t the best for stabilizing real bad wood rot, but it did seal the wood well.

Step two of my finish process involved filling worm holes and the voids where rot had won the battle. I quickly determined that I was only going to fill holes that compromised the usefulness of the box… Where “keepsakes” that might call the box home would fall through. The other holes added to the character of the box and added tons of extra work! I tried filling holes with superglue, sawdust mixed with superglue, “punk” mixed with super glue, coffee grounds mixed with superglue and fiberglass resin. All the superglue recipes worked to a degree but were fussy about drying times and repeatability wasn’t guaranteed. I wasn’t enamored with the muddy look of the resin and the filled area was so much harder than the surrounding wood it was impossible to sand flush without the softer surrounding wood sanding down faster. I then tried filling the voids with Durham’s rock hard water putty with the intent of “staining” it a matching color. I found I was happier with the unadorned putty than my poor attempts at stain matching the woods varying hues. I haven’t tried epoxies yet but need to as I’m sure my other methods won’t work for large cracks in some coffee table tops I’m fitting with bowtie patches.

Some of the finishes I used have been covered in other areas of this discussion but others were tried also… My old faithful standby, rattle can lacquer, proved a poor finish by itself. I have a couple of boxes that have nearly 20 coats of lacquer and still aren’t 100% sealed in the softer areas. Polyurethane spray finish has all the disadvantages of lacquer but also with a yellowing tint and horribly long dry times. An interesting new-to-me finish is a Rust-oleum product called “Triple thick Glaze”. This product goes on heavy without running, is glass clear and fast drying. It smells like lacquer but is an interior/exterior finish. I found it useful when trying to level out a pocked finish.

I feel I have exhausted the handyman finishes and am not 100% happy. My next step is to try some of the professional finishes like West systems epoxy.

05-10-2014, 08:23 PM
Steve, saved some people a lot of work. Only done some spalted maple and liked the "Honey Maple" look, but can see why you want that finish look you are getting with water born. Thought of you when applying CA to 2'nd day expresso grounds on wax paper in the kitchen and got a bubbling boiling exothermic reaction accompanied by a big puff of white smoke:eek: Glad it's May and opened windows and got fan going quick. Can't figure that one out, only thing different was inserting nozzle tip 50% of depth of grounds. Moisture? Got those white marks over entire surface, will have to sand to see interior. Was going to do Day1(same day as steamed)(all it did was run off with no penetration-but no smoke either) through day 5, daily at 50% Relative humidity 70F. May still continue, but will have windows and fan running before! Tung doesn't darken as much and doesn't darken with age as much(and I like it) so may try that. Also Watco natural with 2 wipe offs as don't mind the darker in maple, and as you said fast,easy and compatible. Keep it up and post. Like the last one. Thanks

05-11-2014, 08:53 AM
Steve you might what to take a look at this. I have not tried but it may work for you. It does appear to darken the wood. There may be others that will not darken.

05-11-2014, 09:18 AM
You might also look here.

05-12-2014, 06:15 PM
Those are both very interesting sites... Many of the methods suggested in them would require a sizable investment in tanks, chemicals etc. From my limited experimenting I can see that if I’m serious about stabilization it may be necessary to go that route. Some found that the Minwax wood hardener was acceptable, but in the cases I read about they used it on a blank where I had used it on a finished part.