Spalted maple has to be one of the most beautiful woods available for both wood turners and luthiers.  It’s unique characteristics make each piece a treasure.    

 

Spalted Maple Guitar Top Bookmatched Set

Spalted Maple Guitar Top Bookmatched Set

 

What is spalted maple?

Spalted maple is created when the wood is infected by a variety of fungi.  Each unique fungus creates a different effect in the wood during the natural process of decay. If the wood is caught and processed at the right time, before it gets soft and punky, it can create a stunning mosaic of light and dark areas most often bordered by dark lines (inklines).  This provides a striking visual contrast.

Is spalted maple foodsafe?

After researching this topic in great length… this is what I found.  If the wood is kiln dried, the fungi will go dormant or die.  As long as you apply a durable foodsafe finish to your turning, the wood should be foodsafe. However, after having said that, I could not find any research with a solid conclusion either way.  I also could not find any reported illnesses from using spalted wood in this manner. The only cautions I could find regarding the use of spalted wood were workshop related. The dust from the spalted maple and the warm damp climate of your lungs make for an ideal breeding ground for the fungi to come back to life.  When you’re cutting any kind of spalted wood, please protect your lungs and use a respirator mask for your own health.

Here’s a list of some foodsafe finishes you may want to try:

Pure Tung Oil.  Tung oil comes from the nut of the china wood tree. Requires many coats and provides good water-resistance. 

Walnut Oil.  This oil is pressed from the nuts of the walnut tree and is sold as a salad oil in health food stores or grocery stores.  It’s easy to apply but requires frequent reapplication.

Mineral Oil.  This oil is available for sale as a laxative in drug stores and as a wood finish in hardware stores. It’s simple to apply but requires frequent reapplication and is not very water resistant.

Beeswax. This wax can be mixed with an oil like lavender to create a pleasant smelling finish. This smells great but is not very water resistant.

Carnauba Wax. This wax is from the Brazilian palm tree. It’s a harder wax than beeswax and a little more water resistant.

Shellac.  Harvested in India, shellac is a secretion from the lac bug. The most waterresistant variety is super blond shellac in flake form and can be found in most hardware stores and woodworking catalogs.

Raw Linseed Oil. This oil is pressed from flax seeds. It has a very long curing time and low water resistance. Linseed oil also requires frequent reapplication.

 

Spalted Maple Bookmatched Set

Spalted Maple Bookmatched Set

 

Quality spalted maple can be very expensive and is getting harder and harder to find.  Vedder Mountain Hardwoods has a good supply of both turning blocks in spalted curly maple and spalted maple guitar tops available. You can purchase direct through their website or from their eBay store.