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.


Spalted Maple Burl Pen


Spalted Maple Burl Wood Pen Turning


This is my very first pen turning. The wood is Spalted Maple Burl …Big Leaf Maple 🙂 I used a black fancy slim line kit that we bought from woodturningz online. Sanded to 800 grit and finished with Crystal Coat friction polish. I love the contrast of the maple burl and the black kit.

This one is my favorite ….so far 🙂

Have you ever decided to turn that beautiful piece of wood you’ve been saving for a special project only to discover it has checked and cracked.  Maybe you forgot to end seal it before putting it away to dry?  I’m sure every wood turner has experienced this at some point during their turning careers. 

This is the unfortunate way many new turners learn about the importance of sealing green wood to prevent end grain checking. There are several different methods of doing this.  

One of our favorite methods for end sealing wood turning blanks is to use hot paraffin wax. It is easy to remove when you need to use the wood and it’s inexpensive compared to some other methods. For smaller quantities of wood you can use food safe paraffin wax. It’s available at most grocery stores in the canning section for just a few dollars. You can use a coleman or camping stove if you have one available and a pot wide enough to fit the end grain portion of your wood. Melt the wax completely before you dip your wood in it. If the wax is not hot enough it won’t penetrate the wood and will just peel off.  It’s also a good idea to melt the wax outdoors, as it has quite a strong odour and can smoke a little.  NEVER cover the pot while you’re melting the wax as this can and will cause the fumes to collect in the pot and combust, causing a fire!  

For larger pieces of wood that won’t fit in your parrafin wax pot, try using a wax emulsion sealer, such as Anchorseal from UC Coatings.  Some wood supply stores carry their own brand of sealer which is usually similar to Anchoseal.  It’s easy to apply with either a paint brush or a small paint roller and washes up with soap and water.  We like to use two coats of anchorseal before we kiln dry our wood as it offers a little bit of extra protection… just remember that if you’re going to use two coats, you need to let the first coat dry completely before applying the second coat.

If you can’t find a wood supply store that carries wood sealer, UC Coating will delivery it to your door.  They have operations in Canada and the USA.  You can check them out online at

Make sure to seal your wood as soon as possible after cutting. If you see any visible checks…cut them off before you apply the sealer. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but believe me it will save you a lot of grief (and a lot of wood) in the end. 

Yet another way to seal your wood is to paint the ends with regular household paint. This method is not food safe, but is known to work well for end sealing logs.  It’s both cost effective and convenient, as most people already have a can of paint in their garage.

If you know of any other wood sealing methods that are not posted here, please leave a comment so we can share them with our other readers.