It all began back in 2009 when a neighbor was having a pecan tree taken down.  I came over to watch the arborist at work, and I asked if I could have part of the trunk.  He kindly dropped a 5-foot section in my front yard. My family was amused.

I immediately set to work trying to split the log into billets.

Before I got very far, I threw out my back while working on it.  I painted the ends with some latex paint I had on hand and hoped I could get back to it soon.  The log sat in the yard for several months before I managed to split it into eight big pieces and drag them into the shed to keep out of the weather.

It was nearly a year before I was able to cut one or two up on my little bandsaw.  When I did, though, I found that much of the sapwood had spalted beautifully.  (The red stuff on the ends is wax to seal the ends and prevent checking–I salvaged the wax from the remnants of an old pillar candle.)  The darker, harder heartwood does not spalt.

It has now been four and a half years since the log came to me.  Since then, I’ve been cutting it up slowly, and I have made quite a few items–mostly tools and tool parts–from my stash of spalted pecan.

To answer two common questions up front: No, this spalting doesn’t significantly weaken the wood.  Pecan is very strong anyway, and when it does rot, it’s obvious.  And no, the spalting is not dangerous or allergenic.  The fungus that causes spalted figure dies as the wood dries out, and by the time I’m building anything with the wood, the organism is long dead.

Here are a few items I’ve made with spalted pecan.

Scratch stocks.  The gauge-style stock on the left is pecan and cherry.

A number of marking gauges.  The ones in the middle have since migrated to other homes.

Chisel handles.  Pecan is an ideal chisel handle anyway, being hard and quite difficult to split.  The spalting gives it a unique character.

I made a few mallets out of the wood, but this was my favorite.  It has also since been sent to a good home.

A turning saw made with the kit from Tools for Working Wood.

A stair saw.  The metal components are a kit from my friend Dominic at TGIAG Toolworks.

Tool chest built from quarter-sawn cherry and spalted pecan.  The chest is approximately 34" wide, 22" tall, and 20" deep.  It is finished with hand-rubbed Danish oil.

And, of course, a pecan-and-cherry tool chest to put them all into.

I’m nearly half way through my stash of spalted pecan now, but I should still have lots more to use for several years to come.

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9 Responses to Spalt!

  1. Dave says:

    I love it.
    Man you have sure built you a nice collection.
    Well done.

  2. projectbuddy says:

    Very nice post, and I learned quite a bit. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. bobeaston says:

    What a beautiful collection of results Steve!
    Pecan is a beautiful wood to start with and the spalting is (in my mind) a bonus! It looks like you’re putting it to very good use.

    Thanks for showing us.

  4. Steve Massie says:

    That is defiantly some very pretty wood, and you are right those marking and cutting gauges you have made are wonderful, I enjoy mine very much. You are very lucky to have access to this because where I am at not so much, Home Depot is the source with whatever they use for the 1X and 2X material.

    I enjoy seeing what you make and thanks for sharing !


  5. Bob Jones says:

    If you make another mallet that nice (and colorful), I’ll take it off your hands. I just hate that I was not fast enough on Woodnet to buy that one.

    Did you use a lathe for that socket chisel? I have a few chisels I’ve been collecting that will need new handles and yours looks really nice.

    • Nope, no lathe. Just lots of careful rasp and file work.

      It’s not as hard as it seems to make a decent cone to fit a chisel’s socket, especially since a lot of sockets aren’t perfectly shaped anyway. Next time I make one, I’ll take process pics and record them here.

  6. albert says:

    Spalted wood is decayed. The early stage decay reduce the bending strength of wood… Significantly..Not very clever use spalted wood for mallet or similar tools. Of course the heartwood is durable against fungi attack.

    • And yet the mallets I’ve made from spalted wood have taken a beating without breaking. The bow saw arms retain their shape. The chisel handles have been struck over and over again without deforming.

      If you were to plane, saw, or chisel this wood blindfolded, you’d never know the wood was supposed to be “decayed.”

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