Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ugly Wood

I love trees, but not all trees. I loathe silver maple trees. When we bought our house, I inherited five of these monsters. The previous owner planted them because they are inexpensive and they grow very quickly. Those two attributes are the only positive ones I can think of. Silver maples are scraggily and ugly. If trees are God’s gift to us; silver maples are like an exploding cigar. God's gag gift.

The branches have brittle wood and break off easily all over the yard. In spring they produce seeds (My kids called them helicopters.) by the barrel full. Last year we used snow shovels to clear off the one inch depth on the driveway. No lie. Even if you get rid of 99% of these seeds the remaining 1% will produce a forest of little maple trees throughout your flower and shrub beds. In the fall, they produce lots of leaves, and because they are the last tree to shed their leaves. My sons and I are always raking leaves in frigid December weather. I hate silver maple trees.

Their wood isn’t even good hard maple. It’s relatively light density. We cut down a large silver maple that was too close to the house. I wrapped a few large pieces in black plastic bags to let them dry and age. That’s when I learned about spalted wood. Spalting is a by-product of the rotting process that is carried out by a vast array of stain, mold and decay fungi. The results are a bunch of random lines and areas of different color that are interesting to say the least. Some people love the unique patterns and view them as a work of natural art. Wood turners create wonderful bowl and plates. My silver maple chunks spalted like crazy. The spalting added to the natural grey streaks in the silver maple to produce some very interesting pieces for me to work with. I must admit, I enjoy the interesting effect, but I will always refer to spalted silver maple as "ugly wood".

My latest creation using spalted silver maple was a box for a good friend who was celebrating his 60th birthday (see photos below). Besides the spalting, it had many “bug holes” in it. I thought the rugged look of the box fit my friend’s personality. It's my first band saw box with hinges. I used small barrel hinges, but that's another story.

What has been your experience with using spalted wood?

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