We all know what woodgrain is and what it looks like. But sometimes things are not quite as you expect them to be. Such is the case with spalted timber, the magic of which you will see at the annual Tilba Woodwork Exhibition on the June long weekend. If you didn’t know what ‘spalting’ meant you would probably exclaim ‘Wow! What sort of wood is that?’ and you might wonder who took to the wood with India ink and drew all those lines and swirls which look like a landscape sketch.
Spalting is the result of fungi invading timber and staining it, demarcating areas with black outlines. Spalted timber is in the process of decay – but the decay is not at the same stage through the entire piece of timber. As a result, the timber has random black demarcation lines and variations in shading which make every piece a ‘one off’.
If the deterioration hasn’t progressed too far, the timber is still strong enough to be used, and the results are striking. Paul Healey’s lidded bowl is both a masterful piece of work and a perfect example of the exquisite results possible with spalted wood (in this case, blackheart sassafras).
Above: Sassi Bowl - Paul Healey
Even if the spalting has progressed to the point where there are large areas of ‘spongy’ wood, the results can still be a source of amazement, visual delight and sometimes serendipity. Fred Morton’s spalted liquidambar bowl had its own built-in handle, only evident after it spat out a sizeable chunk of spongy wood.
Above: Liquidambar Bowl - Fred Morton
Spalted timber is pretty much a ‘lucky dip’, much sought after by woodworkers and always results in a unique piece. Come and see for yourself and you’ll think twice before using felled timber from those exotic trees as firewood. The event will be held at the Central Tilba Halls on Saturday 9 June (9.00 am – 4.00 pm) and Sunday 10 June (10.00 am – 3.00 pm). Cost is $2 for adults, with free entry for children under 12. MasterCard and Visa facilities will be available.