Spalted beech, some background information.
Forty years ago, we could not sell ‘doughty’ beech for pallets or even pulp.
Firewood was the only option and now we buy prime logs, leave them to decay and could probably make a living out of doughty beech alone if we could master the process!
The so-called Great Storm of 1987 in the UK uprooted thousands of shallow rooted beech trees and over the following few years there seemed to be an almost endless supply of spalted beech available in various stages of decay.
In the early nineties, with demand outstripping supply, we started experimenting with different methods of getting sound logs to ‘spalt’ with variable degrees of success and despite a few ideas floated about in the media and by some people selling ‘cultures’ to aid the process, we have found that year on the year the results vary, so we simply buy as many sound logs as we can find and leave them in the weeds to start decaying and maybe give them the odd bit of help.
The trick is milling them at just the right stage, before it becomes too soft and pecky for turning. There is not a standard grading protocol for spalted beech as there is with sound timbers, but people tell us that we set the benchmark by what we select and cut for turning blanks.
After air drying, we cut the most interesting parts of the planks into bowl and spindle blanks.
There are always pale, softer areas which will require careful and sharp cutting (what timber doesn’t?) but we aim for the soundest and most spectacular areas and selecting like this, we reckon the get a return yield of between a third and half, compared to normal blank cutting from sound planks.
From the residue that does not make our grading we have now started to sell
Years ago this would have been sold as painting beech.
This coloured beech varies from light to dark, may have yellow areas or streaks and maybe a spalt line or two but the timber is sound and will turn well.
We sell this at standard beech prices less 20%.