The 1812 Shoppe

Did You Know…That Rotten Wood Has Beauty?

Posted by  //  June 10, 2024  //  Local Business

3893 Piety Ridge Road
Marathon, NY

By Craig Vollmer

I bet you’re wondering, “how can that be?” Well…I’ll tell you.

But first…did you know that maple trees are the most abundant tree in Central NY.  They tower majestically above, branches spread wide as if waiting for an embrace. You’ve seen their leaves transform every autumn as they turn from green to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.  They’re mesmerizing. I admire their beauty, but I equally admire their beauty within. 

Their lumber is creamy white with various shades of brown heartwood and is used to make exquisite furniture and wood products. But the forest has a little-known secret. Something special happens when a maple tree dies or is cut and left in the woods.  It rots. Now, that’s not really that special, or surprising. What is special is what happens from the time it dies or was cut to when it truly rots.  Decay fungi colonize the wood and begin the decay process. During the first stage of decay the wood becomes beautifully streaked and discolored. If you salvage the tree or log at the right time, saw it into lumber, and dry it, the decay process stops, capturing that beauty – we call it spalting. Timing is the trick. Sawn too soon, it’s just stained and spoiled. Sawn too late, it’s punky and unusable. But sawn at just the right time…well, see for yourself. The pictures show what spalted maple looks like. Isn’t it fantastic?

Now you know…“rotten” wood can be beautiful. 

A fellow craftsman once said “If we’re going to cut a tree down, then make sure what we make out of it is the very best we can make out of it. Keep the spirit of the tree alive.” Amen to that. 

Craig Vollmer owns and operates The 1812 Shoppe – Custom Woodworks located in Marathon, Cortland County where he builds finely crafted furniture, home décor, and novelties from wood.

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