A failed attempt to identify a mold that seems to grow on many pieces of padauk [Pictures] - created 07-23-2006
Ketellapper, Doug - 07/23/2006.16:41:50
I was sorting through my back/side sets for my next project and decided on a Padauk set I got at LMI a couple years ago. I got it into some good light and it had a thin coating of mold on it, both the backs and the sides which were stickered in seperate piles. Has anyone else experienced this? I also have Makore, Bubinga, Mahogany, Sapele, and others, but the Padauk was the only one with mold on it. I am sure it is dry since everything is dry here in Colorado, let alone thin back/side sets. It is in my basement shop, but the highest humidity I've measured down there is around 60%, normally it's around 30-40%. I'm wondering if this guitar should get a shellac coating on the inside...
This happened about a year ago (maybe more) to my wood. I wiped it down very thoroughly with naphtha, and have it wrapped (not sealed) in wax paper in the corner of the shop. Quarantine.
The "stuff" was like a forest of crystals that grew on the wood, and when I wiped it off they seemed to break off and blow away.
My wood was also very dry, stickered carefully with other wood, and had not been disturbed for over a year when I discovered the white stuff.
Since it was the same species in very mold-unfriendly conditions in BOTH cases, I think it might not be mold.
Is your piece of padauk very dark and dense?
When I posted this I thought maybe I was crazy, and people would think I was out of my mind posting such a thing. I still might be nuts, but at least 2 people have had the same experience with Padauk. And, yes it was like a fuzzy white coating on the wood. The reason I thought mold right away is my background in microbiology. Naturally it could be something else, perhaps something oxidizing from the wood itself? My set isn't particularly dark but is rather a nice stripey set, and since I'm not all that familiar with the species I cant say whether it is more dense than usual, though it does seem lighter than the Bubinga I got out with it. I did notice a fairly strong smell with it, kind of a urine smell really. Not an ammonia catbox smell, but more of a bum-piss in the alley kind of smell. Very curious. I'll have to investigate further. I hope someone here can shed some light on the matter.
Edit: I've emailed LMI to see if they know anything about this.
Ah, you are a microbiologist! Do you have access to a good microscope?
I wish I had thought of this when I found my wood in this state, I could have taken some in to work and taken a good look at it. If it is a fungus, the hyphae would be easy to see under about 40X. It could also be sporulation - tiny mushrooms.
The other things I can think of are: minerals forming crystals as the wood fully dries, and sap or some organic resins.
Yikes! Upon closer examination, I find that my wood is still making "frost". Looking at it under a jewelers loop, it looks like fine fibers. Almost like synthetic fibers used to make cloth.
Also, notice in the picture how it runs on the stripes in the wood.
This is not, by the way, a joke - grub guilt.
Actually, Chuck, I studied Fermentation Science which involved a lot of microbiology, and microbiologist was one of the many hats I wore when working in the wine business. Now I work in electrical/instrumentation controls and as a stationary engineer. Go figure.
I have a stereo microscope here at home which I can get 20x magnification and I'll see what I can see. I also have access to more powerful stuff at work. That's a great shot, and mine was completely covered with the white powdery stuff. Your set looks perhaps a bit darker than mine. I ran mine through the drum sander to get rid of it, but there are a couple of low spots where it remains. I don't have a moisture meter so I can't check that, but honestly it's quite dry here, and I can't imagine that being an issue. Quite a mystery.
Quite a mystery indeed. Frankly this is the most fascinating thread I've read anywhere for a couple reasons. One......I have (and continue to) experience the same phenomena in another padauk species. Pterocarpus indicus which produces amboyna burl and Narra lumber. I've never experienced it in African padauk. In some pieces this hazy film forms on the surface. It happens in both regular wood and acrylized wood. It does not happen in all of it, just certain blocks from certain trees. Wiping down with isopropyl alcohol seams to retard the forming for a good long while, but it will eventually form again. Sealing the surface with a polishing/finishing wax stops it from re-curring so it's somehow related to air and surface extractives. It's not mold. I'd be most interested in knowing what the heck causes it and the chemical breakdown of the film. I'd be happy to send some "film" to anyone to research :)
Larry, send a sample of the affected (and untreated) wood to the plant pathologist at your nearest university ag school. Your local extension service should be able to point you in the right direction.
Okay folks, I brought the wood to work and put it under the scope (actually a clump of fluff).
I'm not a biologist, but sometimes I play one at work ... Looks like hyphae, in other words it is most likely fungus. Here's a 20X micrograph.
And here is a 40X version of the same bit. That nugget in the picture is a piece of wood.
I'm trying to talk to a fungal expert here at work, but as usual (beind science) I looked around and at 9:30 nobody was here.
Thanks for adding to the discussion, Larry. Interesting that you found it in other Padauk species, and in acrylicized wood as well. Is there any heat involved with that process? If you find a place to send some "film", I'd be happy to send a piece of my set to the same place. I went to school at U.C. Davis which is an agricultural school with an Ag extension, but I'd have to figure out who would look at exotic woods. Also, I don't live in California anymore so I'm not so sure they'd want to help out of staters. I'll check into the University at Fort Collins, maybe I can come up with something there.
Chuck, those are great pictures, but aren't those higher magnification? My stereo microscope is 10-30x (10x eyepiece and 1-3x objective) and it's nowhere near that magnification. At first glance under my microscope it seemed to be crystalline in nature, but Chuck's pictures make me think otherwise. Do you remember where you got your wood? As I said I got mine at LMI, and I'm pretty sure it was about 2 or 3 years ago.
Yes Doug, you are right, I was just reporting the objective magnification. The eyepiece is 10X, and the camera path is similar but slightly different. Therefore we're looking at 200X and 400X.
Under a stereo scope at (15 x 6 that's...) 90X I agree, it looks mineral because it is very shiny and appears to be short, straight segments. That was the first thing I did, and when I took it to the big inverted scope I saw that it is more organic and hairy. I'm still hoping to get an expert down here to take a look.
I got a reply from LMI today. Chris Herrod says he's seen this on Padauk for years. They've not seen it spread to other woods, nor have they seen it come in on any other woods. While they've sold a ton of Padauk, they've never had the question come up.
As far as a solution, he said one luthier had good success with sanding it back, while another had it come back after sanding. Said the best thing to do would be to put some finish on the inside of the back/sides since it doesn't come back after finishing. That was my thought, and what I'll do with this set.
I'm still curious as to what exactly it is, and why it is unique to Padauk. If it is a fungus, there is apparently something in the Padauk it likes. Would make culturing it a little more difficult I imagine.
Okay, I got a biologist's feedback. Definitely fungus, and what we are seeing is hyphae of the fungus. What's more, the fungus is growing like this in preparation for sporulation. It grows out into the air so that it can efficiently spread spores (to the wind presumably).
I asked how the fungus can live in such dry wood and he said that it must be a fungus that just grows this way. Fungus are adapted to grow/survive in an unbelievable array of conditions.
As a matter of fact, he thought it was quite interesting and is going to come down later and try to culture the fungus.
Doug, I also got the wood from LMI. Several years ago they had a special on padauk and cocobolo and I bought two sets of each. This is one of those sets.
I just checked my Padauk 12 string. Also LMI several years back. I found 2 stripes of the white stuff on the inside, which is unfinished. They run, as best as I can tell looking through the sound hole, the length of the body and are about 3/4 inch wide. Interesting.
Chuck, your biologists friend might be interested in examining one of my samples as well. If it's the same thing this hardy fungi has survived pre-heating for several hours, vacuum chamber, submerged in acrylic monomers until saturated then polymerised to a core temp above 200F for a good bit of time.
If it's an airborne fungi I better understand why sealing the surface stops it and wiping with alcohol slows it down. Maybe your biologists can suggest a treatment.
I surmise the fungi would be thru and thru a log to infect each cut piece..would you think?
I know what you mean, but the proof is in the hyphae.
This is an extremely interesting biological situation because fungi are normally not that hard to kill. 200F should do it.
I'll get back to him tomorrow and see what he wants to do.
We'll have to talk off-line if you really want to send a sample here.
Chuck, while fungi are generally easy to kill, spores tend to be much more difficult. It's possible that this is a heat tolerant fungi, it more likely that the spores are still in the wood.
I am very curious about this fungus. While it is living in the wood, it apparently isn't too destructive unlike the organisms that cause spalting in maple and such. Plus the fact that it apparently doesn't require much water. It could be that dry environments cause stress which leads the fungus to sporulate. Very fascinating indeed!
I definitely would like to send a sample along. I can send a non-processed piece and an acrylized piece. Who'da thought this would ever be a topic?? Actually, it's been a minor problem for quite some time with this wood and it sure would be nice to know a fix other than sealing it off. If you send me your mail address I can get a couple slices off. No need to return them :) I'll do my best not to disturb the film, but it wipes off very easy...very delicate film.
...another quick thought....an infected piece "could" infect a clean piece if stored together.....right?
Well, I checked my LMI padauk and found 2 faint bands of what looks like the "fungus" running parallel to the grain on the back pieces. Most of the backs pieces look unaffected and I didn't noticed any white on the sides which have been stored with the backs since I got them. I have other African padauk from a local source that has always been stored with the bulk of my wood (the instrument wood is separate) and it doesn't show signs of the fungus.
Is it possible that this fungus is the reason LMI ran the special a few years ago? It could be coincidence... I've taken advantage of other wood specials they've run and not seen anything funky.
As an experiment I may take a small sample of the fungal wood and store it with a small chunk of the local wood to see if the fungus spreads. It may take quite a while before any spreading is visible.
Larry, I emailed you contact info.
So, even if we do get this stuff cultured, we're not going to learn much about it.
For example, it will not tell us how to control it's spread. Also, we will probably not determine it's species either.
Figuring out detailed behaviors and properties of an organism is an expensive proposition. Sequencing it as order of magnitude (or 5) above that.
Also, there are many commercially available fungicides that may be able to control the stuff. Has anybody tried that? LMI should, that is for sure.
an infected piece "could" infect a clean piece if stored together.....right?
Certainly that is highly likely. It is also likely that LMI's storage ares is thick with spores and every piece of susceptible wood that comes in the door gets infected.
But what does this stuff do? If it were a strong rot fungus, my wood would be dust by now. It's been at least three years and the wood is only 0.165" thick. My wood seems perfectly sound, and I'm actually thinking of using this wood for an upcoming project. I'll probably seal the inside surfaces with shellac though.
Personally I'm finding it quite fascinating that anecdotally none of us, nor LMI, have found this to spread to any other woods. That little fact is the most curious for me.
That is part of the mystery. I stack all the knife blocks together in boxes and the fuz film does not transfer to other woods...never not once. I don't know if it transfers to other amboyna blocks or if it was present from the get go in them.
I had two of the LMI sets stored right next to one set of padauk that I had re-sawn myself. The stuff I cut didn't have that fuzz on it when I stored it, but it does now!
Good news, Mark, is that it doesn't seem to make the wood rot. Bad news is you might want to slap some shellac on the inside of those guitars before you get them done.
I was at the local Woodcraft and noticed some 1" x 6" padauk that, if I hadn't seen this discussion, I would have thought had a heavy coat of dust. I wouldn't call it it fuzzy looking, it just looked dirty. On closer inspection with a flashlight but no magnification, the material had a distint crystalline glitter. The boards looked finely salted. It first seemed to be only a couple of boards, but looking closely I could see a very slight bit of crystalline glitter down in the pores of every piece they had and I'm quite sure they weren't all from the same tree. I'll be curious to know what Larry's sample reveals. Considering what it survived at his hands in post #22 and that he hasn't ever had transfer, I'm wondering if at least some of us are seeing a salt or other mineral leached out by humidity changes.
Another curiosity of mine is how it is localized on the woods. As I stated, my guitar only has 2 stripes of this mold/crystal/dust down the back, not a complete coverage. The stripes are on a line that is bookmatched.
Roger, that certainly is strange. You will notice in the picture that I posted before, that it runs along specific stripes in the wood.
Padauk has high and low density stripes in the wood. The really high density stuff is the thin, dark bands where the stuff does not grow at all. In the low density areas, it seems to like some bands more than others.
Just thinking out loud, I have no clue what is at the root of this.
Wow have I been missing out! Just opened this thread, what a great mental adventure this is.
Larry, does the exotic wood industrys usual logistics make it reasonable to assume that the padauk that LMI ended up putting on sale would probably have been logged off of the same general area?
If so, heres a possible explanation that crossed my mind while reading through this. This fungus may well be a normal saprophyte adapted to the particular padauk of the logged area, living within the tree(s) prior to it being logged. If so, then its normal microenvironment would be exceedingly damp (99.11%water ? ) living within the structure of the living tree. That might also explain it seeming to be concentrated in some rings of the tree more than other areas?
Pretty much everything that has happened to that wood since being logged has been a procession that has made the funguss microenvironment increasingly hostile and resulted in the fungus being triggered to sporulate in order to find a new host environment.
I can picture the fungus not spreading to other wood stored with this wood either because the surrounding wood isnt anywhere near adequate for any spores to germinate, Or that the fungus may well have adapted to require some nutrient etc from the padauk tree it adapted to.
Maybe from the fungus point of view the tree died, fell over, has rotted away down to where it lives, and its trying to pack up and move to a new tree. While its attempt at sporulating is frosting the piece it was living in, its spores arent going to find a suitable home unless you are growing padauk trees.
Whatever fungal media your guy is going to use to try to grow this stuff, you might want to talk him out of some extra media and grind up some of the padauk very fine and mix some of that into the media, if this fungus is any kind of obligate parasite, it may well need something in the wood to culture it?
And somebody might want to just let a piece of wood keep on fuzzing up, sample it once in a while, until it finally produces some fruiting bodies (spores)of some kind. My guess is that whoever IDs this thing is going to need fruiting bodies to do so.
There's my 2 cents.
That's two good cents Randy.
grind up some of the padauk very fine and mix some of that into the media
Yep, that is what I want to do, but thanks for reminding me. I also thought of making a padauk extract (with ethanol) and adding that to the media. I'd have to dry it then re-hydrate in water or DMSO.
Wish I had more time.
This fungus may well be a normal saprophyte adapted to the particular padauk of the logged area, living within the tree(s) prior to it being logged.
So you're saying it could actually live inside the wood of the living tree? A symbiot or parasite?
Larry, does the exotic wood industrys usual logistics make it reasonable to assume that the padauk that LMI ended up putting on sale would probably have been logged off of the same general area?
I can't speak to that specific lot with authority, but generally direct hand picked shipments/orders are kept intact thru the processing system to the customer. Specific logs are purchased and processed. Normal conversion is to cut, stack, dry, bundle and ship mixed.
Randy, note that my wood is a different species and continent than the African padauk the other guys have got from LMI..and..it continues to grow (seemingly) on acrylic infused wood ssubjected to full liquid immersion and temps in excess of 200*F.
So you're saying it could actually live inside the wood of the living tree? A symbiot or parasite?
Fungus often lives on the dead cells produced by plants and animals. The interior of a tree could be considered to be composed of dead (or at least inactive) cells.
The interior of a tree could be considered to be composed of dead (or at least inactive) cells.
Heartwood is dead wood, but to high in moisture content for fungus to grow until the tree stops water intake thru death or disease.
I wonder if its not so much that there is too much water but that there is not enough oxygen.
Both.... As a tree cycles into death and heart rot hollows the center we often find bands of spalting in the "living" tree center where moisture has receeded and med rays no longer function. Temperature plays a big part in fungus growth also. I'm no expert in this so it would be good to have Chuck and Randy offer up some real knowledge.
This thread may not be every one's cup of tea, but I find it fascinating.
Im going to go ahead and post what came to mind earlier today, only because it might stimulate some ideas but I need to set straight a misconception. I am not in anyway any sort of expert on fungi. Im just throwing out ideas that this thread has raised in my mind, hoping to spark ideas in those that know more. I am a Veterinarian. I do deal with a small segment of fungal diseases but only those that are pathogenic to mammals. Theres a whole world of fungi out there .
Larry, you have raised two points that are major problems with the thoughts that follow. Your wood coming from both a different species and location, and how on earth this stuff grows in or on your acrylized wood. I think both need to be accounted for, for most of the following to hold water , and I cant fit either into this, .to my satisfaction . Thats always the problem with facts.
I cant wait for Doug , and Chuck and his biologist to weigh in.
So youre saying it could actually live inside the wood of the living tree? A symbiot or parasite? (post 54)
I think thats more likely than it being a contaminant. If the fungus/spores were on the surface, bark dirt, etc, and were carried into the wood during processing, Id expect more random distribution, or maybe a pattern more along the lines of saw marks? Then again I suppose the end of cut logs, billets etc. would allow for it growing up whatever pathways available after the tree was cut. But wouldnt that result in what you are seeing being concentrated more at the end or ends of the wood?
Considering the microscopic structure of wood, it seems the likely path of growth in the living tree would be along the normal transport paths in the tree. Im not a botanist but Im picturing the little tubule thingies running vertically in the tree. (Sorry, Ive discovered my brain is only running on RAM memory most of the time)
Im picturing its crossing the dense growth rings as being a slower process, and so it results in the original fungus being distributed more in a vertical stripe pattern in a given piece of wood, and explaining the single strip of it on the inside the finished guitar example.
I dont see any reason to think this isnt a disease process of the tree, as apposed to a saprophyte. I guess I used that example more because I dont see this as a particular risk to your stash of other woods (and Larrys experience seems to support that idea)
On second thought, it seems more likely (since Im tossing guesses anyway) to be a pathogen of padauk trees than a saprophyte to me. If saprophytic, it would be harmless or even necessary to the tree, and I would think it would thus be more widespread, and so be a commonly encountered thing in padauk lumber, and we wouldnt be talking about it now.
I think this route of spread within a tree is a common thing for fungal pathogens isnt it? Isnt this how Dutch elm disease and whatever the new pine (or is it Ash)disease up Michigan way works? Dont the beetles etc, introduce fungal spores that germinate and the resulting fungal growth clogs the vascular system of the tree? (Again, Im drawing on RAM memory here).
On third thought, this may not be a threat to your stash, but if this stuff were to find a suitable host over here then this could conceivably be a whole nuther story. Doug may not be a Californian any more, but you know Chuck, you might just want to consider contacting UC Davis yourself. Then again you might want to take all of the above with a block of salt. I didnt intend to throw gasoline on the fire.
You're making sense to me Randy.
Considering the microscopic structure of wood, it seems the likely path of growth in the living tree would be along the normal transport paths in the tree
I'm sorry to say Randy, but you must not know padauk very well, because the "little tubule thingies" (AKA pores) in padauk are gigantic. Hyphae highways I guess. So as the moisture dries back, the fungus grow in, sucking up the sap as it goes. Very plausible.
Been doing 12 hour days at work getting a robot ready to ship to France, so maybe Thursday I can get biology started.
The mold in the padauk is analagous to spalting (i.e.; dead wood with fungus traveling through the wood structure pretty much unchecked)
The mold in the padauk is analagous to spalting
Barry, do know this? Or is that a guess?
I know that spalting is caused by fungus. Mold is a type of fungus. Same thing...
First, as an update, I joined the halves of my back set and sanded them down on my thickness sander a few days after this thread was started. At that point both sides were completely clean. I set them aside and looking at it today it has the white "dust" on it again. It's pretty much all over but seems the heaviest where I've had my grubby fingers. I'm going to put some shellac on a spot, and maybe a spot of the fish glue I am using (and what they were joined with). If I get motivated I'll even put down some hide glue. I want to see what this fungus will do to them.
Just this very second I had a sudden brainstorm. At work last week I attended a presentation on mold by the company that is doing abatement where I work. They sample to identify what's growing and it's concentrations then procede with the abatement process. I didn't think of asking him about this until now (the lecture was after working a 12 hour graveyard shift and I just wanted to go home.) I'll approach him probably Monday since I'm off until Sunday. From what I understand the sampling/identification was pretty reasonably priced. I also am sending out emails to various places trying to find anything out I can.
Randy, I was thinking along your same lines myself, though less eloquently. Just from the way it appears on the wood, and the fact that it is sporulation we're seeing rather than a mycelium or a colony of some sort leads me to think it's a parasite or pathogen. Also the fact that it doesn't appear to be destructive to the wood, so I agree it's probably not a saprophyte. Your stress scenario fits in perfectly with my own experience with yeast. Yeast (at least wine/beer yeasts my experience is with) are quite difficult to induce sporulation in, and the methods I learned involved stressing them.
Barry, the only thing I see in common with spalting is that it is a fungus in wood. This mold doesn't appear to damage the wood in any way. Spalting I associate with the early stages of decomposition of wood. I don't think we can use the logic that since spalting is mold, and this appears to be mold in wood, then this must be spalting.
Doug, would be interesting if you seal a portion of clean wood and see if "the thing" returns. It's been my experience wiping an area with alcohol retards the reappearance and sealing with a polishing wax prevents reappearance. I suspect something about removing oxygen source from the surface, but it's only a guess based on my observations.
I'm looking for a company to do some mold testing if they take mail samples I'd appreciate having a name and number...thanks...Larry
I used to work in the mold assessment and remediation business. Our surface sampling techniques consisted of either tape-lift or swab, the later being the better because the samples are cultured allowing better speciation in most cases.
We always sent our samples to Mycotech Biological, Inc. in Dripping Springs Texas, and I had no complaints.
Doug, I didn't say the stuff on the padauk is equivalent to spalting but that it is analogous (definition: corresponding in function). My analogy is based on the fact that they both involve fungi growing in a solid wood matrix.
Conceptually, the process I understand as spalting involves a progression of separate fungal colonies sporadically moving though the wood. The first species that moves up the log probably does little discernible damage to the wood structure but it definitely leaves its telltale track in light colored woods. Even several more passes by additional species may not damage the wood to the point that it can't be used. However, given enough time under the right conditions, a log is invaded sufficiently to seriously weaken the structure, ultimately to the point of decay.
Obviously, the padauk is not being spalted because its not a log lying in a forest. And there is possibly only one species of fungi present. But there are similarities to the spalting process that might be useful for trying to understand what is going on. It was just a thought...
An interesting point I realized yesterday is (for me) this stuff does not appear on the sap wood...only heartwood..and I use a lot of sapwood in the amboyna burls.
That works... Did you notice the stuff growing around the burl eyes and seems to follow the grain?
Did you notice the stuff growing around the burl eyes and seems to follow the grain?
Yes, and on the thin piece you sent it only grows in a very narrow band about a 1/4" into the heartwood. The heart/sap transition wiggles all over the place on that piece, but the fungus tracks that line just offset into the heartwood. On both sides even.
Biology is in progress.
The samples have been scraped, and pitri dishes streaked. We will be trying to grow it on three standard media first. If it does not grow, then I'll make an extract from the wood and make a media from that.
Cultures are growing on three different media. One looks like junk to me (contamination). Next they will be grown in liquid media to generate a large mass of cells. Then DNA extraction and on to sequencing to try to ID the organism.
This is the real deal folks.
DNA sequencing seems like a lot extra work to identify the species. Why not send it to a lab qualified to identify fungal species by microscopy?
Why not send it to a lab qualified to identify fungal species by microscopy?
Because we're looking for something completely novel. Those labs can only identify well known organisms that have grown on well known substrates. One fungus can look completely different when grown on different "carbon sources" (food) and under different conditions (pH, temperature, humidity, yadda-yadda-yadda).
Also, we have a full time sequencing lab, and we are in the business of discovering and isolating novel genes and gene products from environmental samples. Its what Diversa does.
Because we're looking for something completely novel.
You might be surprised to find that it is a common fungi. But then maybe not. I did not know that this was your line of work.
You might be surprised to find that it is a common fungi
That is actually what I expect. Fungal spores are everywhere, so it is likely that what is growing is contamination.
Once again - Bump.
I just spoke with my biological co-worker, and said that things are still process, and that it is likely that we won't see any results till the new year.
Deb, should I keep bumping this thread, or just start a new one once there is some news?
Did I just let on that I'm not biological?