Undoing Shrooms

The mushroom, for those of you who have never studied mycology, is the flower and fruit of a fungus. The fungal organism itself is a big and hidden mass of invisibly thin tendrils living in a moist medium. But periodically, when the fungal mass gets mature enough, it sends up little above-ground shoots to spread its seed. Well, spores. We call these little buds from the organism “mushrooms.”

Today’s Object at Hand is the frightening appearance of mushrooms in a crack of my old patio table. How old? It is made of redwood, a material effectively forbidden for such uses since the early 1970’s. I grew up with this Sears patio table since the 1960’s. Every few years (since I was able to see the top of it while standing on the ground) I would partake in the process of applying a coat of wood preserver, oil stain.

Mushrooms sprouting from the patio table đŸ˜¦

Now, clearly, something had gone wrong; my table was sick. Fungus is the pathogen for wood. Aside from termites, fungi are the only things that eat wood. Other critters like carpenter ants and cutter bees burrow in wood, but don’t actually eat it. By the time it fruits, when you first see a mushroom, there must be extensive damage.

After I took a few pictures, I took the top apart and found that over a board foot of the space in between the solid stained surfaces had turned to mush. Picture an oval volume two feet wide, half a foot deep, and an inch thick between fully polymerized wood veneer above and below.

So I dug out the mush, and treated the interior with copper sulfate (it preserves wood well, but eats iron fasteners). Where does one get such a toxic chemical? Zep Root Kill is found in most hardware stores. Most crafting stores have it as copper plating solution. It has many uses.

Once the blue solution had dried, I filled the hole with wood putty and reassembled the table. I replaced the rotted dowel pegs with copper pipe. Copper will not rot, and actually prevents rot almost as well as lead. And dowel assembly avoids the use of nails, screws, or other iron fasteners that will corrode faster when near copper compounds.

Once the putty had time to fully cure, I also gave the whole thing another coat of oil stain. The table lives to be eaten off of another day, decade, or generation.

Quadrennial application of oil stain to the 1960’s patio table, its lazy Susan, and the benches.

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