I started off at the Worlds Largest Burl, which turns out was a crime scene. Yes, apparently 2 culprits (caught on video) decided to try and burn down the burl which was housed in a type of wooden gazebo. I understand both have been apprehended and charged and are due in court some time in the next few months. Sadly, I have very little faith they will have much of a sentence, and I probably won’t even hear about it ...
Now the community is wrestling with what to do about their famous burl. I understand they have discovered and even LARGER burl and are now weighing the costs and efforts to have it move onsite. We will wait to see how this develops ...
Many woodworkers have a fascination with burls. They are few and far between but when you get one, it's nice to have some idea what your options might be in utilizing it your workshop, and that entails knowing a bit about burls.
WHAT ARE BURLS
- Can grow on any species of tree and affix themselves to the tree trunk or root system
- Most are covered with bark and can be hard to see on some species of rough barked trees
- They can be any size from 1 or 2 inches and up to 20 and 25 feet
- They are caused by many things, like injury to the tree, Viruses, and Mold or Fungus infections
- Usually are found singly, but can grow in clusters on a single tree
- Often only one tree will have a burl, but can there can also be multiple burls on multiple trees in small area
- Almost all burls are covered with bark, and many of these active burls will “weep” tree sap
Below is an image from Wiki Commons, of the worlds largest burl before vandals attempted to burn it down.
Here is a close up image of the right side of burl, and the detail of how the wood has gown in a swirling motion, which is why burl wood looks the way it does with the swirling grain effects.
Closely related to burls are "galls" which form on tree branches and are often much smaller than burls, and most are about the size of an orange or grapefruit with rare one being the size of a soccer of foot ball.
Below is the image of the outside of one of 3 burls I was able to harvest from Poplar trees that were destined to be cut down to make room for a road expansion and powerline right-of-way. What was very interesting of these three burls is that the forest they were growing it, there were many many burls on surrounding trees as well. The whole area, about the size or a city block, a grove of Poplar trees had dozens of burls growing on them. I had heard that sometimes when you find one burl, there could be more, and this was the case in this area, a remarkable find.
Here is a close up the the small Pine Tree I was given that has many many burls on it. The tree is about 8 feet tall and is covered with burls on all sides. I have not done anything with this tree yet as I am still thinking about what kinds of things I might use it for .. any ideas??
And here was one lone burl on a piece of firewood I purchased a few years ago.
WHAT IS INSIDE A BURL
Burls normally contain highly figured wood but can be like a series of knots or like a highly swirled configuration. Burls are typically unstable when cut as veneers as grain contains voids and the twisting and turning of the grain makes the wood unstable in thin sheets.
Below is a detailed look at the outside of the Fir Burl that I purchased for $15 at a garage sale.
Here is the inside look at one of the Poplar Burls.
Below is the inside look at the Fir Burl. One thing I seem to find is that although all burls are different, there is very little differece between species from what I have seen when looking at differences between hardwood and softwood burls.
USES FOR BURLS
There are a somewhat limited use for burls because many that would cross the path of woodworkers are small in size. Wood turners will often list burls as their favorite woods to turn, making amazing bowls, and other wood turned items like pens and other spindle type turnings.
Companies that produce Veneers are always on the look out for large size burls that can be sliced into veneers. These veneers are used in making inlays and various highlights in woodworking projects or features items such as automobile dashes and car interior highlighting. Burl wood is often used by Luthiers in the making of electric and acoustic guitars, mandolins, violin and other similar musical instruments.
For the hobby woodworker, there are limited ideas for using burls, again because of their smaller size, but inlay work on furniture, drawers, feature tables tops, boxes and other items can be used, as could making smaller items like door and drawer pulls and handles or other similar items.
Smaller burls can have veneers cut on a shop bandsaw then laminated to some sort of a plywood or other veneer backing and used in that way as well.
Burls are fun to work with and can help give a woodworker a new perspective on what ideas can be created using burl wood and how the "the gem wood for woodworkers" can be used to add detail and value to their wood projects.
Copyright Colin Knecht
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