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What Is Burl Wood?

Burl wood often results because a tree has experienced some type of environmental stress.
Burl wood is popular among craftsmen.
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  • Written By: Shannon Kietzman
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 21 June 2014
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Burl wood is a type of wood used by artists to create sculptures and other items, such as clocks and even some forms of furniture. It is highly prized by artists because of its unique shapes and ring patterns. This wood is a type of fast growing, abnormal growth found on some trees. It grows because the tree has experienced some sort of environmental stress or damage, and it is often caused by either a fungal attack or an attack by insects.

The number of trees that produce burl wood is quite low. In addition, certain areas tend to create more than others, because all or many of the trees in a particular location are likely to be attacked by the same fungus or insects. Certain species also tend to be more susceptible to attacks and, therefore, more likely to develop burl wood. For this reason, certain types are more rare and prized than others.

Often, a tree that has developed burl wood is still quite healthy. In fact, many of these trees can go on to live for many more years. Other trees develop burl wood offshoots that are so large and heavy that they create additional stress on the tree and can cause it to die.

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When used in woodcrafting, burl wood is removed from the tree, preferably after the tree has already died in order to avoid killing it. It is then cut open in order to review the pattern inside. Sometimes, a single offshoot can produce several different pieces for an artist to work with.

Some burl wood offshoots develop regular growth rings that simply grow at an accelerated rate. This type of burl wood is not as sought after by artists as other forms because the patterns are not as interesting to look at. The majority of woodworking artists prefer burl wood that grows in irregular patterns that swirl and contain what are referred to as eyes — small spots that develop on the wood. While pieces with unusual patterns are the most desired form, they are also the most difficult to work with. This is because the irregular patterns make the wood harder to saw, chisel, and cut without splitting the wood or accidentally cutting it in the wrong direction.

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anon315891
Post 15

I have a five foot around, sixty feet tall maple with more than 35 burls on it.

MakBurl
Post 14

I think it's a questionable description of the burl wood.

Please take into account that there are some different types of outgrowths. Some scientists believe it cause due to "dormant buds" and that is why there is such an intertwining drawing of patterns, not just rings!

anon117175
Post 12

I have a 250 year old maple tree, and it has a huge burl. could this be removed without damaging the tree?

anon117027
Post 11

Have an 850+lb. black cherry 4'x5' "rare-designer" wood burl.

Great condition for the perfect piece of furniture.

Where should we start this rare sale? Your inputs are appreciated. Truly one of a kind, to the right person, for the right price. -rsksMI

parsons4rj
Post 10

Help me please. My parents have beautiful dining room furniture and walnut burl end tables from the early eighties. The dining room set is forty years old and fruitwood color. Some designers say it's worth a a lot, some tell me I'm lucky if I get five hundred. What is the truth? Thanks, Rose

anon116075
Post 8

I consider burl wood as related to a type of cancer. No matter if is related to fungi, genetics, or other disease.

What happens is the tree develops a bud for a limb or leaf and then after some growth, the bud goes dormant. The tree reacts by sending out a new bud and the process multiplies hundreds of times. This produces the "eyes," thereby giving you this large wart-type looking bulge on the tree. You may harvest this "Wart" with care as long as you leave the main trunk/limb intact but cover the wound with cloth to protect the heart of the tree. But the longer you wait, the bigger the burl.

A lot of people see a knot on a tree and call it burl because it's a big bump. A knot is nothing but where a normal limb was either sawed off or broken and then healed over itself. It's not a burl. It's a scab.

Twisted woods are not burls yet but they can be very pretty with their swirls.

anon101092
Post 7

Burl wood takes a long time to form. Just like the growth rings on a tree. It is a defect in the tree. An injury to the wood. Just like if you smash your hand, scar tissue forms to heal it. It is also called tumor wood because it is a injury site. The wood is trying to heal itself.

anon62973
Post 6

I have a hunting knife with a maple burl wood handle and it's cool looking and durable.ff

anon40370
Post 5

So am I to understand that when you try to split a twisted, gnarled piece of oak wood that is called Burl wood? I have taken a piece of twisted oak, put it on a table saw, cut it 3 inches thick and made a plate, clear coated it, and set flower pot on it. Pretty cool looking. Do I have the right idea for burl wood? Thanks

anon16362
Post 4

How long does it take a burl to form? At Cub Scout Camp an Eagle Scout told my son that a burl they saw on a hackberry tree (diameter of tree w/o burl about 14"; diameter of tree at burl about 30") formed in just 2 months. Looking at the knarly weathered appearance of the bark, I question whether the burl could form so quickly.

anon15721
Post 3

Have you ever heard of a locus tree developing burl wood?

nasturtium
Post 2

Burl wood can be really beautiful but you should usually just leave it as it is instead of trying to make it into something. It's already beautiful - why mess with it? Petrified burl wood can be pretty cool also!

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