wood burls

A burl looks a bit like a wart on the side of a tree. It is formed when a tree is stressed in it's growth, usually by insects or other environmental damage.

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Burls will sometimes weaken a tree enough to kill it, but often trees survive with burl growths just fine.

The burl in the photo below is on a maple in the woods near my house. It's a beautiful tree, but I confess I sometimes have fantasies of cutting it down so I can look inside the burl.

burl on  maple tree

No doubt burls look ugly on the tree. Once they are cut open, however, they show a beautiful grain pattern.

If you look in the upper left of the photo on the right you can see what looks like a lot of tiny volcanoes. That is the outside of the burl with the bark removed but before it has been cut.

maple burl
maple burl close up

The center of the photo shows what the burl looks like once it has been milled.

Once cut and sanded the grain will shine and add a whole new dimension to your project.

The back of the clock at the bottom of the page shows what similar burl wood looks like once it has been finished.

The twisted grain makes burls hard to work with, but they are so unusual and beautiful looking they are highly sought after by woodworkers.

I like to use burls on box tops. I sometimes cut it into veneer on my bandsaw, but it tends to break easily, so I often cut it 1/16th or more.

Occasionally I'll use commercial burl veneer, but I usually just use what comes to me naturally (I find some in my firewood, or someone gives me a burl to cut open).

buckeye burl

A bit of trivial I can't resist: I've heard that the town of Burlington, Vt gets its name from burls found on trees. I wonder if other Burlington's in the country are also named after these beautiful and unusual growths.

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