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Burl Wood, A Strange and Wonderful Deformity

Updated on March 16, 2010
A burl on a tree near my home.
A burl on a tree near my home.

A burl is a growth on a tree that is very rare and most often occurs when the tree has been damaged usually either by some sort of fungus or mold,or an insect attack. It often looks like a big round tumor growing on the trunk of the tree. Some burls have been found underground growing along with the roots. For the burl to be useful, it has to grow for at least 50 years, giving it a chance to contain unusual patterns.

Burl is highly prized by wood crafting artists because of its beauty and rarity. Some burls have incredible patterns inside due to the abnormal growth. Burl bowls are the most common use of burls and have gone for very high prices at auction. Burls from certain types of trees are used for different reasons. Some burls are highly prized for creating veneers for furniture and usually don't make good bowls, while others are used as inlay on a picture frame and many are used for trim on a variety of objects.

Oldest and Largest Burls

Some of the largest burls have been found growing on Coast Redwoods or Sequoia as it's known, but are very hard to harvest because of the immense size of the burl and the longevity of the tree. Most burls are best harvested after the tree has died.

One of the largest burls ever found measured 6 feet and 4 inches tall. It was found in 1984 in Tamworth, New South Wales. It has never been worked by a craftsman and was moved from it's original location to a public school in New South Wales amid controversy.

A white pine tree found in Ontario, Canada was found during an excavation of the historic Beaumont family farm. It was found at about 16 feet down in the excavation. Don Thur saw this white pine during excavation and thought the tree might be very old. A piece of the tree was sent to the Toronto IsoTrace Radiocarbon Laboratory and was found with 100% certainty that this tree dated to 6631 B.C. Further results showed that the tree was toppled during a cataclysmic occurrence in 6370 B. C. making this white pine tree the oldest and largest tree ever found on the North American Continent. The scientist conclude that a receding lake caused a tsunami toppled trees and at the same time deposited a lime dust silt effectively preserving it until it was discovered in 2005. Don Thur is currently working the burls found on this tree.

Burl Bowls and Other Artistic Objects

Making a bowl with a burl is the most common use of a burl. Because of its round shape bowls were often made with burls. Other items can include lamps, vases, mortar and pestles, trays, inlays for picture frames and trim for many things such as walls and automobile trim. Working with burl is very difficult because of the irregular grains within the burl. Hand carving and working the burl on a lathe are the most common ways of making an item out of burl. Because of the rarity and difficulty of finding and working with burls most items made from burl are very expensive. I recently watched an episode of Antiques Roadshow and a man had a huge burl bowl. It was about 3 feet across the top and the man who owned it said he and his brothers would push each other around in it across their grandmother's carpet. The bowl was estimated to be worth $20,000.00. So if you get the chance and have the money it's a wise investment as the expert on Antiques Roadshow said the burl bowl will never go down in value it will always rise in worth.


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    • profile image

      samarigsby 2 years ago

      What kind of trees most likely grow burl in south alabama

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 4 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I would think that if you took the burl before the tree died it would almost certainly kill the tree.

    • Dick Knight profile image

      Dick Knight 4 years ago from Lake Lure, North Carolina

      I have a fairly large live red oak burl on a tree that if it died would have to be professionally felled due to the close proximity to my NC Blue Ridge Mountain cabin/home. I would like to harvest and sell the burl (about 40" dia) but I don't know if that would likely kill the tree. Any comments or suggestions??

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      that is awesome wayne, I would love to see your work.

    • profile image

      wayne Skaley 6 years ago

      i live in kelowna bc and i make ornaments from pine tree burls very hard to carve but fantastic looking when completed my burls are big as soft balls

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Oh how awesome kmmarini, I would love to see his stuff. When he gets his website up could you please let me know his website addy, you can place it here in the comments section. Thanks for reading my hub

    • profile image

      kmmarini 6 years ago

      A friend of mine in Cambria, CA. makes some beautiful driftwood fish figures and wall hangings. He sells them faster than he can make them. His name is James Casciaro and hopefully he will have a website soon?

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Thanks for reading my hub plum creek, and yes I would love one.

    • profile image

      Plum Creek 6 years ago

      I have many Pine Burls all sizes if you would like a small one I would send you one. you would have to finish it your self... maby a pen holder size..

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Thanks for reading my hub amy, thanks but no I'm not looking to buy.

    • profile image

      Amy 6 years ago

      Hey fishtiger58! Thanks for the info. I recently purchased a birch burl basket just for its beauty. I had no idea about the rarity of the wood. I am willing to sell if you are interested. Let me know!

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 7 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I will look at them jack where are they posted? Thanks for reading my hub.

    • profile image

      jack 7 years ago

      I've seen small growths on thin branches that could be described as burls. But I can't find one image online showing what I'm describing. Anybody interested in seeing my pics? I'd like to know if they are burls.


    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Thanks so much for reading my hub Nell, I love Antiques Roadshow, and hopefully you will see a burl bowl on there.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 8 years ago from England

      Hi, fishtiger, this is great, I have never seen one of these before, let alone heard of it! I love reading about something new that I didn't know. thanks for the info. When I watch the Antique shows in future I will know what they mean by a burl bowl. thanks nell

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      That is so cool lefseriver I wish I owned some trees with burls on them. Thanks so much for reading my hub.

    • lefseriver profile image

      David Walli 8 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      We've had some burls in our black ash trees. great hub.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Oh yes Kay very highly prized wood. I hope someday to own a burl bowl. Thanks so very much for reading my hub.

    • Kay Creates profile image

      Kay Creates 8 years ago from Ohio

      This was really interesting. I like to find trees with burls out in the woods but never knew people were making things from them.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I wish I owned the tree that has the burl but I don't. Do you own the trees in the woods behind your house? That would be cool if you did. And as for the peach trees I hope they give you many years of juice running down your chin peaches. Thanks Michael so much for reading my hub.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Very interesting hub! We got some on a few in the backwoods of our house...Cool topic! I meant to tell ya' after reading your hub on the peach tree, we went & purchased 2 of them & planted them a week ago....

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Thanks for your kind words 2patrcias, I would love to own a burl bowl, maybe someday I will. Thanks so much for reading my hub.

      Thanks so much Jen, glad I was able to tell you something new. Thanks so much for reading my hub.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      I like it when I learn something new. Great hub tigerfish, thanks for the interesting info about burl bowls!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is a very unusual Hub topic - well done for coming up with something original!

      We've seen and admired burl bowls, but never really thought about where they came from. Thanks for the explanation.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Thanks so much suziecat7, it's an amazing wood, thanks for reading my hub.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I used to own a burl wood coffee table. It was lovely. I sold it for a lot less than it was worth. Ah - the folly of youth. Enjoyed this Hub.


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