Burl Wood, A Strange and Wonderful Deformity
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.