Burl wood is a fascinating natural phenomenon that has captivated woodworkers and furniture makers for centuries. These unusual growths are found on various tree species around the world and are highly prized for their unique wood grain patterns and textures. Despite decades of research, scientists still cannot fully explain how burls form, but it’s believed that fungi, bacteria, insects, the environment, and injury may play a role. While removing a burl can be tempting, experts caution against it as it will harm the tree. In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of burl wood in the United States, its cause, its uses, and its beauty. Join us for an in-depth look at this mysterious and beautiful wood.
The University of Maryland Extension and the University of New Hampshire extension say burls can’t be explained. They may develop for numerous reasons, such as fungi, bacteria, insects, and environmental injury. They also agree that removing the burl may damage the tree, which not recommended. In an exciting read, nps.gov says, “Burl is the knobby growth most commonly seen at the base of some coast redwoods. However, it can also be found high in the canopy as well. Burl is a woody material full of unsprouted bud tissue. It serves as a storage compartment for the genetic code of the parent tree. If the redwood falls or damaged, the burl may sprout another redwood tree, known as a clone.”.
What causes a burl
Highly sought-after material due to its unique and beautiful wood grain patterns. While found in only 5 to 10% of all trees, usually in the roots, but also as nodules on the trunk of the tree. The biggest threat to a tree is the removal of a burl. Sadly, poachers and ill-educated people severely damage trees to harvest the highly coveted burl. This is because burl wood is extremely valuable and can fetch high prices in the market. The removal of a burl not only damages the tree but affects the tree’s ability to survive and grow.
The implementation of conservation and educational efforts to protect trees from this type of destruction. While laws in place punish those who engage in illegal burl harvests, It’s essential to raise awareness about the importance of protecting trees and their precious burls to preserve them for future generations.
Below, watch a video of Kelly Maxwell and the Littlebranch team building a wood slab table.
Veneer or solid wood
For many years, the trend of using thin wood slices glued to a less expensive material or plywood created veneer plywood. In the 18th century, Thomas Chippendale used veneer wood in his famous furniture. He was only one of many master furniture craftsmen of the time using veneer. His designs often incorporated burl wood veneer, adding an extra level of sophistication to his furniture pieces. Later, the piano industry in North America became the first to use veneer plywood, which helped to keep costs down but raised questions about quality and durability.
George Nakashima, a master craftsman of mid-century modern furniture design, utilized natural wood and live edge wood slabs in his creations. He favored air-dried wood over kiln-dried and preferred solid wood to veneer. Nakashima embraced the natural imperfections of the wood, such as knots and burls, and skillfully incorporated them into his pieces. In particular, he used burlwood in his designs for its unique patterns and textures. Nakashima’s attention to detail and commitment to quality craftsmanship set his work apart from others of the time. He believed furniture should be functional, beautiful, sustainable, and long-lasting. By utilizing natural materials and a minimalist design aesthetic, he created furniture that has stood the test of time and remains highly sought after today.
Despite these concerns, the use of veneer wood has continued to be a popular choice for achieving the appearance of high-end wood without the cost. However, considering both the economic benefits and potential drawbacks is worth considering before choosing veneer wood over solid wood for a DIY project or furniture purchase.
Earlier in this article, We learned what a burl is. Now let’s look at how to source them sustainably. Ethical sourcing refers to the process of acquiring materials or products through fair and sustainable practices. All in a way that does not harm the environment or violate human rights. It’s essential to consider the social and environmental impact of our choices as consumers and creators and strive towards a more ethical and sustainable future. This includes making conscious decisions about the sourcing and production of our materials. Using responsibly harvested wood, for example, helps to ensure that forests are not being depleted faster than they can regenerate and that the workers involved in harvesting and processing the wood are treated fairly. By prioritizing ethical sourcing, we can reduce our impact on the planet and foster a more just and sustainable economy.
Burl wood uses
In conclusion, burl wood, while found in all wood species, it’s not common. Due to this rarity, it also fetches a higher price. Furniture makers and DIY woodworkers craft natural wood furniture designs using burl wood and live edge slabs. Burl woods are also used in knife handles, car dashboards, and the list goes on. One thing stands true; it will always be desired.