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Burl Wood: Simple Guide on How They Are Used & Formed

Posted by Tmbr on

What is Burl Wood?

A tree burl is formed coming out of the side of the tree when the grain of the tree has grown in a distorted and unusual manner. The burl growth will typically form in all parts of the tree from the roots to the trunk and even into the branches. You most likely have seen many large and small trees with some sort of burl growth on the tree as you were hiking in the forest or on a quick nature walk and may have asked yourself “What is that thing growing out of the tree? That doesn’t look normal.”

You can recognize a burl on a tree by its odd roundish shape that is abnormally coming out of the tree. It will typically have visible knots in the wood and could vary in shapes and sizes. The texture can also differ from the rest of the tree as it could be more smooth or rough. Below is an example of a tree burl coming off the side of a tree trunk.

What is Burl Wood

What causes burls on Trees?

Now that we know what burl wood is, it is important to understand how they are formed and what causes them. Similar to the human body, when a tree undergoes stress, gets sick or hurt in any way, it can effect it internally and externally. When the tree gets effected in any of these ways, the grain in the wood reacts and become abnormal which causes the burl to be created.

The most common cause in the creation of the burled wood is from a part of the tree being overcome by insects or mold. Typically, it is very hard to tell this infestation of mold or bugs from just looking at the tree because the issue is hidden by the bark of the tree. When you do begin to see the issue, it is often too late to resolve and the burl has already started to appear. As the tree grows it will naturally grow larger in size.

Despite the small to large growth on the tree, they actually have little effect on the lifespan of the tree. However, if a burl is removed from a tree, not only will it make the tree look horrible, but will most likely kill the tree. It is important to remove the burls of a tree only after the tree is no longer living or is planned to be removed.

Types of Burl Wood

What can you make from burl wood?

Although the burls on the tree may seem like an eyesore and take away from the beauty of the tree, these small to large sections of the tree are rare and can be extremely valuable. Their value is based on the size and type of tree they come from because once the burl has been precisely taken from the tree, they can be used for a large variety of projects.

These highly sought after pieces of wood can be used in furniture, veneers, live edge tables, artwork, bowls, and even wood watches.

Different Types of Burl Wood

The different types of burl woods come from the different species of woods. These include the most common being redwood, maple, walnut, oak and cherry. Each piece is totally unique and different from the next and that is one of the reasons they are so rare and valuable. You can get pieces large and small, and extreme variations in the grains and color of the wood. You will not find two pieces exactly the same.

Best Places to Find Burl Wood

When trying to find trees with burl wood, we have a couple of recommendations on the best places to look:

  1. A good place to Start looking would be where you would assume trees are most stressed. This could include hillsides, rivers and lakes, or even just walking down the street. When you know what you are looking for you will start to see more of them in passing now that you are aware.
  2. Another location that is more likely to have trees with burls is in damp or areas that receive a lot of precipitation. They are commonly found here because fungal diseases that can also cause a burl grown are able to thrive in this environment much more over dry climates.

How to Spot Them

There is no particular location where the burl will grow on the tree because they can show up anywhere, but they are more prevalent near the bottom (trunk of the tree) or near where a branch or limb has been broken off. It is very common that if you see a burl on one tree, that if there are other tree close by of the same species, they will have burls as well. Keep in mind that the size of the burl can range from the size of a golf ball to multiple feet wide/tall.