Fruit of the Lathe

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About burls

Some of the most beautiful wood grain and patterning is found in what can best be described as a wart on the tree. There's no getting around the fact that burls (or burrs, as they are called in other parts of the world) look kind of nasty.

I haven't seen a convincing explanation of exactly why burls form, but some suggest it's a tree's response to beetle damage, others say it's triggered by a fungus. Setting aside what the cause may be, the product is a bump on the tree trunk which may grow to be far larger than the diameter of the tree hosting it.

Externally, it just looks like a big ugly bump.

But open it up and look inside ... it's not guaranteed, but often there is a explosion of wild grain, with swirls and eyes and jaw-dropping beauty.

The bowl at the right shows what you can find in a typical maple burl.

Natural edge bowl in maple or box elder burl

The photos to the right show a small part of a very large burl harvested from a Maple tree. I scored it in the course of the "wood swap" at a meeting of the turning club where I'm a member, the Association of Revolutionary Turners.

At this point, I have no idea what may be inside this gnarly mess. If I'm very lucky, it'll be some crazy figure such as the bowl in the photo at the top of the page.

Burl harvested from a felled maple tree
Burl harvested from a felled maple tree
Burl harvested from a felled maple tree

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