When you’re in the wood market, you’ll soon realize that demand and supply aren’t just textbook terms; they directly influence the value of commodities like tree burls. In my years in the lumber industry, I’ve seen how tree burls have become one of the priciest and most sought-after items, right up there with rare woods.
If it’s your first time coming across these, prepare to be surprised by their value. In this article, I’ll break down the key factors that drive the price of tree burls.
About Wood Burls
Wood burl is very common, however not a lot of people are familiar with what it is. It’s even possible that you might have come across a wood burl without actually recognizing it. So what is a wood burl?
Wood burls are formed from malformed barks that grow on tree trunks, branches, and even on the root of trees.
The sizes of wood burls differ and vary depending on where it is attached, so the larger the tree is, the possibility that there will be a larger burl. If you come across a small burl, then chances are the tree has just experienced distress.
Now the next question is whether it makes a different wood species, and the answer is no. Burls aren’t from a specific tree. However, it’s considered a subspecies of the wood or tree it came from.
Therefore, there’s no such thing as wood burl species. A wood burl instead takes the name of the tree it was sourced from. If the burl came from a redwood tree, then it’s referred to as a redwood burl.
Different trees produce burls of different types and styles. Burls can also vary depending on the color of the tree it mother from.
Some burls are reddish while others are in brown hues and states. The swirls and patterns of the burl are largely influenced by the mother trees.
Now how does a wood burl form then? It might be impossible to imagine that considering a wood burl’s value, it was formed brought about by stress. It’s common for trees to undergo stress when attacked by insects, fungi, or even animals.
Harsh weather conditions can also prompt trees to experience stress, almost the same with humans.
In case of damage, burls growing underground serve as a contingency to ensure that the genetic codes of trees are passed upon. Wood burs develop from spalling tissues which result from when the tree resists hostile weather.
Like other living things, trees possess defense mechanisms that expose themselves through wood burls.
Over my career, I have observed that when trees face challenges like flooding, waterlogged soil, or attacks from animals and insects, they often respond by developing bumps on their roots or trunks.
These bumps form tree buds that grow into a new tree, should the existing one dies. Tree buds aid a tree in the reproduction cycle, so it’s important to ensure tree buds have formed before harvesting the burls, or even the tree species may go extinct too.
Why are Burls So Valuable and What Makes them Expensive?
One of the common questions with wood burls is what makes them so expensive. After all, it’s just a product of the tree’s stress, so what makes it so valuable?
According to the wood burl experts at Carved, apart from the economic premise of supply and demand, rarity is not the only thing that increases a tree burl’s value. Considerations such as distinctive grain patterns, size variations, and the specific wood type contribute intricately to the overall value of a tree burl.
When you open a tree burl, you’ll find an exquisite line of grains, and colors that are different, for every burl. No tree burls are the same and this is what makes it unique apart from all other wood species.
The grains of wood burls are exceptionally unique compared to other trees, and it is this distinctive appearance that entices numerous wood crafters.
Since the burls that appear in every single one of the woods are unique, people are more than willing to pay over the top to acquire one.
What makes it even more expensive is the thought that people make an exorbitant amount of money selling burls.
The lumber industry made around $130,000,000,000 in revenue from wood burls alone, so you can imagine how profitable burls can be, as long as you sell to the right buyers.
The lucrative business of selling burls, also makes it an eye candy for poaching and illegal distribution. While burls are just products of stress, it’s not appropriate to harvest them right away.
Harvesting burls from live trees causes irreversible damage to the plant tree causing it to decay and die.
Harvesting burls is a regulated process, and you can only harvest them from trees that have been officially designated by the authorities. That said, I can’t stress enough the importance of adhering to these regulations.
There are specific trees that the authorities have approved for resource harvesting, and straying from these guidelines, especially in federally protected areas, can lead to serious legal consequences, including jail time.
I suggest asking landowners before felling a tree and harvesting burls. Poaching wood has become prevalent brought about by the increased demand for burls in the market.
The job market has been so tight which makes illegal burl harvesting an opportunity for thieves, however, what one must consider is the economic and long-term impact of illegally harvested burls.
When burls are poached illegally or cut from live trees, the tree may not survive and if this becomes a common notion, chances are we can’t expect to see burls produced in the next coming years.
But what’s worse is that even the trees may be unable to reproduce if poaching continues.
In addition, don’t purchase burls from people who do not have proof of where they came from, or you’re at risk of purchasing illegally poached burls. This might also cause problems when the authorities find out especially if you cannot show them proof of legal harvesting as well.
Evaluating its Value
Burls never come in cheap, so if you find yourself being sold one, then chances are it’s not a real burl. Generally, there are a lot of factors that increase a wood burl’s price. Here, let’s take a look at the common prices of wood burl.
$98 – $4,100
$75 – $1,550
$390 – $6,953
$329 – $1,032
$95 – $2,795
$95 – $2,795
If you’re in the market for a burl, here’s a pro tip from someone who’s been in the business for years: look for one that’s still attached to its bark. The bark serves as a natural shield for the burl, keeping it from rotting and becoming spongy.
Trust me, you don’t want to invest in a burl that’s missing its bark. If there’s any chance you come across a squishy wood burl, then it’s better to get rid of it instead.
Squishy woods or those that feel like a sponge are often rotted and filled with insects, so you can’t make use of such material as it will only decay easily.
Layered burls grew from trees that are sealed off at their sections. Burls that have layers are random and thick, which means that it has tense grains and is protected.
These types of burled wood are high in value since it’s stronger than exposed sapwood.
Eye burls generally mean circular grain patterns swirling onto the center. The swirling patterns of the burl make it high-value and burls like these are best fashioned into bedside tables or coffee tables.
You’ll easily catch these circular patterns so it won’t be difficult to know if it’s a high-value one.
The larger the burl, the more pricey it could be. Often, when people shop for burls, they opt for those that come from the same wood piece, so the furniture that they make out of it, resembles the same.
Also, bigger burled woods can be converted into heftier furniture pieces such as dining tables or bed boards. If you find a big burl, then you can price it with an exorbitant value.
Wood burl species are only derived from the tree they came from. Some wood burls are more valuable than others, especially if they came from scarce tree types.
Burls are priced according to the wood they came from, so the wood specie is a huge impact on the burl’s selling cost.
A wood’s moisture content tells a lot about its value . Wet woods are cheaper, simply because they can’t be as useful and robust. The same premise applies to wood burls as well.
If you’re offered a wet wood burl, you’ll need to dry it out before you can make use of it, however, it won’t be as impenetrable.
Wood Grain of Burls
Grains dictate a huge value on wood, whether it is on a wood burl or not. The aesthetic appeal of a wood’s grain can make or break its value.
However, not because one customer does not like the burl’s grain aesthetic means it should be priced cheap, because not every buyer has the same preference, and what looks despicable to one may look grand to the other.
Costs and Uses of Common Wood Burl
Cherry Tree Burl
If you’re considering Cherry burl wood, you’re looking at a price range of about $10 to $25 per board foot.
I’ve worked with this wood many times, and its vibrant color really makes it stand out, especially in furniture pieces. Plus, Cherry burl is both stiff and tough, so you can count on it being durable.
Wood pieces made of burled cherry are more expensive and cost more especially in the commercial and private markets.
There are also cherry burls that come in a darker color. It’s more widespread and popular in North America making it a go-to raw material. If you want your piece to look more aesthetically stand out, choose a varnish to emphasize the light muted tones.
Pine Tree Burl
Pine trees are common for making paneling floors and roofing, however, pine tree burls, are best made as design pieces for panels. A pine tree burl costs from around $50 to $100 depending on who you’re selling to.
Maple tree Burl
A maple tree burl appears in cream colors and sometimes even in a shade of tan. It’s considered durable which stems from its acquired properties from a maple tree.
Also, the interesting colors make it a good material for creating wood projects and table tops.
Is it Easy to Find Tree Burl for Sale Online?
Burl woods are created differently and the natural mechanism of its formation is what makes it an undeniably beautiful piece. Unknowingly, you can purchase tree burl online and numerous websites cater to burl.
There are buyers and sellers at woodworking forums that are willing to swap and trade their burls. I advise checking local listings and the marketplace to compare and check burls and their prices or quality before starting to trade, swap or buy.
Selling burls is equally profitable as well, whether you are a direct seller, or just reselling. The more middlemen present, the higher a burl’s price will be.
Now how do you sell burl? Selling burl varies on who you are selling to.
If your clients are woodturners, you should sell burls by species and by the pound, because most probably they’ll be deciding on which cuts they are making with the wood.
However if you’re planning to sell them online, or to crafters, it’s best to have them trimmed into slabs, and priced by species and size.
This way, selling online will be easier as well, as you can create an efficient inventory. Redwood burls and oak burl slabs are generally bigger and heavier in size, so you might as well consider this when pricing and storing wood pieces for sale.
Will You Ever Find Tree Burl Inside a Tree Trunk?
It’s not common to see aesthetic-grained patterns on the exterior of the trunk, but there are still instances where this happens especially if the tree experienced damage on the inside.
A normal tree burl is seen on the exterior of the trunk, but if you’re looking for the best patterns, always check for the insides of the trunk instead.
Burl wood is created differently and the natural mechanism of its formation is what makes it an undeniably beautiful piece.
How to Find Wood Burl Buyers
The appeal of wood burls isn’t limited to just the United States; they are sought after worldwide. I’ve even managed to sell them at higher prices at times.
You can also sell not only to private individuals but to lumber suppliers as well. Often, lumber suppliers are more than willing to pay a higher price because they understand the value of a tree burl.
Another place to find burl buyers is online. Join Facebook groups or browse the marketplace and see for burl listings because sellers often use the easiest platform to sell. Also, check message boards, and local listings for people looking to purchase burls.
Inform buyers who are looking to resell the slabs as well, to look for other buyers rather than settle with those who are in the same area, to avoid unhealthy competition amongst selling.
If you’re a buyer, go straight to sellers in the wood or lumber companies and always inquire about their return policy should you find yourself with burled wood that isn’t real or too defective.
Also, ask for testimonials from sellers especially if they are new in the industry to assure that you don’t get scammed.
If the seller is suspicious and won’t tell you a thing about where the purchased wood came from, then drop the thought of even buying from them. Buyers should be responsible for where they source out burls from.
What is the most expensive tree burl?
The most expensive tree burl is the Amboyna burl. An Amboyna burl is expensive due to its rarity and beauty. It’s often used and turned into veneers and craft blanks.
These expensive burls are usually found in the Southeast Asian region and appear on either Narra or Paduak trees.
See Also: Disadvantages of Padauk Wood
What is the rarest burl wood?
The rarest burl wood is the sandalwood burl, used in creating incense and essential oil. A native to Nepal, these burls acquire more oil and are also renowned wood used for carving. Turning sandalwood burl into ornaments is easy as it holds very fine without the risk of wood splintering.
What kind of burls is worth the money?
Every burl is worth the money, but the more unique its patterns are, the more valuable it gets.
Burls that have more intricate and unique grain patterns are more expensive simply because they’re hard to find and since burls are uniquely patterned, there’ll never be burls of the same appearance.
Can you cut burls off trees?
Cutting burls off live trees aren’t allowed as it can excise and kill the whole tree. This is the only drawback with burls. However, one way you can cut burls is after allowing them to grow sprouts. Then, it can be safely pruned without damaging or killing the entire tree.
Hopefully, this guide has helped your familiarization with burls, and the factors associated with their value. A tree burl’s value is expensive simply because it just doesn’t fall off any tree, and even harvesting it has intricate rules that need to be followed.
The next time you come across a burl, you’ll have more knowledge of its price and what sets it apart from the other wood types.
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