Unless you’re a wood junkie or an avid woodworker, you won’t probably know that there’s such a thing called burl wood or that you’ve seen one.
And now you’re wondering why it’s one of the most highly sought-after types of wood and why it’s surprisingly expensive. So let our wood experts explain what burl wood is, how special it is, and its uses.
What’s a Tree Burl?
A tree burl is often controversial, as it is one of the most coveted wood pieces, even when it’s a product of stress and wood injury.
Tree burls look strange in the facade and are formed as a response to certain injuries, whether intentional or natural such as pruning, insect damage, or resulting from calamities like a storm.
Wood Burl Types: Tree Species That Grow Burls
Cherry Burl Wood
A Cherry burl is a burl that comes from a cherry tree. Cherry wood is often aligned in the classes of mahogany due to its high-end characteristics. It’s durable, easy to use, and has a beautiful finish, making any workpiece stand out.
Oak Wood Burl
Amongst the most common burled wood used is an oak wood burl. Derived from an oak tree, a burled oak is impeccably strong and versatile and mimics a lot of the characteristics of oak wood. It’s also the smallest burl you can find, which explains its hefty price.
Another characteristic that places the oak wood burl in the top tier is its natural color scheme, brought about by the nutrient-rich samplings that create it.
One of the most iconic symbols of coastal America is redwood trees. Also, these trees are coined the oldest tree species and produce exceptional redwood burls as well.
Another interesting characteristic of a redwood burl is how it can grow up to the canopy of trees and how it doesn’t adapt to the tree’s color but instead creates its own pale red or deep sapwood color.
Redwood burl is often used as a material for making burl veneer and different types of furniture due to its finesse and durability.
Walnut Wood Burl
Burled walnut is painted with exclusivity and might not be the best fit if you’re looking for a cheap option or are working around your budget. Not to mention, it’s also exclusively used by Rolls Royce as part of its interior trim.
Birch Wood Burl
Birchwood burls are also pricey simply because it is rare. A regular Burled Birch will cost you a thousand dollars for a small piece.
The price also depends on the formation of the burl, as the grains and uniqueness increase the value of the wood.
Burled birch wood is often used in high-end ornate objects and indoor furnishings. Like most burls, it also comes in a unique shade ranging from brown to light brown, which makes it easy to identify.
Maple Wood Burl
Burr maple is also interesting, as it can grow even in the toughest circumstances while still preserving a variety of its iterations. Derived from maple trees, a burled maple comes off in tan, cream, red, and orange marbled tones.
Apart from its unique colors, a burled maple also has larger burls, and unlike other types, it’s more reasonably priced. It’s common all over North America, especially in areas like Canada.
How Burl Develops: Do Wood Burls Grow Underground?
Live burls, which are the most common and typical burled wood you’ll find in the forest, often grow in tree branches and are smaller compared to other types. Burls are growing underground as a form of survival mechanism.
Another type is a crown burl. Crown burls grow near stumps and roots and are bigger than live burls. It roots into the systems of trees and underneath, so it’s a little more difficult to harvest.
How to Distinguish Regular from High-Quality Wood Burls + What’s Inside It?
Truth be told, the uniqueness of burled wood and its remarkable grain pattern makes it impossible to set a standard on its quality. What we recommend instead is to check the grain density, water content, and integrity of the wood.
We also perform a scratch test when handling processed burls to check whether they will fall apart once it undergoes a table saw.
Burl wood veneer, however, will be different to check and assess, as it’s more dense and looks more delicate because it’s cut into thin strips.
Where to Use Burl Wood
After knowing what burl wood is, where should you use it for? To make the most out of the beauty of this wood, here are the ideal uses of burled wood:
Burls are versatile pieces, and you can make a lot of products from them, including jewelry. It might take some time and expertise to craft intricate jewelry pieces.
But once you get a hand in the process, you can make almost anything, from bracelets to rings and even necklaces. We also find crafters making wooden tiaras that make a statement to a fashion piece.
What makes burl wood expensive is its unique furnishings that go well when turned into furniture pieces. These wood pieces can be used in making wood furniture, like a coffee table, a bench, a chair, and even bed frames.
Often, some would opt for veneer instead for a cheaper alternative, though you can’t expect it to be as durable as hardwoods.
Some would even opt to add a burl wood nightstand to their bedrooms as a statement piece. Burl wood furniture is more expensive, but the finished products are worth the hefty cost.
Ornate Burl Kitchenware
Burl wood is also a great material to use for making kitchenware, such as bowls, salad forks, and coasters.
To avoid insect infestation on your kitchenware, it’s best to apply a nice layer of resin and let it cure completely. Applying epoxy will also make your kitchenware food-grade.
Burl Wood Art
Another interior design that would make your place look more classy is burl wood art pieces. Wood burl patterns create fancy accents on the wall or even as a flooring material.
The unique grain pattern of burl wood adds beauty to any room, especially when matched with burl wood furniture.
How to Remove Burls Without Damaging a Tree
The scarcity of burled wood in the market makes it an eye candy for illegal distribution, considering how much amount of profit it will generate.
Hence, removing it from a tree recklessly will be detrimental to the live tree causing fungal infection and root damage.
Cutting burl from live trees will cause irreversible damage to the tree’s trunk. However, it’s still possible to acquire burl by outsourcing to a supplier who sources burl ethically.
This is more tedious and will take a while, but it’s a sustainable way of acquiring burled wood.
Why Is Burled Wood Sought After? Is it Expensive?
Burl wood pieces speak of elegance and statement, and the grain patterns fit any aesthetic, which is what partly makes it expensive.
But more than its facade, the scarcity of acquiring burl is what adds up to its cost. It only grows on particular wood species making it even more difficult to source.
Due to a burl wood’s  expensive cost, it also became an eye candy for illegal practices, sought for a generous profit.
Burl poaching of ancient redwoods has become so common in the Northern California area and the redwood forests that it provoked national parks to close the Newton Parkway to ensure that it doesn’t become a target for thieves.
What To Consider When Buying Burl Wood
Price & Merchant
Burlwood is expensive simply because it’s rare and ethically sourced. So if you find yourself a supplier that offers them at a regular rate, then chances are it’s fake or illegally outsourced. Go straight to Lumber Companies instead.
Source & Breed
Poached wood is a non-negotiable if you want to start working on and using burls. It’s important to always ask the seller where the burled wood came from to avoid ending up with poached burls.
It’s also vital to only use the right trees for burls, so you get the proper burlwood. Other tree species make the most beautiful burls, like a redwood tree.
Age & Emotion
If your guts are telling you it’s not the right fit and the cut of the wood isn’t what you were expecting at all, then it’s best to follow your instinct.
How you feel about your purchase matters a lot about how it will look on you for the rest of the time you’ll be with it. Wood pieces bring character to a room, and not every decor can do the same.
It’s also important to consider the burl’s age before harvesting them, or it might cause a detrimental effect on the trees. Ask the supplier about the tree’s age to make sure it’s not prematurely cut.
Top Burlwood Furniture Vendors
Apart from purchasing locally or through trade markets, you can also find burl furniture at furniture makers. Opt for those sellers who also sell burlwood home decor, as they are sure to carry burlwood furniture.
CB2 caters to a huge selection of modern and well-finished upscale furniture options for you to choose from. It’s also one of the most trusted burlwood furniture shops.
Looking at Etsy, you’ll surely find some sellers catering burl wood furniture and sometimes even burl wood slabs and wood materials. Just make sure to check the vendor’s page for reviews to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth.
Crate And Barrel
While they may not be carrying actual burlwood furniture, crate and barrel sells burl-wood-inspired furniture.
However, it’s still best to check the authenticity of the wood piece. Always check with the manufacturer before deciding on your purchase.
Online thrift stores like 1stDibs may be a good place to look for Burl wood furniture as well. They sell unique and antique patterns, so it’s a place that will cater to stuff such as burl wood furniture.
While you can’t expect to land high-end or authentic furniture at Anthropologie, there are still chances of finding beautiful burlwood furniture. It’s often underrated, but with patience, you’ll score good pieces from this shop.
Burl Wood Online
Burlwood Online is one of the places where you can get actual slabs that you can use either for decor or intricate pieces like musical instruments.
Burlwood vendors also have small and furnished pieces that will accessorize any furniture you have in the home.
Is burl wood valuable?
Burl woods are valuable due to their uniqueness and scarcity. It’s expensive, and regardless of what tree species it came from, all burled wood is hefty. The unique grain patterns of burl wood make it one of the sought-after types of wood.
How do I restore wood burl?
Since burl wood is delicate, you’ll want to tap the help of a professional when restoring or harvesting it. Often, if you try to do it on your own, you’ll only end up with a giant mess or risk damaging the entire tree itself.
No two pieces of burl wood will ever look alike, and while it may be a product of stress, surely it has made its name popular amongst artisans and woodworkers alike.
Now, we’ve laid out what burl wood is and what it’s used for; it’s your call on whether you’ll keep the slabs as it is or convert them into furniture, such as a coffee table. But regardless of what you make, it surely will capture anyone’s attention.
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