It’s the hardships in our lives that shape us the most and help us grow as human beings. “It builds character,” is a phrase we are all familiar with, uttered to help us accept life’s difficulties. As it turns out, trees are no different. When exposed to some kind of stress — be it injury from weather, insect or fungus infestation — trees grow burls to help them cope. And boy do burls present some of the most amazing character a piece of wood can offer!
A burl presents as a deformity that can be found anywhere on a tree, including the roots. Inside, the the growing wood twists and turns unpredictably. Wood from a burl is notoriously difficult to work with because of the complex grain structure, but famous for its beauty and uniqueness in every piece.
Because of the difficulty working with burls, guild member David Boynton has come up with a trick for working with burl veneers. “Burl veneer can be tricky to work with, as it is often buckled and fragile, prone to cracking under pressure in the veneer press. In order to work the material more easily, I’ll treat sheets of burl (as well as other highly figured veneers) with a solution of glycerin and water to relax the veneer and make it more pliable. After wetting down leaves of veneer with the “flattening agent,” I’ll slip it into the veneer press between “cauls” and sheets of newsprint to absorb excess moisture and press it overnight. The treatment is effective for a couple of days, allowing you to cut and assemble faces, then press into panels with some likelihood of success!”
Dave Boynton with his Burl Veneers
Below is a brief gallery of some of our furniture makers’ burl pieces. Note the unique grain in each and every piece, and also how burl coffee tables are often left with their natural edges. Enjoy!