Guest Post by Adam Dias
Pricing a Vintage Redwood Burl Table!
We receive a lot of questions about how to price a vintage redwood burl table. Because of this, we feel it might be beneficial to our readers to devote an entire blog post entirely to this question.
The pictures in this blog were sent to us via our website. They are a great example of what would have been considered, when it was built (and today if re-finished), a high quality redwood burl table. That said, when I go to appraise a vintage redwood table I ask a few questions. Hopefully this helps you in determining the value of you vintage redwood burl table.
What condition is the table in? Most vintage tables were produced in an era of a huge boom for live edge and primitive natural furniture. For those of us in the industry that era was from abut 1976 to 1989. Redwood burl was at the very top of the wave of primitive design in America. It is even said that Sears & Roebuck in the San Fransisco Bay Area carried redwood burl clocks.
During the 70’s and 80’s boom, one of the most commonly used finishes was a two part epoxy resin called envirotex. Envirotex is basically plastic.
If your table has this on it, the cost of refinishing the table is very high. Our shop charges by the hour. When I see these pieces come into our shop, I try my best not to re-finish them. It’s just too many hours of work to get that stuff off, and I feel bad charging the customer for so many hours. Envirotex is very difficult to remove.
Furthermore, if your table had a live edge before, you can expect it to have a shaped edge once it’s re-finished. Also, there are always going to be scuff marks and dings in the finish on an old vintage table. If nothing else, the finish will have started to yellow or fade. This makes for a need to re-finish the table. Especially if you want to get the highest dollar. So hopefully your table has been finished with a lacquer or oil finish.
Finish is Important
The table in the pictures for this blog has a lacqure finish applied to it – at least by what I can tell from the pictures and the information I received on the table. Here is a general rule of thumb: if the finish is thick and super glossy, its envirotex. Another way to tell right off is to flip the table over on its top. If it has finish drips (little bumps around the edge of the table), or you can visually see where finish drips had been sanded off, then you have envirotex.
Quality of the Burl
This may sound crazy, but not all pieces that are sold as burl are actually burl. Many times a simple piece of root wood is sold off as burl. It is true that it may have a live edge, may have some real nice color, and may even have some great patterns, but it isn’t burl.
Most wood sold today is figured. This means the grain varies widely in pattern and character. When a piece has great burl, the patterns look like bird’s eyes.
They also blur into 3D like patterns around the wood. The more of this figure, the better the quality of the burl.
Real good burl has always been rare. Limited to pretty much the North Coast of California, Redwood burl can be very hard to get. This was even true in the 70’s and 80’s, but is more so in todays market. The piece pictured here has some real nice burl in it. This makes it worth more.
Redwood Burl Table Craftsmanship
This is a tough one. Often, the table has been built by a friend or family member or has been passed down from several generations and lands in an unsespecting family members hands. Maybe it was purchased from a less than reputable dealer, and the quality doesn’t meet the price. Any way you choose to look at it, craftsmenship is key. If the table legs or base are loose, if the slab is a miss cut (Meaning cut 3″ on one side and 5″ on the other). If the sanding quality is bad the top may have been warped in travel. There’s a million things that seperate the “ok” from the “great” pieces of functional art that sustain value over time.
The piece in this blog is in pretty fair condition, and, as far as I can tell, looks to be fairly well crafted. I really can’t give it too much of an assessment seeing how I can’t touch it. But I would easily give it a 6 out of 10 from the looks of the pictures. It is as much up to the seller as it is the buyer to understand quality craftsmanship. This is a tough part of an assessment, but its the most important part. Being that it’s old, doesn’t mean that you’ve got gold.
How are you going to sell it?
Market means everything when selling cool vintage stuff. If you live in New York City and want to sell a vintage redwood burl, coffee table on craigslist, then one may expect to get a lot more than someone selling the same table in Santa Rosa Ca. The further you get away from the redwoods, the more your table becomes worth. Shipping costs alone will save you money if you live in a market that has a hard time getting redwood. That said, the internet has been upon us for some time now. Even in places where it seemed impossible to get redwood 40 years ago, one can not only get redwood, but they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their home to get it.
The best bet for marketing your vintage table is to always try your local market first. Then, try eBay or Let Go or Etsy and so on and so on. Maybe try a local consignment store that does unique furniture, or a corky art gallery. Try to sell your piece in the location that makes the most sense. Even a yard sell can fetch a decent price on a vintage redwood burl table.
The main thing you don’t want to do is try and sell it to me. A burl broker, dealer or furniture builder isn’t going to give you much for your piece. Mostly because they didn’t build it. Plus, they know what it costs to re-finish a piece and make it their own. It’s much easier to just start with fresh wood and design your own piece than to try and re-create someone elses.
The history of a piece is pretty important, but mostly for selling the item. It’s pretty much a given that the wood came from the Northern California Coast. But wait… Is it? No, actually it’s not. Redwood has washed up as far north as the shores of Washington state. It also grows a little in Southern Oregon and the Sierra mountain range is home to the massive Sequoia Redwood. That said, the wood to make your piece most likely came from the Northern Coast of California.
Knowing a little history, however, is pretty cool when going to sell the item. Things like: how, who, what, where and why it was purchased are good things to know. How many owners? Who built it? What was it’s purpose? Where was it purchased? Why did it get purchased? Sounds simple, and it is, but vintage is cool for a reason. Not just because it looks cool, but because it takes us on a road of nostalgia driven emotion. This is likely the reason someone will pay money for an old piece of furniture.
Final appraisal for this piece?
The piece is cool and in pretty good condition. I think it would greatly benefit from a re-finishing, but the finish isn’t envirotex, and it looks to have been well maintained. The piece is located pretty far away from the redwoods. This means that selling it locally is a pretty good option. It is definitely vintage, and it looks to be pretty well crafted too. Burl quality is very good too. I don’t know the size of the table, but it looks to be fairly good sized. It’s a three tier table, which limits its use a bit. Coffee tables tend to fetch a bit more.
As is: $245- $475.00
Completely re-worked and re-finished – this piece could fetch as much as $1,200.00 – $1,500.00