Often, our customers ask us, “What is burl wood?” To the layman, wood is wood. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Burl wood and burl wood slabs have nothing in common with timber besides being made of wood. We favor burl wood for its beauty, splendor, and ability to evoke emotion, while we favor timber for its ability to create sound structures. So, then what is burl wood? This question is so involved we dedicated a blog to understand what it is, its history, and why it is so sought-after. If you are looking to find out about different kinds of Burl Wood, check out our blog post on Types of Burl Wood.
Burl Wood – What is it?
Burl is a grain characteristic that happens in many types of wood. Burl wood results from harvesting a tree or a portion of a tree that has a burl. A burl is a growth on a tree formed from unsprouted bud tissue. The burl forms large, knobby looking growths on the base and trunk of the tree. Stress caused by injury, fungus, virus, or insects creates intense grain patterns. In addition, rapid growth in burls causes further stress and pressure on the wood. If you want more detail on burl growth, check out our “How does a burl grow?” post.
We take these burls and bring them to our processing facility. First, we get any rough, splintering wood off. Then, we pressure wash it so it is free of debris. Finally, we cut the burls using large mills and chainsaws. They have then taken the form of slabs or more special cuts like mantels. Slabs are cuts of wood with the same thickness throughout. After we cut them into slabs and other pieces, we make sure they are all dry and stabilized. This ensures they are ready for finish and won’t crack and warp when finished and acclimated to the final destination.
The History of Burl Wood
Burl wood has a long and involved history in California. In the early 20th century, lumber companies cut down redwood forests for timber. The lumber companies wanted straight grain redwood with nothing unusual. However, artisans and woodworkers soon recognized how special these pieces were. Into the 60s and 70s, demand for burl rose. This led to an increase in poaching on federal and state park lands. Landon Buck, owner of Redwood Burl Inc., is in many articles discussing burl poaching, still a very real issue here.
At Redwood Burl Inc. we only supply ethically sourced or reclaimed burl wood. This means we get our supply from private property owners. In modern times, this is the only legal way of getting California coastal redwood. When purchasing redwood products, asking questions like, “Did you legally salvage the wood?” is important. In the Pacific Northwest, there are now wide areas of protected redwood forests, ensuring the safety of countless habitats and also ensuring these giants of the Earth are here for future generations.
Why is Burl Wood Sought After?
As mentioned, burl wood evokes emotions through its beauty and splendor. The grain patterns in burl slabs are incredible. Often, the most burly pieces are old growth, meaning they have no sapwood and are considerably older than second or new growth pieces. These old growth pieces have distinct coloration, burly grain, and could also have mineral staining or voids. Burly grain is a characteristic dark grain and growths in burl wood. The cause of mineral staining is the tree or burl being submerged in water for a long period. Curly grains occur by compression because of being on hillsides or slopes under increased compression. These characteristics make burl wood desirable.
The uniqueness of each piece is also a reason for their desirability. There are no two pieces with exactly the same characteristics, and we love when our customers can see this in their piece. We want each person who encounters burl wood pieces to realize just how special the piece is. There has never been, and will never be, a piece just like the one in front of you, and that is something to treasure.
The Redwood Connection
Besides being beautiful, we find that many people have an emotional connection to the redwoods and to burl wood slabs and burl wood slab furniture. The redwoods are an evocative setting, and many feel touched by the beauty and grandeur of such a place. Being based in the redwoods, we fully understand this. These folks want to bring a piece of that emotion into their homes, and we love to help with that. Sometimes, their parents or relatives had a piece and they remember it fondly. Whatever your reasoning, the redwoods are an experience that stays with you.
Knowing that people formed such strong emotional connections to the redwoods, we opened Burlwood Gallery. Burlwood Gallery is a gallery and shop in Redcrest, CA that has burl wood pieces for sale, small slabs for sale, and furniture for sale. We opened the gallery so you may bring home a small piece of the redwoods on your journey back home. We have items such as burl wood boxes, clocks, bowls, stands, along with redwood bookmarks, carvings, handmade local items, and more. We also have fully made and finished furniture for sale that we can have shipped to you.
What we have created in Burlwood Gallery is a source of immense pride for us. After years in the industry, we finally have a spot where everyone can enjoy redwood burl pieces in a gallery setting.
Our View on Burl Wood
At Redwood Burl Inc., we love the redwoods just as much as anyone could. We want them protected and preserved, and we love putting pieces of these incredible giants in the homes, offices, and businesses of our customers. The beauty of burl wood grain, character, and color is clear. We hope this article has clarified that burl wood is a unique piece of natural wood art grown as part of the tree itself, that it has a long history and a bright future, and that we highly prize it because of its natural splendor and beautiful grain, character, and color.
As always, contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss purchasing a burl wood slab of your own. We are happy to assist you in any way we can.